Marijuana: Mason Tvert says limiting pot sales to Colorado residents would be unconstitutional
Should marijuana pot shops in the state be limited to Colorado residents? This was one controversial debate to emerge this month as the governor's task force began its work dedicated to implementing Amendment 64. But Mason Tvert, one of the law's proponents, says there shouldn't be a debate at all, arguing it would be unconstitutional to prohibit out-of-state adults from buying pot. He believes it would also be bad public policy.
"It's entirely unconstitutional and it'll just subject the state to costly litigation," says Tvert, a Marijuana Policy Project and critic of Project SAM, an organization that opposes legalization. "The constitution now includes language saying that these stores have the ability, the right, to sell to consumers 21 and older. 'Consumer' is also now defined within that as someone who is simply 21 and older."
In November, voters passed the measure that made small amounts of recreational pot legal for adults -- and Governor John Hickenlooper signed it into law in December. The governor also set up a diverse task force charged with making recommendations to the legislature about the implementation of the law, focused largely on the establishment and regulation of retail shops.
Sam Levin Mason Tvert at a press conference criticizing Project SAM last week.
The commercial component of Colorado's new law requires new legislation. For that reason, it will be at least a year before any recreational businesses can open up -- if the federal government doesn't object.
But in early talks at the task force, the idea of some sort of residency requirement has cropped up, though the group hasn't crafted any final or even preliminary recommendations.
Tvert says it's quite obvious that constitutionally, a push for this sort of requirement is a battle not worth fighting.
"They can't now say, 'Oh, it's only Coloradans,'" he says. "They can try, but it's really not what we should be focused on. We should be focused on developing a tightly regulated system that will work and accommodate the demand for marijuana."
Part of the discussion about Amendment 64, before and after it passed, is how the legalization of marijuana might help tourism (though some are worried legalization will discourage investments in the state).
"On one hand, we've got our opponents who say if we pass this initiative, it's going to bring all these out-of-town people here who want to use marijuana," Tvert says. "On the other hand, they're saying let's ensure that those people can only get marijuana in an underground market. The goal here was to eliminate the underground market, so it's just foolish."
Continue for more of our interview with Mason Tvert.