“Ricky, come to Denver, where the people support your SAFER choice.”

As an avid Oakland Raiders fan, I hate to admit it, but the Broncos look to trample the Silver and Black again this year. If flaunting John Elway for 16 years wasn’t enough, now I’m wondering whether they’ll be able to grab my smoking idol Ricky Williams for the clouded future.

With arrests for adult marijuana possession at an all-time high in Denver, you wouldn’t believe that the Mile High City passed legislation to eliminate all violations for adult marijuana possession in 2005. Thanks to a massive city-wide effort by the marijuana activist group Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation – which spreads the message that marijuana is safer than alcohol and should be thought of as such – Denver voters passed the initiative to decriminalize ridin’ dirty 54 percent to 46 percent.

Recently, S.A.F.E.R. placed a billboard across the street from the Broncos’ Mile High Stadium, urging the suspended Williams to consider representing Denver’s stoner lifestyle in front of a nationwide audience.

After toking his way to multiple marijuana suspensions over the past seven years, Williams applied for reinstatement Oct. 1. This ignited a maximum 60-day process of returning to the NFL and the Miami Dolphins. The former Heisman winner might find his bong clogged in Miami, however. Ronnie Brown, the third-year running back straight out of Auburn University has finally lived up to the South Beach hype this season as the featured back for Head Coach Cam Cameron.

Meanwhile, high up in the Rockies, Denver’s newly acquired running back Travis Henry may be suspended by the NFL for one year after violating the league’s substance abuse policy a second time. But Henry, no stranger to court, filed a lawsuit against the NFL for not allowing his urinalysis expert to be present in the testing laboratory. Unless the NFL amends their absurd policies concerning marijuana, Henry will likely be getting a little time off to master his joint-rolling skills while sitting at home on the couch.

If it wasn’t for S.A.F.E.R., I’d be content knowing that the Raiders might still have a glimpse of a chance to nab the marijuana connoisseur/yoga instructor. But no, they had to go and throw thoughts of enjoyable recreation past Ricky’s dreadlocks. My Raiders don’t stand a chance against the Broncos now. Thanks a lot, S.A.F.E.R.

Football grudges aside, S.A.F.E.R. is quickly becoming a powerful voice in Denver politics, as well as statewide. Founded in January 2005, the group’s first project was coordinated at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and Colorado State, helping students set up campaigns to make university penalties for pot that were no harsher than alcohol offenses. Students at Boulder turned in a 68-32 vote, while Colorado State snapped by at 56-44.

Only 10 months after starting out with help from the Marijuana Policy Project, S.A.F.E.R. set its sites on the city of Denver. Members collected over 13,000 signatures in support of the revised marijuana laws, qualifying the measure for the November ballot.

S.A.F.E.R.’s next project, the Alcohol-Marijuana Equalization Initiative Committee, set out to amend state laws in the November 2006 elections. After getting on the ballot with 130,000 signatures, the amendment to legalize private adult marijuana possession received only 41 percent of votes.

Forget the cracked-out Michael Irvin repping ESPN or the baby-faced Peyton Manning plugging television satellite dishes or whichever ‘roided-out athlete pumping the latest deodorant. Ricky Williams could have the opportunity to be the poster child for national marijuana reform.

In a day when athletes subject their bodies to insane abuse and pharmaceutical inconsistencies, shouldn’t they be able to put their minds at peace? Marijuana use, as S.A.F.E.R. presents at www.SAFERchoice.org, is not nearly as dangerous as alcohol or anything else our nation’s athletes use to keep you all watching.