I was wondering what your response is to the fact that your former client, formerly known as Roe, really switched her position on the issue of abortion. I was just really curious about your retrospective.
Norma McCorvey, who has made her own name public or I wouldn’t, was Jane Roe. As I said, it was not a case about her. It was for all women who were or might become pregnant and want the option of abortion, but she was certainly the person whose situation – one page affadavit –[fellow counselor Linda Coffee and I] addressed to the court.
When I met her, she said she was very pro-choice. She thought it ought to be her decision. She had already had one child, whom her mother had taken away from her on the basis that she was not fit to raise a child. She had never finished high school. She’d been in state reformatory school. She had had trouble with alcohol. She had had trouble with drugs. Again, all of this in her book, or I wouldn’t say it.
So I think she was saying that she was pregnant; she didn’t want to be; she couldn’t support herself; she certainly couldn’t support a child; she did not want to go through the pregnancy. And I believed her. I still believe her. Now, she was pro-choice and very involved in giving speeches in favor of Roe v Wade until about 1975 . So for about 25 years, at least, she was still very pro-choice.
In about 1975 [again, actually 1995] – and you can check it and find the exact date I’m sure in media, a man named Flip Benham, who was head of one of the anti-choice groups, visited with her, and eventually she decided to work with him anti-abortion. So there was a backyard swimming pool baptism, I’m told paid for by – I think it was People Magazine. And since then she has said that she was opposed to abortion, so she worked for a while with Flip Benham, had a falling out, worked with the man who’s in charge of Priests For Life [Fr. Frank Pavone]. Evidently, they had a falling out.
Her first book was I Am Roe, which was about why she supported Roe v Wade. Her second book was No More Roe, which was why she was against it. The movie she sold her story for was called Roe v Wade, and it was why she was so proud to have been involved in Roe v Wade. It won an Academy Award as a sort of documentary category. Amy Madigan played me. I wasn’t really in favor of the movie. But they finally explained that they could make it whether I said Yes or No. I finally signed away the rights, but only as “the attorney in Roe v Wade” and nothing else.
I’ve never made any comments about Norma McCorvey because I’m never quite sure what the truth is. She certainly had the right to change her mind. She certainly has the right to have whatever opinion she wants to have in time. I’m just glad that we won Roe v Wade, and that, for many women, it is their decision. It is not my decision for them. It’s not her decision for them. It is their decision for themselves. And that is what Roe v Wade represents to me.
I remember in Roe v Wade, in my reading of it, there was an interpretation by many people that if personhood per se was ever established for a fetus, it could serve as a threat to decision made in [Roe v Wade]. And I was curious if you thought there would be a way to maintain the barriers for women’s rights that stand right now over whether or not to bear a child out to nine months, whether that could still be done if personhood was established per se?
[Personhood] is certainly part of [that decision] because the Constitution says that all persons born or naturalized are citizens. And so that’s certainly been a very key part of it: “all persons born or naturalized” are citizens.
What do you think of [Judith Jarvis Thomson’s] violinist argument? You know, where you got the violinist hooked up to you?
Certainly what she was trying to say is, nobody has the right to control the body of somebody else, even if it was a famous violinist.
Actually, No More Roe was McCorvey’s ministry, not a book. Weddington was referring to the 1998 book Won By Love. The film Roe v Wade collected an Emmy for Outstanding Drama/Comedy Special, an Emmy for Holly Hunter, and a Golden Globe for Amy Madigan’s performance. The film never won an Oscar. McCorvey’s personal history is now a footnote to the case’s decision, both wildly celebrated as a victory for women’s rights and hated.
However certain it is that the long-hyped flash of Bart Simpson’s genitals contributes to a PG-13 rating for “The Simpsons Movie,” denizens of Springfield are ready to assess this moment in a way that hallmarks the show’s longstanding Juvenalian satire of our modern culture.
