12/06/09 - Mason Tvert

Mason Tvert, director of Safer Choice in Colorado discusses progress in fighting reefer madness

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Mason Tvert
Safer Choice


Cultural Baggage, December 6, 2009

Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.

It’s not only inhumane it is really fundamentally un-American….. ‘NO MORE’ ‘DRUG WAR’ ‘NO MORE’ ‘DRUG WAR’ ‘NO MORE’ ‘DRUG WAR’ ‘NO MORE’ ‘DRUG WAR’

My Name is Dean Becker. I don’t condone or encourage the use of any drugs, legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison and judicial nightmare that feeds on eternal drug war.

Hello, my friends. Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. Here in just a few seconds, we’re going to bring in our guest, Mr. Mason Tvert. He’s co-author of a great new book, “Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?” He’s also head of a group, up in Colorado, SAFER, if you will, talking about that same fact.

Marijuana is safer and making great strides, if you will, encouraging other folks around the country to look at that same comparison. To use it in the discussion insofar as, whether or not we should allow or provide medical, or even recreational, cannabis for Americans. Or should we continue to buy it from criminals and cartels?

Anyway, that’s going to be part or our discussion. Let’s go ahead and bring in our guest, Mr. Mason Tvert. Hello, Mason.

Mr. Mason Tvert: Hi, Dean. How’re you doing?

Dean Becker: I’m good, sir. I’m good. I don’t know if you got a chance to hear what I was talking about there, but the discussion is happening. The analysis and the determinations are being held, if you will, in various legislatures. Governor’s are considering it. Medical associations are delving into this. It’s getting a lot of attention now, right?

Mr. Mason Tvert: Yeah, absolutely. As more and more people are coming to hear about marijuana in the news and discuss it with their friends and colleagues and family members and really get to understand that it’s just another substance, much like alcohol, that millions of people use and enjoy and it’s relatively benign. We’re starting to see some strong consideration as to whether we should change the way we’re going about handling it.

Dean Becker: Right and as I said, Mason, Colorado has it’s own changes underway. It’s been some years in the making. But give us a snapshot of what the medical cannabis situation is like in Colorado.

Mr. Mason Tvert: Well, voters approved the medical marijuana law, here in Colorado, in 2000 and at this point, over the last year we’ve seen a huge boom in the number of patients in the state, as well as the number of dispensaries. Many are store fronts and very out front in public. Some are in office complexes and really kept relatively private.

But all in all, we have about two hundred medical marijuana dispensaries here in the state and we really don’t seem to be having too many serious problems although there’s a whole lot of discussion about starting to put some regulations in place and we will see how that goes over the course of this next legislative session.

Dean Becker: I noted in Oregon, they were saying they had the first cannabis café, if you will, in America. But that’s not actually true. It depends on how you define it, I suppose. But other states have been, kind of following in the footsteps. Using some of the same information you guys at SAFER have been putting forward, right?

Mr. Mason Tvert: Yeah, absolutely. There’s certainly some dispensaries here, in the state, that do allow on site use in smaller little café areas, within their properties. But by and large, what we’re seeing are people setting up businesses, following the regulations and rules. Really going a great length to try to remain as legal and upfront as possible and I think that it’s setting an example for what we are going to see at a broader level, in the near future.

Dean Becker: Now, there’s been a lot of discussion of late, talking about the alcohol vs. cannabis switch-a-roo, if you will, that some people find it easy to quit using alcohol or even ‘hard drugs’ by substituting the use of cannabis. Let’s talk about that safety factor.

Mr. Mason Tvert: Well, we recently saw a study out of the University of California - Berkley, in which the researchers ended up finding that marijuana use could be a treatment for alcohol abuse insofar as it being substituted, as you mentioned, and obviously, for any of your listeners that don’t know, marijuana’s a far safer substance than alcohol.

It’s less toxic, it’s less addictive, it posses less harm to the body and far fewer problems to society and as we know, millions of people have problems with substances and many of them are with alcohol. But, we really don’t see a whole lot of people with serious problems associated solely with their marijuana use and we have to ask ourselves, ‘Well, if some people would prefer to use marijuana instead of drinking or if they had a problem with drinking and they’re still looking for that form of stress relief, or recreation, or simply looking to party and have fun with their friends, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be allowed to make the safer choice, to use marijuana instead of alcohol, if that’s what they prefer.

Dean Becker: Once again, we’re speaking with Mr. Mason Tvert of the group SAFER, up there in Colorado. Co-author of a wonderful book, I recommend to each and everyone of you out there. It’s a tool. It’s got the information with which to change the minds of your neighbors or your politicians or probably even the newspaper editors. It’s, “Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?”

