Long Read: “How Colorado Disrupted the Drug War”

Unlike that elitist slacker ‘BoBo’ Brooks, I never smoked marijuana in high school. Tried it in college, but quickly decided that my personal cost/benefit ratio indicated I should stick with chocolate as the intoxicant of choice. But I’m glad to see, only forty years too late, “we” may finally be starting to cautiously disassociate “our” paranoia about DFHs and urban-dwellers corrupting the lily-white flower of suburban youth. David Sirota, at PandoDaily:

… “Marijuana has been illegal because of the perception of harm surrounding it — that’s how they made it illegal, that’s how it is illegal currently,” Tvert tells me in the shop’s bustling lobby. “Our opponents’ goal has been to maintain a perception of harm. So our idea has been to get people to understand that marijuana is not as harmful as they’ve been led to believe, and not as harmful as a product like alcohol that is already legal.”

Despite increasingly absurd attempts by the government’s drug-war apparatus to obscure the obvious truth, decades of medical and social science research on everything from physiological toxicity, to domestic violence to addiction has proven Tvert’s point that cannabis is less harmful than alcohol. But it was only a few years ago that Tvert’s colleague and future mentor at MPP, Steve Fox, happened upon a key political revelation in the reams of survey data about drug policy.

“He was looking at the polling and discovered that of those who think marijuana is safer than alcohol, 75 percent think it should be legal,” Tvert recounts as we wait behind a customer who is interrogating one of the shop’s staff members about THC and CBD content. “In other words, the number one indicator of whether or not you support marijuana being legal is whether you recognize it is safer than alcohol.”

From that revelation came the creation of the group headed by Tvert that was entirely focused on drawing the alcohol-marijuana comparison. Aptly named Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation (aka SAFER), it was predicated on a two-step strategy.

“Rather than trying to increase the percentage of people who think marijuana should be legal, we simply tried to increase the percentage of people who understand marijuana is less harmful than alcohol, which would naturally produce an increase in the percentage of people who support legalization,” he says.

As we move up to the counter, the alcohol-marijuana comparison feels particularly relevant, even in the consumer experience. The staff’s explanation of the chemical content, sourcing, and organic profile of each strain of weed is much like the typically detailed lesson you receive when you get your growler refilled at one of this state’s many craft beer breweries. That analogous experience, in fact, may explain why Colorado was able to leapfrog seemingly more pot-friendly states to become the first in the nation to legalize cannabis….

32 replies
  1. 1

    Does this mean Reefer Madness wasn’t entirely truthful? ;)

  2. 2
    CarolDuhart2 says:

    What changed my mind about cannabis? Living around the corner from a place that sold hard drugs. If pot was sold in the stores like alcohol, t here wouldn’t be nearly the amount of dealer to dealer crime.

    I also read that cannabis can easily regulate blood sugar-so tell me a diabetic, why I can’t at least give this remedy a crime?

    Having a brother who died from alcoholism and realizing that if he was a pothead, he would have still had a liver, and still would be alive.

  3. 3
    CarolDuhart2 says:

    Even back in the 1970’s when Reefer Madness was shown to us kids as a deterrent, we already knew it was camp, not science.

  4. 4
    Corner Stone says:


    I also read that cannabis can easily regulate blood sugar-so tell me a diabetic, why I can’t at least give this remedy a crime?

    Are you doing spoken word here?

  5. 5
    SnarkyShark says:

    If you put everyone who stands in the way of legalization up against the wall the world will be a better place. Their physcotic need to shove their twisted bullshit down everybody’s throat crosses over to other realms. Anybody who says”think of the children” should be extensively tortured first.

    BoBo should be first in line

  6. 6
    CarolDuhart2 says:

    @Corner Stone: Misspelliing. It should be try.

    Also, time itself is proving the prohibitionists wrong. Pot has been in general use since about 1964. If pot caused any real problems, they would be obvious by now, as the long-term tokers are also at that certain age where things pop up.