On the heels of two fatal alcohol poisonings at two Colorado Universities, then-recent University of Richmond Political Science graduate and new Southwest resident Mason Tvert successfully splintered all stereotypes of sloth associated with marijuana legalization advocates. Indeed, Tvert was proactive and magnanimous.
Tyler Bass: This proposition was for the entire state of Colorado?
Mason Tvert: In 2006, we had a statewide initiative that was on the ballot in Colorado. In 2005, we had a citywide initiative in Denver. We actually have another initiative that should be on the Denver ballot this November.
TB: So, obviously, the Denver one was very successful. Obviously, the Colorado one wasn’t. What is the nature of this new Denver initiative?
MT: The first initiative that we ran – well, first of all, we started at Universities: The University of Colorado, Colorado State, but then we moved to Denver. And we ran a citywide initiative in 2005, which successfully removed all penalties for private adult marijuana possession under city ordinances and effectively made Denver the first city in the country to make marijuana legal for adults.
TB: So obviously with marijuana legalization, there’s all sorts of new regulations that have to be taken into effect. The idea is obviously that people can grow marijuana for their own personal use, but if the idea is that not only that the cops don’t interfere with someone using marijuana, my thought is this: if someone gets marijuana stolen from them, it’s obviously a crime against property in the case that marijuana is legalized. So you are comfortable with the idea of cops actually being involved with making sure people can secure their marijuana, not have it stolen from them?
MT: Oh, yeah. Well, I mean, look at like for example – well, you guys really don’t have any frame of reference in Virginia, but in Colorado, there is medical marijuana law that is effective. And there have been multiple cases where patients have been, where patients’ orchards have been raided by police and their medical marijuana has been confiscated, and then it ends up being given back to them. And it’s actually in the state law here, in the Constitution, that the police actually have to take care of the marijuana they confiscate that may potentially be medical, and they need to keep it alive until that person is tried. So just recently they gave it back to a guy because the police didn’t know how to take care of it and weren’t able to do so. So there are already, we already have those types of regulations happening with regards to medical marijuana. We obviously have it already happening with regards to other drugs such as alcohol and tobacco that are legal. Obviously, if you own a bar, or if your home bar was robbed, you would probably expect us to call the police, as a substantial amount of your property was taken.
TB: If certain states do choose to legalize marijuana, are there any serious negative consequences from the Feds, like federal funding? Do they defund the DMV?
MT: You know, that’s a good question. There hasn’t been a case where that’s come up yet. For example, in Colorado, there was a proposal a few years back by [Coors Brewing Company Chairman] Pete Coors, and by others, to change the drinking age in Colorado, to lower it, and that was received with a lot of, you know, blowback. And the Federal Government from what I understand – I didn’t live here at the time – threatened to withhold certain federal funding for highways and so on, but that’s like specifically tied to federal funding, so I think that there’s a legitimate reason. If you look at, for example, medical marijuana, no state that has an active medical marijuana program has had any other than the federal government potentially raiding them or so on into offices of caregivers. There’s been no such effort by the federal government to keep states in line. And its actually not possible for the federal government to force a state to enforce federal law. It’s not legal. It’s just not possible. So you know that why we have states like California, Colorado, the other ten, eleven medical marijuana states that have effective medical marijuana programs. They have state agencies running these programs. For example, the Department of Health here in Colorado has this program and the federal government really can’t do anything about it, other than bust people. And if that’s what they choose to do… which, you know, does happen. It happens more in California than anywhere, but obviously it’s a lot bigger there than anywhere.
TB: What is the social cause? I mean, obviously marijuana is a lot better for you than alcohol. It seems thoroughly clear to me, and obviously more than tobacco. Considering that there is no LD-50 level for marijuana, why is it that the federal government – whether it’s scheduling marijuana with Ecstasy – what is the benefit to the government or to the governmental system, or the state governments, in keeping marijuana illegal?