Mason, I wanted to talk about the fact, you mentioned the severity of problems with use of marijuana are not as severe as, say, with other drugs and yet, officials of the ONDCP - The Office of National Drug Control Policy, tour the nation saying that, ‘Marijuana is the leading cause of being sent to treatment center.’ Let’s talk about the fallacy of that thought.

Mr. Mason Tvert: Yeah. That’s a really disingenuous argument that they have been making. What we see are more marijuana arrests, or citations, these days than ever before. We’re also seeing more people being diverted to treatment as a way to avoid harsher penalties and that’s largely the result of our courts and prison systems, no longer being able to handle so many drug cases. Obviously marijuana cases being the least problematic of any drug cases.

So, we’re forcing more people into treatment than we’ve ever done before and as a result, we’re seeing more people in treatment for marijuana. Yet, many of them, I think what we find are about sixty/seventy percent of these are for criminal justice referral. But most people feel they don’t need treatment and they probably don’t.

Ah, but then we have the government obviously holding up this number of people in drug treatment, as if it’s indicative of the harm of marijuana somehow. When in fact, it’s only indicative of how stupid we handle it.

Dean Becker: Well, there you go. I wanted to kind of throw into that, with your thought, the fact that pot stinks. It’s easy to smell. It’s easy to get caught for it’s use, for that factor. It’s not due to misbehavior or otherwise singling yourself out. It’s because pot stinks and also because marijuana stays in your urine longer than do other drugs, including alcohol. Right?

Mr. Mason Tvert: Absolutely.

Dean Becker: OK. Mason, I wanted to jump into your book here, a bit. The first chapter, part 1: The big two. The popular acceptance and use of marijuana and alcohol. It’s big. On both sides of that. Right?

Mr. Mason Tvert: Yeah, absolutely. We know at least about half of Americans have tried marijuana at least once in their life. The number’s probably a little greater and that’s despite all the scare tactics and misinformation and as well as the fact that it’s illegal, we still see roughly half of Americans trying marijuana. Roughly ninety percent of Americans will try alcohol in their lives. Otherwise we see heroin use is lower than two percent. Cocaine use is typically around ten to fifteen percent.

So these are the two substances that by and large are used the most often, by the adults in our country. As well as most countries around the world, if not all of them and they’re used for roughly the same reasons. People use them to enhance their experiences. To celebrate. To relieve stress and anxiety. To relax. Because it makes them more at ease.

Obviously no one has a problem with toasting the bride or groom or going to happy hour with their colleagues and having drinks and people who use marijuana, in many cases are using it for exactly the same reasons. ‘Cause it makes them feel good.

Dean Becker: Let’s jump here into chapter two, Choice interrupted. The second part, the Reality Check: The truth behind common marijuana myths. We were already talking about one, that it’s addictive and so forth. But it’s just rife with propaganda and hysteria, right?

Mr. Mason Tvert: Yeah, absolutely. Our government has been trying to increase the perception of harm concerning marijuana, since the early part of the twentieth century and they did a very good job of getting people to fear the substance. To think that it might somehow hurt the user; result in problems that hurt non-users and in fact, we don’t see any serious problems associated with marijuana use by adults.

We still do not know what’s going on with regards to developing brains in young people and we certainly I don’t think there’s anyone who wants young people to use marijuana. But it’s just a fact that we’re not seeing young people dying from marijuana overdoses, like we are with alcohol or other drugs and we’re certainly not seeing the huge rash of social problems like violent crime, domestic violence, sexual assault, property damage and all those types of things that are associated with alcohol use.

We don’t see those with marijuana, so it’s really quite insane that we have decided on alcohol to be our drug of choice in this country, instead of marijuana.

Dean Becker: It is, indeed. You know? If you reach back to the early part of the twentieth century, as you were describing, it was Harry J. Anslinger, touring the nation. Talking about Reefer Madness, the terrible truth and his thought that it led to insanity, criminality and death and yet in Great Britain, they’re still trying to follow down that same road. Talking about, it leads to psychosis with the skunk and all that. Your response, sir.

Mr. Mason Tvert: Well you know, we’ve seen so much of it, except there is no significant association with marijuana and psychosis or other brain related issues. They’re really clutching at straws. Typically, these studies that they’re showing, find that they’re not controlled well or they are using people who are already prone to having mental problems.

