USG passes statement supporting legalization of marijuana

USG President Rachel Conboy speaks during the student government's meeting on Wednesday, March 11, 2015. (Steven Quick/The Daily Campus)

USG President Rachel Conboy speaks during the student government's meeting on Wednesday, March 11, 2015. (Steven Quick/The Daily Campus)

The University of Connecticut Undergraduate Student Government passed a statement of position fully supporting the legalization of marijuana at its meeting Wednesday night.

More than 20 students from outside of the USG and from UConn’s Students for Sensible Drug Policy showed up at the meeting to provide public comment and openly support the bill.

”If UConn passes a statement that supports (the legalization of marijuana) the state has to pay attention because we are (Connecticut’s) flagship school,” SSDP member Will Schumacher said.

Every one of the students stood at the podium and spoke of the communities they represent at UConn and supported the statement for a variety of reasons from state economic benefits to fair access of education.

“It’s absolutely absurd that you are more likely to have your life ruined by being found in possession of marijuana than any of its effects,” said James Steel, a second-semester student.

The statement passed with the overwhelming support of many undergraduate senators following 45 minutes of debate between senators about the topic of legalizing marijuana. It was opposed by only two nay votes.

Several senators including Bennett Cognato, a CLAS Senator and co-sponsor of the bill, were compelled to take the podium twice in order to further the debate and clarify stances on newly introduced information.

The implications of being found in possession of marijuana on campus inside the drug-free zone surrounding E.O. Smith was a major concern for the senators, since a drug conviction results in loss of federal funding.

The ex-officio representatives of the cultural centers highlighted the problematic racial disparity of non-violent drug arrests in America currently.

The two senators who opposed the statement were Micah Feidler, a CLAS Senator and Senator Allie Hughes.

Both senators stood and spoke during the debate portion of the statement’s deliberation.

Feidler said he would be voting based on his informed decision as an elected senator, contrasting the common statement of other senators who said they were voting based on overwhelming observed support by their constituents.

Hughes said she would support medical marijuana or she would support recreational marijuana. She would not support an overlap because it is unprecedented territory and she believes it could result in self-medication and reluctance to seek medical help.

The statement was written by Tyler Williams, president of UConn’s SSDP, and put in motion by Domenica Ghanem, CLAS Senator and sponsor of the statement, who illuminated the significance of the 494 students that signed the petition to support this bill.

The statement was founded in precedents set by the four American states and the District of Columbia who have passed legislation legalizing marijuana, according to the document. It provides the results of a 2014 study by Quinnipiac University, showing that 63 percent of Connecticut voters believe that marijuana should be legal, which demonstrates a 10 percent increase from last year.

The statement also suggests that the economic influx and benefits of legalizing marijuana in Connecticut could be allocated back to UConn to make up for this year’s budget cuts.

Bennett Cognato, also a CLAS Senator, seconded the statement.

“We expect that the Connecticut General Assembly takes the official voice of UConn student body into account seriously, and we hope that student interests be represented in the wording and vote turnout of the state,” Cognato said. “UConn SSDP will continue to lobby and advocate on behalf of Connecticut legalization, and thanks to the undergraduate student senate, they now do so with the weight of the entire UConn student body behind them."