MT: That’s a really good question. It’s a very deep question. I am sure that depending on the person you ask you could get a number of answers. I mean, some people might argue that it’s, you know, an attempt to maintain the current status quo of pharmaceuticals, or the alcohol or tobacco industries or whatever. You always hear people say, “Oh, well, it’s alcohol and tobacco companies that are keeping marijuana illegal.” This isn’t…
TB: Do you believe that?
MT: … necessarily directly true in order to actually have lobbyists lobbying against marijuana related stuff. But [alcohol and tobacco industries] do give a lot of money to these people. So these people who are being brought into office do undoubtedly have an interest in maintaining their interests. So look at for example, Republican congressional members receive more money from the National Beer Wholesalers Association, which is the nation’s largest alcohol-beer-liquor lobby. They receive more money from that one individual [Political Action Committee] than any other special interest. And that’s something people always talk about: oil, pharmaceuticals, and so on, but booze pays for quite a bit. Are they paying to keep marijuana illegal? I don’t necessarily think so, but they are certainly paying to keep certain people in power, and those people don’t want marijuana legal.
TB: You seriously think that alcohol executives say to themselves, “Oh, well, people are getting high all the time in place of doing this, they won’t buy beer”?
MT: No, I don’t. I don’t think they’re saying that at all. What I am saying is that a lot of people have this notion that there is there is a direct initiative like that for alcohol companies to keep marijuana illegal, but I don’t think that’s the case. I think certain alcohol companies keep certain individuals in power and those are the types of individuals who are certainly not interested or willing to make marijuana legal. What I am saying is Republicans.
TB: For example, I have seen on two separate occasions – once when I was a teenager and once when I was in college – I saw people who had never used marijuana ever and then they used it, and they were people who were generally kind of sheltered or something like that. And they would then all of a sudden, they would feel queasy, they would feel weird, and they would just be uncomfortable with the feeling, and they would say, “Oh, I need to go to the hospital.” And the one situation where I was around this, I said, “Well, that’s absurd. You can’t overdose. You just need to calm down.” But they would just generally have the feeling that they would need to go to the emergency room to get taken care of even though, you know, the effect of the drug is only two hours and you can never conceivably overdose.
TB: I think that given how harshly people consider marijuana, like, why is it that all of this myth has started? Its just impossible to die from this substance. It’s funny! It’s actually funny that, you know, there is so much effort put into teaching kids just the phrase “drugs and alcohol” for example.
MT: Oh, yeah, you’re absolutely right. You’re absolutely right. I’ve got my philosophy on my wall hanging in my bedroom and it says basically, “Drugs are bad. Some drugs are good, like alcohol or tobacco if you are overage.” We’re taught that from an early age, and people have been taught that for the last 60-70 years. And there’s no doubt that our federal government has implemented programs to misinform people about the harms of marijuana. If you look at it, what they’ve done is tried to make people think it’s as harmful as possible, and what you see is that when marijuana was first arriving in this country in the early twentieth century, in the 1900’s, people didn’t associate it with much harm. It wasn’t perceived as harmful. People didn’t know about it, right?
*Editor’s Note: Tvert was wrong about the date of introduction of cannabis to the United States. George Washington, to name just one, intentionally grew smokable marijuana.
MT: It was therefore not restricted. And then all of a sudden, they started making up all of this shit about Mexicans and black people raping white women and so on and all this and all that. So what they did is increase the perception of harm of marijuana and it became illegal. Then we saw like the 60’s and the 70’s roll around, and then all of a sudden the perception of harm for marijuana dipped. People started thinking it was less and less harmful. And it came to the point where it was almost made legal. The Carter administration was campaigning when he became president on changing marijuana laws. And obviously there’s some political things that led to that crumbling, but then the Reagan years came, and it kind of picked back up, and people have been more and more increasing the perception of harm of marijuana. So what our organization, SAFER, is trying to do is decrease the perception of harm by educating that this is a drug less harmful than alcohol, which is legal. Because unfortunately most people don’t know that or don’t expect that. And basically our whole organization is based on the notion that of the population, virtually any population, but in our country, about 33% – about one third – knows that marijuana is safer than alcohol, it’s less harmful. That’s you, that’s me, and so on. Then there’s 33% of the people who think they’re just as harmful. You know, it’s not worse, it’s not better, it’s not safe. Then there’s about 33% of the people who think that it’s absolutely more harmful than alcohol. So if you look at just the population of people who think it’s safer: you, me, the 33%; within us, there’s more than 70% support for making marijuana legal and regulated like alcohol. So basically, what we are trying to do is expand this 33% – that’s you and me and so on – to be bigger. Let’s say that was 40 or 50% that know marijuana is safer than alcohol. Well, all of a sudden, that 70% of us is going to be a whole lot bigger.