In other words, ‘Do people who might have psychotic or mental issues, use marijuana?’ Sure. But does marijuana cause that? The answer’s, ‘Absolutely not!’ - and that’s been conclusively proven over and over again. In fact, we do know that alcohol contributes a great deal to mental illness in this country. Obviously in terms of our homeless population and our veteran population. We see heavy alcohol use related to brain damage and severe mental illness all too frequently and it’s a shame that we can’t let these people simply use a safer substance instead, that doesn’t contribute to these problems.

Dean Becker: Once again, we’re speaking with Mr. Mason Tvert, co-author of a great book, “Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?” Mason, I’m going to reach again into chapter two. There’s a sub-heading here: How Society is Systematically Driving Us to Drink. Now, I’ve seen, I guess, thousands of beer and alcohol commercials over the airways, not to mention the prescription drug ads but, let’s talk a little further. How is society systematically driving us to drink?

Mr. Mason Tvert: Well, a good example of this would be, look at Michael Phelps. The USA swimmer who caused an uproar when photo’s of him emerged showing him smoking some pot out of a bong. The fact that this guy, who is by far and away one of the top athletes in the world, incredible successful, incredibly smart. Was forced to apologize. Was hurt economically - lost sponsorship deal. Was suspended and punished within his profession.

The fact that he was forced to feel ashamed, to loose so much, simply as a result of marijuana use is really symbolic. It really shows just what we put people through if they want to use marijuana. You stand to loose your job. To loose your freedom. You stand to loose the ability to get into college or to adopt children. To maintain public housing. So many things.

Obviously you mentioned drug testing earlier. People are constantly being threatened. If they use marijuana, they stand to loose so much. Whereas if they consume alcohol, there’s simply no problem. Unless they do something incredibly stupid, and you know? It really makes no sense that we are steering people toward drinking to avoid problems with their lives, when alcohol actually causes far more serious problems, than marijuana does.

Dean Becker: Mason, I want to alert the listeners to the fact that we will be taking calls. We’re going to take just one or two here. Please have a valid question or concern to raise. We don’t want to know how red the pot was in Cambodia. Nothing like that. Laura’s going to screen the calls a bit for us but… Mason, if you will, I’ve got question here from Annaka. You’re on the air. You have a thought for Mason?

Annaka: Hell, yes! I want to know what do you suppose to do for the people that marijuana doesn’t work for? I mean like for me, I tried it and it makes me paranoid and so, what do you suggest?

Dean Becker: Alright…

Mr. Mason Tvert: Well, I…

Dean Becker: Go ahead.

Mr. Mason Tvert: In response… Oh, sorry.

Dean Becker: Go ahead.

Mr. Mason Tvert: Oh. Well you know, I think that you really have a good point. Just like many people don’t enjoy drinking a lot. Because they don’t like the taste. They don’t like the way it makes them feel…

Annaka: Um hmm.

Mr. Mason Tvert: …either when they use it or the next day. The same holds for marijuana. We even have a section in our book, which is, “Is marijuana for everyone?” and the answer is obviously, “No”. There’s many people who don’t enjoy the way it makes them feel and…

Annaka: Well, I’m not a drinker, but there is a substance that I do, or I have, enjoyed using in the past, that I don’t enjoy using anymore, that I won’t name on the… but it begins with a c, and I think it’s probably because… I’m bipolar diagnosed, but I’ve not been diagnosed with ADHA. But I’m sure I’m probably ADHD as well and that c substance probably worked with my ADHD and that’s why I’m wondering if, like you know, what do you suggest for people like us? Are you going to suggest that we go to Peru and get coca leaves?

Mr. Mason Tvert: Obviously like I said in the beginning, we’re talking about the two substances that are the most popular in the world. I certainly don’t think anyone should face criminal penalties for whatever substance they use. I don’t…

Annaka: Um hmm.

Mr. Mason Tvert: …I think we should be treating them as a health issue. But all we’re saying here is, that when it comes to how we treat drugs in this country… right now we are not allowing people a choice, when it comes to alcohol and marijuana and we’re simply saying there should be a choice and you don’t think…

Annaka: I definitely agree with you on that.

Mr. Mason Tvert: Sure.

Annaka: I definitely don’t think that MJ should be a penalized drug. So, I definitely agree with you on that.

Dean Becker: Alright, Annaka. Thank you for your call. I wanted to let the listeners know, I didn’t give you the phone number. If you’re local, it’s (713) 526-5738 or if you’re anywhere in North America, it’s toll free to call 1-877-9-420-420 and I wanted to also mention a couple of thoughts there, in regards to Annaka’s concerns. It makes me a little paranoid smoking pot. Because it’s illegal. So keep that in mind.

