University of Connecticut alum Sam Tracy recently became Connecticut’s political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) where he is working to legalize marijuana.
During his time at UConn, Tracy wrote for the Daily Campus and served as the president of USG. He wrote for the opinion section sporadically, then served on the editorial board his senior year. While writing for the opinion section, Tracy wrote several articles about marijuana reform.
“Our goal is to get a bill passed this legislative session, which adjourns on June 7, 2017. If it doesn't pass by then, we need to start over next January,” Tracy said.
MPP was founded in 1995 and remains the largest organization in the U.S. to focus solely on ending marijuana prohibition. The organization’s mission is to regulate marijuana and allow states to enact their own policies on its use according to the MPP.
“Since we don't have ballot initiatives in our state, the only way to pass legalization is through the legislature, which has never been done before,” Tracy said. “So we're trying to make Connecticut the first state in the nation to pass a bill regulating marijuana like alcohol.”
“The final step in ending prohibition in our state is to regulate (marijuana) like alcohol, allowing adults over 21 to possess it and setting up a regulatory structure for people to grow and sell it in,” Tracy said.
Marijuana has become legal for all adults in eight U.S. states, as well as the nation’s capital. Laws enabling the use of medical marijuana have been enacted in an additional 20 states, according to the MPP.
U.S. states that have already adopted marijuana legalization did so via a ballot initiative, also known as a “direct popular vote,” Tracy said. Citizens are allowed to bypass their state’s legislature through such ballot initiatives, according to the NCSL.
Connecticut’s state constitution, however, does not allow for ballot initiatives. Instead, Connecticut must have a bill passed. It is Tracy’s job to round up public support and then turn that into progress in the state legislature, Tracy said.
Tracy has just begun building a coalition of several organizations called the “Connecticut Coalition to Regulate Marijuana.” Under this coalition, members will work with the MPP in Connecticut.
“On a day-to-day basis, I'm reaching out to potential coalition members, writing articles about the benefits of regulation, recruiting volunteers, and more,” Tracy said.
The three main economic benefits to regulating marijuana are: jobs, taxes and tourism, Tracy said.
“In my opinion, jobs are the most important benefit since they can be life-changing for individuals and they reduce the need for assistance from the state,” Tracy said. “The marijuana industry could employ large numbers of people in Connecticut.”
Tracy compared Colorado’s population to that of Connecticut’s to determine over 16,750 jobs could be created in Connecticut.
“Colorado’s marijuana industry employs over 25,000 people,” Tracy said. “Since CT has 2/3 their population, using the same ratio, we could create over 16,750.”
In Colorado, cannabis revenue increased by roughly 36 percent for a total of $486 million for the first five months of 2016, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue.
The jobs range from entry-level customer service and manufacturing jobs, up to managers, investors and CEO’s, Tracy said.
“Taxes are also a big factor, especially because our state is currently trying to close a $1.7 billion budget deficit,” Tracy said.
Connecticut could raise over $100 million in marijuana sales taxes if the state were to tax it as Colorado does, according to the Connecticut Office of Fiscal Analysis.
This alone will not solve the budget crisis, but it is still $100 million more that will help improve it, Tracy said.
Tracy also stressed the financial benefits of tourism. Legal marijuana played a factor in 25% of out-of-state visitors decision to travel to Colorado, according to the Colorado Tourism Office.
“Connecticut is always trying to attract more tourists to our beautiful state, and it's clear that we could help our hotels, museums, restaurants, and music venues by treating marijuana the same (as how) we treat alcohol,” Tracy said.
Emma DeGrandi is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.