At this point in the interview, the reporter went off on some irrelevant, grandiose, and self-congratulatory tangent about his own struggles against The Man. Eventually, the meaningful conversation came back into fruition when Bass suggested that the reason that alcohol is legal and marijuana is not is because it is so comparatively easy to privately produce small amounts of marijuana for one’s own use than it is to brew alcohol.
MT: That’s actually not necessarily true, though. I mean, look at it. Basically, alcohol was completely prohibited. Before it was prohibited it was being made by people in their homes and whatnot. They decided to regulate it, and by regulating it, they allowed companies and so on to produce it, and ultimately, people said, “Hey, we want to make this stuff in our own houses. I want to create my own distillery. I want to homebrew.” And that’s when Jimmy Carter passed the Homebrewing Act, saying, “Hey, go ahead and produce your own beer.” Because there’s no real motivation to selling or abusing homebrewing, because it’s just not economic. You can buy more and better beer from a company. And the same goes for marijuana. And the same goes for tobacco. Could someone theoretically grow it in their own house, and cultivate it? Yeah, but the fact is that’s a pain in the ass. Just like with marijuana, granted, yeah, you could grow it, but to grow good marijuana or usable marijuana, it’s either expensive, timely, you need to have certain skills, and some people might be willing to do that, but others would just as soon buy it from someone else who knows how to do it better.
TB: I think the medical information is out there for people who are interested. But at the end of the day, I think if politicians really look at it, given the generation that most of these guys – the senators, the president – when they came around, they know what these things do. Like they are going to tell kids, “Oh no. We had no idea what it did. Oh my god.” But I mean like I hear that so often, but it’s not that they’re naïve. Here’s the thing, you have to give off to that 33% … as you know there are three types of people in this: there are people who claim to never have smoked pot and they are very well meaning, but they are the kind of people who you would hear say “do pot” or “smoke drugs” or something. (Well, you can smoke really, really bad drugs, but …) they will basically think, “Did you overdose on marijuana?” You can actually find adults who believe this. It’s really out there. It’s absurd, but I have found it a few times.
MT: I talk to members of the legislature, with city council, who do honestly believe that. A lot of these people are not conspiring against marijuana and they know that it should be legal. A lot of them are misinformed or ignorant or have been led to believe that it’s more dangerous than it is. You’ll hear for example, one of the biggest things you’ll hear is that marijuana is so much more potent. The reason they use that argument is because all of these people who are now 50, 45 years old and now serving in the legislatures, city council and so on, used to smoke pot. They need to convince those people that, “Hey, this isn’t that safe pot. This is new, really crazy hardcore damaging pot.”
TB: Yeah, I saw a study on Fox (well, sheesh, not a “study”) – I saw a story on Fox News that claimed – it was like something from the 1930’s – that they’ve found this new, killer weed and that – I think they were quoting a DEA agent – who was kind of using hyperbole, but he said, “This stuff could kill you.” And then, of course, they air that, and it was so absurd.
MT: We’ve seen it all.
TB: It sounds like something Fox News would have been joking about, liking running a story that says, uh, “John Kerry is a fag communist.” It sounds like something that they would go completely like, “uh, whoops!” but it aired. I was just amazed by it. I met someone who volunteered for you. I just came back from France and was talking to someone from Colorado. I met a girl named Cary who said she worked for SAFER, so that’s how I heard your name.
