USG: A little less conversation, a little more action on legalization

USG senate meeting took place in Student Union ballroom on Wednesday, April. 5 2017. Bills about supporting environmental policy in UConn 2020 Vision and Legality of cannabis in CT was discussed during the meeting. (Jason Jiang/ The Daily Campus)

The University of Connecticut’s Undergraduate Student Government (USG) almost pulled the foot out of their collective mouth to endorse recreational marijuana in the state of Connecticut.

Instead, they swallowed hard.

On April 6, USG discussed formally backing the legalization of recreational marijuana in Connecticut. Senator Noah O’Connor put forth “a bill that sought USG’s support for the legalization of recreational use and the federal declassification of marijuana,” according to the Daily Campus’s coverage of USG Senate.

This is a sensible move, especially for a student government, an organization the casual onlooker would expect to be in favor of legalizing marijuana. In fact, USG did pass a position statement on this very matter in 2015, per the Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

Legalizing marijuana would benefit the health of Connecticut’s citizens, as well as the state’s economy. Reuters published an article detailing a study that shows the drug “could curb the opioid epidemic.”  Numerous publications, from the Huffington Post to the Boston Globe, have outlined the economic improvements that could come from legalizing marijuana.

Yet USG, as they are wont to do, got caught up in logistical and semantic technicalities rather than attempting to pass a bill that they generally agree with. Daily Campus reporting shows that senators respected O’Connor’s arguments, like when he noted, “Around four to five UConn Huskies get in this kind of trouble (for marijuana) per week. That’s almost one per day. Is this where we want to spend our money?”

USG President Dan Byrd gave the party line on the topic of why the bill was tabled for further discussion: “USG has a charge, and our charge is to serve the students of UConn and this bill; while I think it addresses a problem that students deal with, as Senator O’Connor mentioned, there’s no mention of…‘University of Connecticut’ or ‘students,’” Byrd said.

Perhaps the bill isn’t specific enough, but the reality of the situation is that specificity makes no difference. USG has no power on this issue, and will not be the body that decides whether marijuana is or is not legal in Connecticut. It’s the state legislature’s call: endorsing the bill in question at the Capitol now is nothing more than a gesture. While the Editorial Board believes USG should pass this bill, spending more than one senate meeting dissecting the pros and cons of the possible action is frivolous at best, and self-indulgent at worst.

USG should stop talking and take action, and they should be less nitpicky and more productive; and this goes for any future legislation.