On Tuesday, a promotional trailer for a crowdfunded documentary about the passage of Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana for recreational use in Colorado, hit the Internet via Indiegogo and much was made about Congressman Tom Tancredo agreeing to smoke pot with filmmaker Adam Hartle.
Near the end of the 10-minute trailer for the documentary (at 9:21), Hartle asks Tancredo, "True or false, when Amendment 64 passes and marijuana is legal, the next time I'm out in Colorado, we're going to smoke a joint together."
To which a wide-eyed Tancredo responds simply: "Deal."
The interview is followed by a text card reading:
Please help us get Congressman Tancredo rocky mountain high!
Now Hartle has come out in defense of Tancredo's agreement to smoke pot with him in a statement on he posted to his website:
Everyone is making a big deal about Congressman Tancredo and I legally smoking marijuana together soon. This is no different than if in 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt sat down and had a drink with an advocate of ending prohibition the first time. As an independent, I have a lot of friends that are Democrats and Republicans, and personally I wish all politicians would sit down with the peace pipe together, in their free time, learn how to get along and do what's best for the American people- not what's best for re-election or special interests groups. 15,000 people die each year in cartel violence, and over 800,000 non-violent Americans get a criminal record for simply recreating with a natural plant that's never killed anyone and is healthier than alcohol. I encourage everyone to learn more about the failure of marijuana prohibition and look forward to sitting down with my friend Tom and burnin' one down for peace.
Tom Tancredo is many things to many people: a conservative firebrand, staunch anti-immigration activist, a 2010 Colorado gubernatorial candidate, a former Republican congressman, but he's also a surprising ally of the progressive movement to legalize marijuana.
Before Tancredo agreed to smoke pot he was a vocal supporter for Amendment 64, writing a strong argument for its passage in the Colorado Springs Gazette:
I am endorsing Amendment 64 not despite my conservative beliefs, but because of them.
Throughout my career in public policy and in public office, I have fought to reform or eliminate wasteful and ineffective government programs. There is no government program or policy I can think of that has failed in such a unique way as marijuana prohibition.
Our nation is spending tens of billions of dollars annually in an attempt to prohibit adults from using a substance objectively less harmful than alcohol.
Yet marijuana is still widely available in our society. We are not preventing its use; we are merely ensuring that all of the profits from the sale of marijuana (outside the medical marijuana system) flow to the criminal underground.
Tancredo said he doesn't use marijuana in The Gazette op-ed, but it looks like that is going to change now that he's met Hartle. However, despite his refraining from using the drug previously, Tancredo also wrote that marijuana is "objectively less harmful than alcohol" and also drew comparisons to marijuana and alcohol prohibition in his column for The Gazette, saying that 80 years ago Colorado ended the "misguided" policy of alcohol prohibition and that in the November election Colorado voters could end prohibition again, which they did.
Mason Tvert, co-director of the marijuana advocacy group behind A64, told The Huffington Post that Tancredo's endorsement before the election proved that marijuana legalization is not a Republican or Democratic issue, but that it's an "issue of common sense and doing what's best for the State of Colorado."
Tvert also added: "Many people are familiar with Congressman Tancredo and appreciate his opinions. In this case, his opinion is that marijuana prohibition is a failed policy that wastes taxpayer dollars. We are excited to have the support of someone who received more than 650,000 votes in the 2010 Colorado race for governor. Regardless of whether you agree with him on other political issues, it is clearly beneficial to have his endorsement."
Tancredo's support of Amendment 64 was one of the most vocal from a Colorado politician and it's interesting to note that the congressman, who ran for governor in Colorado in 2010 and was defeated by Democrat John Hickenlooper, has found himself once again on opposite sides of the philosophical spectrum of Gov. Hickenlooper who came out against Amendment 64 before the election.
Hickenlooper, an opponent of Amendment 64, came out against the measure before the November election saying, "Colorado is known for many great things –- marijuana should not be one of them." Then after A64 overwhelmingly passed 55-45, Hickenlooper reacted with a joke about Cheetos and Goldfish, an apparent jab at marijuana users' supposed craving for "munchies:"
The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will. This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug so don’t break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly.
LEAP's Tom Angell, for one, didn't appreciate the apparent joke the governor was making about marijuana users. "What an insult to the majority of voters who did not follow your recommendation, governor," responded Angell to The Huffington Post last November. "I wouldn't be surprised to see that comment bite him in the ass."
Mason Tvert also had strong words for the governor. "Governor Hickenlooper's statement ranks as one of the most hypocritical statements in the history of politics," Tvert said. "After building a personal fortune by selling alcohol to Coloradans, he is now basing his opposition to this measure on concerns about the health of his citizens and the message being sent to children. We certainly hope he is aware that alcohol actually kills people. Marijuana use does not. The public health costs of alcohol use overall are approximately eight times greater per person than those associated with marijuana. And alcohol use is associated with violent crime. Marijuana use is not."
Hartle also thought Hickenlooper's statement was mischaracterizing Colorado and its relationship to marijuana saying to The Huffington Post, "In the film I say to Tom during our first interview that I thought Hickenlooper's line on marijuana is as asinine as if the governor of California would say, 'California is known for many great things -- but our beautiful wineries shouldn't be one of them.' Colorado is one of the most peaceful, natural places on Earth and is even more so now."
In an email, Hartle told The Huffington Post that he has spoken to Tancredo and he intends to hold up his end of the agreement. Now we just have to wait to see if the filmmakers can raise enough money through their Indiegogo fundraiser page to actually watch this historic moment of Tancredo smoking pot with Hartle taking place. Hartle and his crew are looking to raise $40,000 in the next 60 days.
View the "Grassroots" trailer with the Tancredo segment here.