A leading activist pushing for legal adult use of marijuana in Colorado urged UCF students to discuss the legalization issue with larger audiences.
The executive director of Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation, Mason Tvert, spoke to UCF students Thursday evening in the Student Union about focusing on dialogue to convince greater numbers of people of the plant's harmlessness, especially when compared to substances like alcohol.
"We need to start addressing why they think [marijuana] is such a bad
thing. In order to do that we need to start fostering conversations with
people. And that's really a big part of what our organization has done
and a big part of what we're going to be doing with the legalization
initiative campaign in Colorado."
Tvert told of
his experience garnering attention and support for legal adult use in
Colorado to demonstrate to the audience of about 50 people that
successfully legalizing marijuana may be as simple as getting people to
talk about the issue publicly. Tvert
referred to SAFER's loss in 2000 to pass legal adult use – regulated
and taxed like alcohol – as a way of showing how success could be
"We ended up with 41 percent...And
although we lost, we really accomplished our goal because now, not only
do we get people talking about this, we got all this stuff going on...We had newspapers endorsing this...Officials were asked about it because we got on the ballot."
emphasized that by using SAFER's argument that marijuana is a safe
alternative to alcohol, students nationwide can pressure administrators
to change existing policies that use harsher penalties for students
caught using marijuana in dorms than those caught drinking in them.
"We worked with students to get in the face of administrators, saying
'you're killing students by making them feel like they need to drink
instead of using marijuana.' It was very different for administrators
and for government officials and cops to be getting attacked for making
people less safe by keeping marijuana illegal. Now, all of a sudden
they're on the defensive."
Tvert said this strategy takes the burden of the debate off of the supporters and onto opponents, like the U.S. government, which is going to keep adult marijuana use illegal.
The audience, mostly UCF students and supporters of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, applauded Tvert when he mentioned that instead of "getting together all the time and just agree[ing] with each other, students have "got to get out and fight with people.""Find ways to get in the media, to just get people talking about it.
It's a tough environment for you here, but a lot could be done."
Aerospace engineering freshman Cameron Sackrider, agreed with Tvert
that public discussion with opponents of legalization will decide the
success of changing disciplinary policies toward students using
marijuana in dorms.
"We have a bigger force in [NORML]
now. I think if we have more people behind it, it might have more
chance of getting through to the higher powers and leaving a greater
impression this time. More people will talk to more people. Get the word
out. Spread the message."
Sackrider added that the medical marijuana bill passed in Colorado will play a large role in warming outsiders to the debate.
"They had 60 to 70 percent voting rate for 'yes' for legalization for
the medical. It's pretty much there. It's just a matter of time."
Senior digital media student Max Clausen, said that SAFER's focus on
marijuana's safety compared to that of alcohol, rather than focus on the
medical marijuana angle, can change the legalization debate for the
better. Portraying marijuana in a positive light, Clausen said, is still
the most important element of the pro-legalization side of the
"We have to make it so that even the older generation can see that
we're serious about it. It's not just a bunch of stoners...A lot of
people are still disgusted especially about medical marijuana. I know
people who would scoff at the idea, but they're completely okay if
someone just says 'okay, we're going to legalize it.' 'Fine, but don't
pretend that it's medicine.' That's where they always turn to."