SAFER envisions a society in which:
1) Marijuana is regulated and treated similarly to alcohol; and
2) Laws and policies no longer steer people toward drinking and away from making the safer choice to use marijuana instead, if that is what they prefer.
SAFER's mission is to educate the public about the relative safety of marijuana compared to alcohol.
The impetus behind the establishment of SAFER was an analysis of surveys that found only 30 percent of voters believe that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol. With 2 out of 3 Americans thinking marijuana is at least as harmful as alcohol, it’s no wonder support for reform is still lacking.
Yet, of the 30 percent of voters who believe marijuana is safer, 3 out of 4 believe it should be made legal and treated similarly to alcohol. In other words, it’s safe to say that if more Americans are made aware of the fact that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol, there will inherently be far more public support for reform. Thus, SAFER’s goal is to spread this fact to as many people as possible as many times as possible, providing ample time for it to seep in and become a more commonly accepted idea.
SAFER also addresses the argument that society should not “add another vice” -- which is perhaps the most difficult for reformers to rebut -- by allowing reformers to argue that making marijuana legal would not “add a vice;” rather, it would allow adults to make the rational choice to use a less harmful substance for relaxation recreation.
Safer Alternative For Enjoyable
Recreation (SAFER) was founded in Colorado in January 2005, in response to a string of alcohol-related deaths that occurred on college campuses around the state.
first project consisted of student referenda campaigns at the
University of Colorado-Boulder (CU) and Colorado State University (CSU)
during the spring 2005 semester. SAFER helped students introduce and successfully campaign for ballot
measures calling on the administrations to make university penalties
for student marijuana use no greater than those for alcohol use. The referendums were approved at CU and CSU, and since then SAFER referendums and
resolutions have been introduced and adopted at a number of other major colleges and universities around the country. SAFER Click here to find out more about the SAFER Campus Camaign.
In the fall of 2005, SAFER ran a ballot initiative in the City of Denver to legalize adult
marijuana possession under Denver city ordinances. Initiated Question 100 (I-100) generated substantial media coverage, particularly in November when voters approved the measure 54-46, making Denver the first U.S. city to vote to remove all penalties for adult marijuana possession. Stories about the successful Denver initiative appeared in newspapers and on television newscasts around the country, as well as around the world.
Statewide in Colorado
Denver officials refused to implement I-100 and needleslly continued enforcing the state marijuana possession law in the city.
In response, SAFER pursued a statewide ballot initiative in Colorado in 2006, which would have removed all penalties for adult marijuana possession under the state law. The campaign was the first project of the SAFER Voter Education Fund (SVEF), SAFER's 501(c)(4) lobbying arm.
The SVEF was established to advocate for laws and policies
that reflect the fact that marijuana is safer than alcohol.
The campaign coordinated the collection of more than 130,000 signatures to qualify
the measure for
the ballot (approximately 68,000 were required), and Amendment 44 received more than 41 percent of the vote
in the November 2006 election. The measure received a majority of votes in 14 counties and was endorsed by a number of newspapers and prominent individuals. It also generated a wealth of media coverage in Colorado and nationwide. Click here to find out more about SAFER's 2006 Colorado campaign
and read its blog, which provides a detailed and humorous glimpse at the effort and all the news coverage it received.
In light of an even greater majority of Denver voters approving the statewide initiative (54-46), the SAFER Voter Education Fund's next project was to defend the will of the Denver.
In 2007, Citizens for a Safer Denver successfully
qualified and campaigned for another local initiative in the Mile High City, this time creating a new city
designating adult marijuana possession the city's "lowest law enforcement priority."
The measure was once again titled Initiated Question 100 (I-100), but this time it received broader organizational support during the campaign and an
even greater citywide majority in November. Endorsing organizations included the ACLU of Colorado, the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, the National Lawyers Guild, the local Green and Libertarian parties, and ProgressNow Action, among others. The measure ultimately received a record 57 percent of the vote.
I-100 also required Mayor John Hickenlooper to appoint a Marijuana Policy
Review Panel, which is charged with studying the issue and ensuring the ordinance is being
implemented to the greatest extent possible. SAFER's executive director is a member of the panel, which meets at least quarterly and will provide recommendations to the Denver City Council on how to implement the measure.
SAFER and the SAFER Voter Education Fund continue to move reform forward in Denver and Colorado, as well as around the country and beyond.
Successful SAFER campaigns continue to pop up on campuses around the country, the latest of which were at the University of Central Florida, Ohio State University, and the College of DuPage, the midwest's largest community college (located right outside Chicago) and the first community college to consider a SAFER measure. SAFER will continue to work with students around the nation to stand up for more safer, more rational campus policies and bring this important issue to the forefront. Click here to find out how to bring SAFER's campus campaign to your school.
SAFER is keeping the ball rolling in Colorado, partnering with other organizations to build a coalition of activists, elected officials, and professionals to push for local reforms and build support for a future efforts to change state marijuana laws. If you live in Colorado and would like to get involved in this statewide organizing project, please contact SAFER and let us know.
SAFER will also be expanding its operations outside of Colorado, working to educate the public about the relative harms of marijuana and alcohol via traditional grassroots activism and a strategic media campaign.