FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
STORRS, CT – Following a meeting with student government leaders on January 30, 2011, the University of Connecticut’s Office of Community Standards altered its penalties for students found in possession of small amounts of marijuana, equalizing the punishment with underage drinking. The change is largely in response to Connecticut’s recent decriminalization of marijuana, which lowered the penalty for possession of under half an ounce of marijuana to a fine of $150 and a 60-day license suspension for those under 21, rather than up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. The penalty for underage alcohol possession is a fine of $181 and a 150-day license suspension.
Sam Tracy, current President of the Student Body and former president of UConn Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), says, “I am happy to have worked with the Office of Community Standards to update the list of possible sanctions, effectively equalizing the punishments for underage drinking and possession of small amounts of marijuana. This change has made UConn’s response to these two minor drug violations much more sensible, focusing on the health of the student rather than on harsh sanctions that do nothing to solve the problem.”
The Undergraduate Student Government (USG) has been working on reforming marijuana penalties for many months now, beginning with its endorsement of marijuana decriminalization in March 2011. Student Body President Sam Tracy authored the endorsement as a Senator and later won the race for President on a platform that included reforming campus marijuana policies. In November 2011, the Undergraduate Student Government passed a statement of position supporting allowing Resident Assistants to handle marijuana violations, rather than the current policy in which Resident Assistants are required to call the UConn Police Department if they suspect someone is in possession of marijuana.
Bryan Flanaghan, USG Senator and author of the bill, said, “A vast majority of incidents at UConn involving marijuana involve small, decriminalized amounts, so it makes sense for Residential Life to handle these incidents internally and save the police time that could be better used stopping drunk drivers or other dangerous activities.” Following the bill’s passage, USG leaders set up a meeting with top administrators to discuss the proposal. The administrators were reluctant to take police out of confrontations involving marijuana, citing concerns for the safety of Resident Assistants and the possibility that offenders could be in possession of large amounts of marijuana that would require an arrest.
However, it was agreed upon that rather than equalize the procedures for dealing with alcohol and marijuana violations, equalizing the sanctions would be beneficial. The Office of Community Standards’ website had previously stated that a possible sanction for underage alcohol possession was a warning and the “UConn Compass” program, which is designed to help students make healthy decisions, and that the possible sanction for “possession and/or use of illegal drugs” was a University Suspension. On January 31, the Office of Community Standards revised its policies to state that the possible sanctions for both underage alcohol possession and possession of small amounts of marijuana include a warning, UConn Compass, and a Wellness and Prevention educational sanction. The possible sanctions for both offenses, when involving aggravating factors such as prior offenses or large amounts of either drug, include “University Probation, Removal from Housing, [and a] Wellness and Prevention educational sanction.”
Michael Gallie, current president of UConn’s chapter of SSDP, says, “Equalizing UConn’s penalties for underage alcohol and small amounts of marijuana simply makes sense – when state law treats the two infractions as equal, it’s sensible for the state’s flagship university to do so as well.”
CONTACT: Sam Tracy, Student Body President – firstname.lastname@example.org – 860-970-6119