By Chloe Vincente
Wednesday night at UConn’s Undergraduate Student Government caucus, senators voted to pass a statement in support of the legalization of marijuana in Connecticut.
During caucus the previous week, President of UConn Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Tyler Williams, spoke to the USG senators to try and persuade them to officially support house bills 6703 and 6473, which would legalize the sale, growth and distribution of marijuana use in Connecticut recreationally.
Several students in support of the legalization of marijuana accompanied Williams to this week’s senate. They got up individually and spoke to the crowd, urging senators to vote in favor.
Senators in support of the two bills discussed how the legalization of marijuana in Connecticut could create new jobs, boost the economy, help minority groups, and prevent college students from losing financial aid due to misdemeanor drug charges.
Senator Alejandro Pirez says that the change needs to start now. He said legalization of marijuana will result in economic growth and and most importantly, the creation of new jobs.
“This will bring people back to Connecticut, this will put more people to work and it’ll help Connecticut push the rest of the country into the 21st century,” said Pirez.
Ex-officio senator from the African American Cultural Center, Haddiyah Ali, discussed how the legalization of marijuana could help African Americans, who, according to American Civil Liberties Union, are convicted more often of possessing marijuana than their racial counterparts even though blacks and whites have comparable marijuana usage rates.
“So it’s a big problem for me, for minority communities, to then be disproportionately investigated and affected by an unfair system,” said Ali.
According to Senator Bennett Cognato, they received 494 undergraduate students’ signatures for a petition in support of the legalization of marijuana.
The vote on this issue was not unanimous. Two senators, Micah Fiedler and Allie Hughes, were clearly opposed to USG supporting the legalization of marijuana in Connecticut.
Senator Fiedler spoke in opposition to the bill.
“As we speak marijuana is currently illegal. We do not need to change that,” said Fiedler
Senator Hughes expressed her concern that if legalized, people would use marijuana to self medicate health issues that should be treated by doctors and prescribed medicine.
“This is not an alternative to mental health services,” said Hughes. “It’s not an alternative to actual drugs that have been tested in labs for treating these diseases.”
Some of the senators, such as Senator Stephanie Sponzo, are neutral on the issue, but stated that they would support the legalization of marijuana because that is what most of their constituents want.
“I am the Towers Senator, so one of my constituents is here tonight and I am going to vote in a way that represents what they want,” Sponzo said. “I’ve had people come up to me personally and say that they are supportive of this bill so as a Senator I’d just like to remind you that that is our responsibility in this governing body.”
In the USG statement of position on legalizing marijuana, written by Williams, it states that much of the revenue from the sale of marijuana could be allocated to UConn’s budget.
As of now, marijuana has been legalized in four states and the District of Columbia.