The University of Connecticut’s Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) held a community forum on Thursday night to discuss the social and economic implications of legalizing marijuana.
Jennifer Purdon, director of SSDP, posed questions to the panel before leading a Q&A session with the audience. The panel consisted of Sam Tracy, a UConn alum and Connecticut’s political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), two UConn graduate sociology students and elected official Gregg Haddad.
The forum was held in light of two Connecticut bill proposals currently in the state legislature.
Haddad discussed his concerns with the state budget deficit and how legalization would alleviate economic harms.
“Legalizing marijuana were talking about something probably 50 or 60 million dollars worth of revenue,” Haddad said. “That’s valued. That’s a big number.”
For the 2015-2016 fiscal year, Connecticut confirmed a $170.4 million budget deficit, according to CT Mirror.
UConn graduate students in the sociology department, Zachary Kline and Carol Ann Jackson, spoke further of the impact on economics and the community.
“We have come to frame marijuana as being a problematic drug,” Jackson said.
Growing up in Bridgeport, Conn., Jackson stressed the negative impact she witnessed first-hand that marijuana prohibition has on a community.
“For me it’s more than just an academic interest, but I’ve personally seen in my community lives being destroyed or just altered for the worst,” Jackson said.
Jackson stated how America’s prison system has the highest number of imprisoned blacks and Latinos. Marijuana prohibition has become a racialized issue in our country, Jackson said.
“If I wanted to improve my community, one of the first things I want is protection not policing,” Jackson said.
All members of the forum discussed how the prohibition of marijuana has led to more harm than good.
Not providing regulation on marijuana is actually harmful to consumers, Tracy said. There are many reasons to support this issue, but it comes down to harm reduction.
Tracy also said how Connecticut must learn from the mistakes of other states when legalizing and profiting from marijuana.
In Washington, they set the taxes incredibly high leading to a small number of people buying in stores, Tracy said.
“Connecticut has to look at trying to balance those concerns of wanting there to be high enough taxes to raise money off of it,” Tracy said. “Some people think of it in the same way as cigarette and alcohol taxes; that it’s kind of okay to have high taxes to persuade use, but at the same time you don’t want it to be so high that no one goes to stores.”
Near the end of the forum, the panel discussed how marijuana regulation would be treated within President Donald J. Trump’s administration.
Although President Trump has stated marijuana regulation should be a state issue, his administration’s comments are ambiguous, Tracy said.
“I don’t think anyone can project what’s going to happen with the Trump administration,” Haddad said.
Gregg Haddad has served as Connecticut’s state representative for Mansfield since being elected in 2010. He also serves as Connecticut’s House Democrats chairman of the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee. Haddad stated he relies on Tracy for most of his knowledge behind the regulation of marijuana.
SSDP meets every Thursday at 7 p.m. in ITE 127.
Emma DeGrandi is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.