We’re speaking with Mr. Mason Tvert, co-author of, “Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?” I’m going to jump to chapter three. Freedom of Choice and it says, ’Not adding a vice, but providing an alternative” and I hear so many drug warriors say, “Well we don’t want to add another drug to the list available.” Heck, it’s already available. We need to control it. Right, Mason?

Mr. Mason Tvert: Yeah, absolutely. This is an argument that a lot of folks who do advocate for marijuana reform, have trouble answering this notion, like you said of, “Well, your right. Alcohol and tobacco are legal, but they cause so many problems. So why on Earth would we want to add another one?” The answer to that is simply that, we’re simply not trying to add another vice, we’re trying to provide an alternative.

For the many people who would like to use marijuana but do not, because it’s illegal or they can’t, we want to give those people an alternative to alcohol. Then obviously a lot of people who don’t necessarily know yet, that they might prefer marijuana at times, or all the time. So when it comes to answering that question, we really need to address the fact that first and foremost, marijuana is very different than those two substances, in that it’s far less harmful, both to the people who use it and to society.

But then, we also need to counter it by saying, “By not providing it we’re actually we’re forcing people to use those two vices, instead of having a third alternative that’s far safer” and this is the argument really being used by our current drug czar in his big statement where he said that, ‘Legalization of marijuana is a non-starter‘, that he’s not even willing to consider.

He suggested that we look at alcohol and tobacco in our society and those are good enough examples of why we should not make marijuana legal. So this is a really important response for people to remember and use, when that comes up.

Dean Becker: I would also like to throw in this thought that, alcohol and tobacco kill more than a half million Americans every year and yet marijuana, as far as we know, has never killed anybody in it’s hundreds/thousands of years of history and this, despite the fact that it’s currently prohibited. Made by… Distributed by non-regulated industry, and it’s still not that much of a problem.

We’re speaking with Mason Tvert. We do have another caller on line. Mohammad, you have a concern about marijuana in Texas?

Mohammad: Yeah. When are we going to see it being medical marijuana? Kind of like California?

Dean Becker: I don’t know that Mason’s going to have a direct answer, or that I do either. I have some thoughts I’ll share. But Mason, you have a response?

Mr. Mason Tvert: Well, is the question with regards to Texas, specifically?

Dean Becker: Yes.

Mr. Mason Tvert: You know I think… We have a system of government that allows certain states to have ballot measures that other states not to and because every state is different rules and of course, every state has different demographics, it’s really difficult to say when things in Texas might change. I do think things are changing at a very quick pace, nationwide.

We’re seeing more and more states adopting medical marijuana laws. Not just at the ballot box, but in their state legislatures and ultimately this is going to build to the point where we are going to see some significant federal changes. That’s what will really be the catalyst that drives states, like Texas and other states that may be more difficult to pass laws, like maybe the other states in the South. They might consider, once the federal government starts to change the way it handles it.

Dean Becker: I would think that right. We’ll be amongst the last, I’ll tell you that, Mohammad. We have no ballot initiative. We depend on these legislators to make that change and I’ll just say this. When you, Mohammad, and your family and friends, dare to speak up; to start writing more letters to the editor; to call your legislators; to chat with the local police and maybe go visit the police chief and express your concerns.

I guarantee you this. They’re not going to fight you. There is no answer. There is no logical reason to continue doing this. They’re just afraid that you’ll hold them accountable. Let them know you’ll hold them accountable, if they don’t change. Right, Mason?

Mr. Mason Tvert: Absolutely. We definitely need to be out there making sure our elected officials not just know that we support these changes, but also know the information. Know the types of people that it would help and so on. So, I certainly agree.

Dean Becker: Speaking of which, I think a copy of your book given to one of the local Texas legislators would make a difference, as it would in any state across this nation. Because so many people do not know the beginnings of this. Do not know the basis - where these laws came from. It’s just kind of rolling down a hill and they’re trying to push it, or get out of the way. Right?

Mr. Mason Tvert: Yeah, absolutely. Unfortunately, we have far too many circumstances in this county in which elected officials simply fear what they don’t know about and it’s important that they do begin to learn more.

Dean Becker: Well, we’ve got just about a minute left here. I want to give you a chance to talk about any websites you think you’d like to point folks toward and just kind of wrap it up.