    The answer: nothing. No cancers, no lung problems, no man-boobs, no reduced fertility. Nothing. Not even an epidemic of user-caused violence. Yes, there’s violence, but that’s because cartels fight each other over turf. Take that away, and what’s left?

  7. 7
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Puh-leeze. Back in the fucking 70’s we knew that the treatment of pot had NOTHING to do with its effects, and everything to do with authoritarian assholishness and outright racism.

  8. 8
    KyCole says:

    I live in Kentucky where a politician just said he could fill a room with people who have died from pot. This in a state that gets a lot of revenue from alcohol and tobacco. Total bullshit. I got a bunch of crap recently from posters here when I claimed that pot was better than booze. I still say- if I’m driving, and some asshole is coming toward me on the road from a party, I prefer they’ve been smoking pot instead of drinking.

  9. 9
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @KyCole: No, you got a lot of shit from people who were saying that driving while wasted on anything is bad fucking idea.

  10. 10
    CarolDuhart2 says:


    I also encountered people on a support board that swear by this as a way to regulate blood sugar. Who knows-research-even anecdotal kind of research-is still hampered by the DEA and a federal prohibition. But I do remember this from the one time I smoked: food tasted better and I was relaxed. If pot makes healthier food taste better and sleep better, that alone would make blood sugars drop.

  11. 11
    dmbeaster says:

    Pot is akin to a rather stiff drink, although its health effects when abused are not as serious as alcohol. Even if legal, it should be understood in that fashion. It is not harmless, people should not smoke and drive, but the demonization is also baloney.

  12. 12
    Suzanne says:

    @CarolDuhart2: Um, it makes Del Taco and Filiberto’s taste better.

  13. 13
    CarolDuhart2 says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: But time has given absolute proof that it was lied to-by giving us a cohort of life-long tokers who have remained functional, healthy, and proven that it isn’t a real problem.

    Back then, they could say anything to scare parents and authority figures because there simply were no examples of long-term tokers out of jail to show otherwise.

  14. 14
    KyCole says:

    No I agreed that driving under the influence was bad, but under the influence of alcohol was worse. I was attacked for this view.

  15. 15
    Starfish says:

    Here is a story that says marijuana helped a little girl get her seizures under control.

  16. 16
    Chris T. says:

    @Certified Mutant Enemy: I think it was more along the lines of “entirely falseful”.

  17. 17
    CarolDuhart2 says:

    @KyCole: You shouldn’t have been. Alcoholic drivers are aggressive and reckless. Tokers may not even want to drive, let alone drive recklessly. You’re more likely to find someone who prefers to sit on the side of the road and listen to music or just stay in the parking lot for a while until they come down enough to feel confident driving.

    Cole: can I find out why I can’t post my corrected posts? I get the window, but no repost button or anything else.

  18. 18
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @KyCole: You just claimed you were attacked for saying pot is better than booze. That was not the case.

  19. 19
    jayboat says:

    I started when I was 22 and never stopped. I’m talking world champion years, with only a break here and there because of I felt like it. One question I get is: Aren’t you a little old to be doing that?”

    I’m 63 and I’ve been stoned nearly every single day of the last ten years on some of the best stuff from KY to Humbolt Co.
    I rarely drink, and thanks to soap and genetics, the only times I seem to need an emergency room involve speed of some sort.
    I’ve been trying to OD on the sh!t for forty years and the only result is 3 different pizza joints on speed dial.

  20. 20
    I'mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet says:


    Cole: can I find out why I can’t post my corrected posts? I get the window, but no repost button or anything else.

    Not JC, but …

    The FYWP hamsters probably need to be booted and the wheel restarted, or something. It’s been acting up for many people (multiple posts, etc.) for a few days now.

    Could be something else though – I’m no expert on this stuff. Maybe mistermix will comment?

    My $0.02.


  21. 21
    Anoniminous says:



    Tooth decay from over indulgence of Cracker Jacks, Screaming Yellow Zonkers, and Hostess Cupcakes?

  22. 22
    WaterGirl says:

    @CarolDuhart2: Carol, have you tried opening the edit page in a new window? That usually works for me even when things are squirrelly.

