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Colorado to Ring in New Year With Legal Marijuana

Thanks in part to the efforts of Jewish activists

Adam Chandler
December 31, 2013
A hazy cloud rises over thousands gathered in Civic Center Park in Denver to celebrate the state's medicinal marijuana laws in 2012.(Getty)
A hazy cloud rises over thousands gathered in Civic Center Park in Denver to celebrate the state's medicinal marijuana laws in 2012.(Getty)

While many of us will likely be sleeping in tomorrow, cannabis advocates will be up early (contrary to stereotype) to help inaugurate the newly legal marijuana market in Colorado. The first customer will be Sean Azzariti, an Iraq war veteran, who helped push last year’s legalization campaign and who has being speaking about the benefits of marijuana use for people with PTSD.

Along the path to legalization, we’ve been following a few of the key figures in the landmark effort to bring marijuana to the masses. In 2011, I profiled Ean Seeb, who co-owns a marijuana dispensary in Denver and also happens to hold a number of leadership positions within the Denver Jewish community. He was one of the planners of this year’s Heebonism, an annual Christmas Eve party for Members of the Tribe in Denver.

Also, earlier this year, we profiled Mason Tvert, perhaps the most important figure in the Colorado legalization effort.

Tvert joins a long list of Jewish activists in the pro-pot movement. A cursory glance at the leadership roster of NORML, the best-known of the national marijuana-legalization lobbying groups, would place you within a stone’s throw of a minyan. Last month, Rabbi Jeffrey Kahn opened a medical marijuana dispensary called the Takoma Wellness Center opened in Washington, D.C., and bedecked the office with hamsas. Ethan Nadelmann, who leads the Drug Policy Alliance, a New York-based nonprofit devoted to reforming drug laws across the board, is the son of a rabbi.

Broadly considered to be the most influential marijuana activist in the country, Tvert helped craft the strategy to change the minds of Colorado voters by arguing that alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana.

It was a bold campaign set off in the heart of beer country and a campaign that ultimately worked. Ahead of Wednesday, Tvert reinforced his case that buying and taxing marijuana will keep smokers from using the underground market. He added:

“Making marijuana legal for adults is not an experiment. Marijuana prohibition is the experiment, and the results have been abysmal. If we can successfully regulate alcohol, we can surely regulate a less harmful substance like marijuana. Colorado is going to prove that regulating marijuana works, and it won’t be long before more states follow our lead.”

In the meantime, the federal government, which still considers marijuana illegal, will be watching closely.

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.