Mr. Mason Tvert: Yeah, absolutely. We’re working constantly with individuals around the country as well as here in the state of Colorado, to spread this message that marijuana’s safer than alcohol and to start raising this debate.

Our website is saferchoice.org and we also have a specific site for college students right now, called safercampuses.org and if you are a college student, we do a whole lot of work around the country. Working with students to get this message discussed on their campus and in their local media. So you’re certainly encouraged to get in touch with us.

Dean Becker: Alright, Mason Tvert. Got a chance to see you out there in Albuquerque. That was quite a conference, wasn’t it?

Mr. Mason Tvert: Indeed.

Dean Becker: Indeed. Well, I tell you what Mason, we’re going to stay in touch with you guys and keep up the good work. Show the other states an example, of what can be.

Mr. Mason Tvert: Thanks so much, Dean.

Dean Becker: Alright. Alright, thank you.

Alright, here in just a second we’re going to go and … Well, we’re going to take some calls in the next half hour perhaps, on the Century of Lies show, if you folks want to hang on. But for now, let’s go ahead and get a chance to ‘Name That Drug - By It‘s Side Effects!”

It’s time to play: "Name That Drug - By It’s Side Effects!"

Flying projectiles, flu like symptoms, itching, pain, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, low blood pressure, may affect heart function and immune response. Should not be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women nor children under the age of 12.


Time’s up! The answer: Mistletoe.

The American Mistletoe is poisonous, deadly. In fact, the European Mistletoe is undergoing clinical trials because it has been shown to kill cancer cells.

(guitar accompaniment to the tune of Walking in a Winter Wonderland)

Happy drug war are you listening
Thirty-eight million sent to prison
Their locked up tonight
By the left and the right
Walking in a cell that’s 8x10

In the guardhouse drugs are stored in lunch-pails
They all pretend that they don't see a thing
A dollars worth of product fetches twenty
And you could score if you just turn around

Happy drug war are you listening
Thirty-eight million sent to prison
Their locked up tonight...

I Sent the following letter to Senator Pierre Claude Nolan up in Canada, with the hopes that he would share it with all Canadian government officials.

I live in the USA, which is the worlds leading jailer nation. My home state of Texas always battles with California for the Nations lead in incarceration rates. Harris County - Houston, my home town’s arrest rate, leads other parts of Texas at ratio of about four to one.

We, Houston, send more people to prison than so dozens of other US states combined. Houston is perhaps the worlds largest drug distribution center, where drugs are available for less than a third of the cost in states further North. Yet our leaders seem surprised, offended and continuously angry at our youth, for being tempted to get high or to make a profit from the trade.

Despite the fact that our jails are so overcrowded with drug users, that inmates must sleep on the floors, under bunks or next to toilets, the candidates for Mayor continue to proclaim themselves tough(er) on crime than their opponent. The US Justice Department is now investigating our jails for constitutional violations.

I understand that Canada is now trying to follow in the footsteps of the US and to really get tough on drug users, growers and sellers. I would urge you, Senator, to arrange a field trip to Houston, Texas for a few senators and M.P ’s to tour our jails. To witness the failure to provide sufficient medical treatment. To peruse the morgue records of the ever increasing number of prisoner deaths, from beatings inflicted by guards who are never brought to trial and to smell the scent of greed and corruption that surrounds and inhabits our criminal, justice system.

After visiting the Harris County Jail, you could still find time to tour several of the countless prisons in the rural areas around Houston. To see the tens of thousands of non-violent drug offenders in their cages.

Mandatory minimums are a way to fill prisons to over flowing, to build it and they will come and mostly a way to destroy families, futures and the very fabric of Liberty.

Pray God, we learn to judge people by their actions. Not the content of their pocket, purse, or garden.

In hope,

Dean Becker
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

{Pink Floyd's Gunners Dream}

Hold on to the dream

{musical score}

A place to stay
Enough to eat
Somewhere old heroes shuffle safely down the street
Where you can speak out loud about your doubts and fears
And what`s more, no-one ever disappears
You never hear their standard issue kicking in your door
You can relax on both sides of the tracks
And maniacs don`t blow holes…

Alright. Pink Floyd, you just can’t go wrong with that. I hope you enjoyed today’s show. Our guest, Mason Tvert. Co-author of, “Marijuana’s Safer: Why Are We Driving People to Drink?” …and again I remind you… that because of prohibition, you don’t know what’s in that bag. Please, be careful.

To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the unvarnished truth.

This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston.

Tap dancing on the edge on an abyss.

Submitted by: C. Assenberg of www.marijuanafactorfiction.org