  23. 23
    KyCole says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Yes it kind of was. I only said that stoned driving is better than drunk driving, although neither is a good thing, and some posters got really MADD on me.

  24. 24
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @KyCole: And gonorrhea is is better than syphilis.

    Further, saying “stoned driving is better than drunk driving” driving is not the same as saying pot is better than booze.

  25. 25
    I'mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet says:

    @KyCole: This is the post in question, I think.

    If anyone wants to relive that thread…



  26. 26
    MikeJ says:


    I only said that stoned driving is better than drunk driving

    Bullshit. You said stoned driving wasn’t bad at all as long as you were used to it and if other people didn’t do anything wrong.

    When you are stoned your response times are lower. It doesn’t matter how used to it you are. You simply can’t drive as well stoned as you can sober.

    As for your second point, you should count on other people doing stupid shit. If you can only drive when everybody else drives perfectly, you can’t drive.

  27. 27
    raff ripdash says:

    “Marijuana has been illegal because of the perception of harm surrounding it…”

    That line always bugs me. Marijuana was originally outlawed for reasons based in racism & xenophobia. The perceived harm of the drug has always been the cover for the reason, a means to an end. That’s why most ‘studies’ purporting the harms of marijuana usually fall apart upon closer inspection — they were never meant to arrive at an even-handed, evidence-based conclusion.

    But, of course, you can’t argue anti-pot laws’ racist underpinnings without re-visiting a dark time in America’s past (of which some aspects still persist to this day), so we’re left knocking down pseudo-scientific ‘studies’ while the other side engages in bullshit & dog whistles. No wonder progress is slow.

  28. 28
    nastybrutishntall says:

    Here in CO, boutique pot-growing is something like home beer brewing is in other places. A commonplace, somewhat nerdy hobby, with people trading techniques and recipes and debating the merits of strains, aesthetics, and potencies. And I live in one of the reddest counties. The stigma is entirely gone for anyone under 40, and for all the non-wingnuts older than that. People light up on the patios of bars, or in bars during shows, and there is no paranoia. It’s very cool.

  29. 29
    c u n d gulag says:

    The only, and I mean ONLY, reason pot’s been illegal for decades, is that any schmuck can grow it.

    It doesn’t take any skill.
    People have been making their own wine in small batches, for thousands of years – no Yellowtail or Mondavi winery, needed.
    Brewing your own beer only became something regular people did, recently.

    Brewing you own hard booze, can be fatal.

    Pot’s been illegal, because it takes away from beer, wine, and booze sales – and that anyone with a pot to put the pot into, can grow it, taking away profits from big companies.


  30. 30
    Joey Maloney says:

    @raff ripdash: This. I mean, “ni**ers will rape your daughters” is a perceived harm, but still…

  31. 31
    e.a. foster says:

    and the State of Colorado is making a tidy sum on the taxes. Every dollar that goes to a legitimate business and taxes are paid, is one less dollar in the pocket of organized crime. talk about competition. pretty soon the republicans will complain States are making it difficult for organized crime to make a dollar. Colorado has made the right decision and Washington will follow shortly.

    Many of us started with m.j. back in the late 60s and 70s. didn’t killl us, didn’t make us crazy, didn’t turn us into zombies. It was just some thing we did, like drink, from time to time. We went on to have successful careers and paid taxes, the whole nine yards. So thank heavens after all these years at least a couple of states got their act together. Now if we could just get that crazy prime minister in Canada to see the light. If m.j. were legal in North America, it would put a big dent in the profits of the drug cartel, free up police for more important work, and get hundreds of thousands out of jail.

  32. 32
    Older says:

    @raff ripdash: Marijuana was originally outlawed as part of the program to make hemp illegal and force cheap paper to be made of pulped trees, since a Really Important Person owned a lot of trees and wanted to force people to print all their newspapers on tree pulp.

    Saying it was a dangerous drug enabled folks to support total extermination (which of course was impossible anyway). (Rightly is it called “weed”.)

    Racism and xenophobia was icing on the cake, and very popular back then anyway.

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