TB: Just one more thing. Thanks for talking to me. It’s on principle, and I totally understand why you do this because it is irrelevant, but you never whether you smoke pot yourself. I totally see what you’re talking about. Why does it matter?
TB: I think what came about with it was this. I don’t think that it’s the most important issue in the entire public discourse, but when it comes to something like … it’s kind of like this: Fornication is illegal in many states, but 95% of everyone ends up doing it. If you go out in there, and you say, “Legalize fornication. This is ridiculous,” people will assume, “Oh, you must really like that fornicating (tone of intense mock scorn).” And so I think that, I think that … do you see any parallel there?
MT: Uhm, no, I mean, basically, yeah, I think that people should be … I don’t think people should be … I think people confuse the notion of being proud of that they use marijuana versus proud to exercise their beliefs on marijuana. I hear people say, they get out there, they’re like, (stoner voice) “I use marijuana, and I am going to smoke in front of the capitol building to protest.” And, you know, that’s one thing, but what we find more often are people who are even unwilling to say they support changing marijuana laws, which clearly is not an issue for me. But let me put it this way: I was investigated by a multi-jurisdictional grand jury in Richmond, Va. for supposedly being involved in using marijuana, so, you know, they don’t subpoena those people because they have no clue.
TB: Yeah. Yeah.
MT: So go figure.
TB: Yeah, go figure, right?
Tvert’s organization’s website is SaferChoice.com.
UPDATE/CORRECTION (4 December 2007): The old URL is dead. Check out SaferChoice.org.
Among the two-dozen question answers, here are my four with answers:
Josh Wade: Okay… I can totally see where they have irrational politics based on their religious views, but I never thought that they viewed this, for lack of a better phrase, as a holy war.
TB: Oh, shyeah, man. I mean, that’s not to say most support attacking even american troops as a whole. Not even close to most. However, that statement is true with regards to most iraqis unfortunately, but that has very little to do with Islam per se.
TB: [Here]‘s a damn fine article. Of course, the Kurds do like us, but I’d say the American Presence, despite its intentions, is just serving as a destabilizing factor at this point. It’s like having 2 live crew police a klan rally. [They're] just not trusted.
TB: Well, I mean, It’s just time to realize those people are screwed, whether we’re there or not. I don’t think we even could make them stop fighting. However, some of the violence against random folks is the result of protesting our presence. We could at least cut down on that by leaving. I spoke to the Head of Iraq [&] Afghanistan Veterans [Of America] about all of this.
JW: I totally agree that “freedom” and democracy will never work over there. They would only do us a favor if they would continue to kill each other off instead of our guys, too
TB: Frankly, from a historical perspective, they’d probably be more like us if they just started kicking out the imperialist power. That sounds anti-American, but I’m not, and I’m also not kidding.
JW: But i do not agree with “stop policing the world.” I did my junior thesis research project on that . . . in high school at governor’s school. The ultimate question is: If we don’t do it… who will?
TB: Reikhoff says we’ve taken the place of Saddam, ironically. Now they’re united against us. It’s not helping anyone. Certainly, you couldn’t argue it has helped the iraqis.
JW: i do not think you could, unless uniting them against us can be considered a benefit. Imperialists = America or European powers of bygone years.
TB: Golly, I wish that last statement were true. This continues.
TB: This is hardcore conquest. I don’t consider people without running water a threat to me. Or . . . maybe I hate freedom? (Laughter)
JW: (Laughter) So we are the imperialists?
TB: Got it.
TB: Exactly. That said, using the Department of “Defense” to do this stuff just seems like a waste of money. Or at least poorly descriptive. And that’s my case for Paul, I guess.
JW: Did you consider my question? Who else would the police the world?
TB: Yes. In this case, we’re ineffective at that. And obviously we’re not the only group in Iraq.
