Deputy director speaks on the fastest growing public policy in America

John Hudak, the author of Marijuana: A Short History and UConn Alumni, gives an informative talk about the attitudes toward the dried byproduct of Cannabis sativa at Oak Hall on Wednesday. Focusing on politics, the media, government and education, this talk describes why public policy has changed, and what that change might mean for marijuana’s future place in society. (Zhelun Lang/The Daily Campus)

On November 16, the Department of Political Science and the Honors program hosted John Hudak, the deputy director of the Center for Effective Public Management, a senior fellow in Governance Studies and a 2005 UConn graduate. He spoke about his research on the history and consequences of legalizing marijuana and how legislation and public opinion is changing around this drug.

“Most people in society have used and they see that they don’t become criminals or rapists,” Hudak said.

On November 8, three states legalized the use of recreational marijuana: Massachusetts, California and Nevada.

Hudak, who said he never thought he would study this, also said he was really excited about researching and learning how marijuana became a public policy.

“If the states pass it, they gotta get it right,” Hudak said.

After states put the question of medical or recreational marijuana on the ballot, they have to take public health, public safety and other serious questions into account.

Although Massachusetts voted yes, they will have to wait until 2018 before it’s available to the public, Hudak said.

The state government will have to appoint people to a commission, who will oversee the industry, and the commission will work with other states agencies to start drawing regulations such as who can own and operate a dispensary, the licensing process and others, Hudak said.

Cullen Farragher, a Massachusetts native and third semester Physiology and Neurobiology and Spanish double major, said he voted “no” to the legislation via absentee ballot.

“I don’t really care if it’s legal or not, but personally I think it can be dangerous and get people to do harder drugs,” Farragher said.

Millennials are more in favor of legalizing marijuana. As of 2016, one in five Americans live in state where marijuana is legal in some form.

Although Farragher voted “no,” he acknowledges there might be some benefits for the state.

“I also think it’ll be good for the economy. The state can collect taxes and they can be pretty expensive. It’s another source of revenue for the state,” Farragher said.

However, Hudak cautions this is not going to solve any big budget issues within the state.

In total, there are 27 states that have made marijuana legal and there are strong forces to push for national legalization, Hudak said.

The history of marijuana dates back to colonial times. In Virginia, the plant was grown and was a cash crop for the British Empire.

Later on, it became a medical drug, but after the Spanish-American war and the influx of immigrants from Mexico, the drug became associated with Mexicans.

“The response from people in power at that time was to slander Mexican immigrants and the drug,” Hudak said.

The government used it to divide the country and accomplish political goals, Hudak said.

Americans had a positive view of marijuana until the 1970’s, when the Regan Administration pushed the “War on Drugs” in an effort to change the way in which Americans came to see marijuana.

At the same time, the AIDs epidemics had grown in the country, especially in San Francisco. As a response, California reformed their medical marijuana legislation so people with AIDs could use marijuana medically to endure the treatment.

Prop 64, passed 20 years ago in California, started the revolution and the change in public opinion.

“I think it will become a national policy, later rather than sooner,” Hudak said.

Farragher also agrees people’s opinions are changing. He said as states see other states do legalize marijuana, more and more will start to think about it.


Daniela Marulanda is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at daniela.marulanda@uconn.edu.