JW: Mid-East, yes.
TB: I think the majority of those nations don’t need it (e.g.-Egypt). As for Iran, it seems absurd to ask them to not build nukes if we are. We already have enough to destroy humanity in general. And I’m not talking hippie bunk. We’re simply overstocked. Gosh, Josh, we could kill EVERYBODY and more. We’re undermanned because of policy, but never understocked. I mean, honestly, isn’t “freedom” kind of synonymous with leisure these days?
JW: Not leisure, but laziness. People forget that freedom is a responsibility and is something that needs to be maintained, I dare say – safeguarded
TB: Exactly. And I certainly don’t think giving up liberty safeguards [it]. You remember that quote from [Benjamin] Franklin, right? If you give it up for temporary security, you don’t deserve it (paraphrasal).
JW: Yes, I do, and I couldn’t agree more. The patriot act is the biggest bunch of funk ever.
TB: And Romney says “double Guantanamo [Bay],” and that freaks me out. That should genuinely frighten everyone that he gets applause for that. McCain agrees with me. He isn’t capable of shrugging anymore for a reason.
JW: But did you honestly not see this coming? It’s been building for years. They just needed a good enough reason to get most of americans on board
TB: And they baited the liberals with a war on religious fundamentalists. Darn!
TB: They totally took it. The anger they had reserved for the Moral Majority the Kennedyites had to take out on third world citizens. Brilliant. (sarcasm)
TB: I’ll even own this one up: I would pay higher prices at the pump and even take a lower standard of living to be able to stop slaughtering children with cluster bombs. If it meant that the Patriot Act would be gone, this pseudo-heightened awareness bunk, and presence in iraq would be done and over with.
JW: I would too.
TB: Exactly. Those troops and contractors are guarding oil. If you don’t see the parallels between the imperialism of old and the modern gig, I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree.
JW: Oh, no. I see it it.
TB: Here’s a decent runthrough about pulling out and oil. This guy is Matt Taibbi . . . he gets down to the policy nuts and bolts.
JW: OK, if we are guarding oil rigs, then why in the world are the prices still rising at the pump. (And if you go into the damaged oil refinery bit, I’ll kick you).
TB: Well, I’m not saying that even on a crude, materialistic basis, the policies are even working out. That’s why barely anybody paying attention is happy. However, the prospect is to get further control.
Upon occupying the country, the United States agreed to forgive some of that debt in exchange for its acceptance of a “standard International Monetary Fund program,” which among other things included an end to consumer price controls on food and fuel — a move that, whatever one’s feelings about government price controls may be, inarguably made it more difficult for a newly-impoverished, war-torn population to afford to eat . . .
JW: Not saying that is okay, but if we are exploiting them, where are the fruits of that unfortunate labor?
TB: Down the road, ostensibly. I doubt the current administration favors getting below 75,000 before 2010, if even that. Cheney was saying this would be “the long war.”
JW: It sounds like decades.
TB: Saddam was contemplating trading oil in Euros. That would have been MAJOR bad.
TB: Troops. We’re building an embassy in Baghdad bigger than the Vatican.
TB: 17 permanent bases.
TB: (laughter) NO ONE is planning on vacationing there. The [government] would rather you went to cuba in a decade.
TB: The iraqis have fleed their own country in the millions to enter poverty and even prostitution in Jordan and Syria.
JW: I didn’t realize that was an option for an Islamic person.
TB: Muslims don’t drink and whore the way Christians don’t judge.
JW: Not judging: that was my understanding! How do they drink and whore – if it’s like Christians?
TB: I mean, Christians hold as an ideal not judging, but . . . they do. Muslim culture holds as an ideal not whoring, but . . . they do. People are people.
TB: [A friend of mine] was a Sunni Muslim. Man drank pretty frequently, despite what he professed.
JW: So wait… prostitution is acceptable there?
TB: I mean, not by Sharia law.
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