A heated debate surrounding a bill to support the legalization and taxation of marijuana in order to fund higher education dominated last night’s five-hour-long Associated Student Senate meeting.
Although Senators initially passed the bill by a slim margin without much debate, they decided to continue discussing the bill later in the evening. Representatives from the Student Commission on Racial Equality and the Office of the External Vice President of Local Affairs also gave presentations on ongoing projects, in addition to the discussion of other issues and projects, such as a Bone Thugs-n-Harmony concert that will be held at the Hub on Mar. 6.
In regard to the marijuana legalization debate, Senators decided to revisit discussion on the bill near the end of the meeting after it had already been passed without deliberation. This discussion incited passionate exchanges on both sides of the issue, with Senators Andre Theus, Amir Khazhaeli, Nick Onyshko, and Montana MacLachlan voicing opposition to the bill. Khazaieli said he feared the bill would reflect badly on UCSB’s reputation.
“As representatives of the entire student body, taking a stance like this is completely counteractive to the whole notion of promoting UCSB as not a party school, not an ‘OK, get high and not care about anything,’” Khazaieli said.
Off-Campus Senator Andre Taylor supported the bill, and referred to a position supported by Assemblymember Das Williams, and he argued that one potential benefit of legalization would be the reduction of violence and profits connected to transnational drug cartels.
“If the taxation happens and we legalize it, that could be taking money out of drug cartels,” Taylor said. “If there is a legalization and it’s going towards a good cause, not only will it be going towards benefiting higher education, but it could be a pipeline to stopping certain drug cartel interactions.”
At one point, it was revealed that the entire Senate body lacked some knowledge on the legal status of marijuana in the state, when Off-Campus Senator Nick Onyshko asked the question to all senators of whether marijuana was decriminalized in California and did not receive an accurate response until a fellow senator researched the issue.
Off-Campus Senator Andre Theus, who opposed the bill, said he was frustrated with his fellow senators’ conduct shortly after the confusion.
“I am extremely, extremely … disappointed with my Senate tonight,” Theus said. “People in this room don’t even know what the current rates are for a misdemeanor or what the actual revenue’s going to bring in … I think we need to bring that back to the Senate, with all of us being educated on the issues of the agenda.”
Off-Campus Senator Montana MacLachlan said she agreed with Theus regarding the Senate’s actions, and added her own personal sentiment.
“I’m pissed,” MacLachlan said. “I feel very personally offended.”
Also at the meeting, Student Commission on Racial Equality co-chair Hani Tajsar gave a presentation to the Senate regarding the Facing Race Conference that will be held at the SRB on Feb. 22nd. The event seeks to educate students on issues that affect students of color, and anyone who attends will receive a free S.C.O.R.E. t-shirt and free tacos.
Tajsar also advocated student action that would continue and improve efforts to recruit and help undocumented and low-income students graduate at UCSB.
“The recruitment and retention rate for undocumented students and low-income students in general, is something that I’m ashamed of … and we should all push for a better system,” Tajsar said.
External Vice President of Local Affairs Alex Moore gave a presentation on the controversial proposal for a new development in Isla Vista, which would be located at the current site of the bar Dublin’s at the intersection of Pardall Road and Embarcadero del Mar. The four-story building, called The Nest has received much criticism from students, according to Moore, which is why he plans to work against the project.
“At the end of the day, I’m representing student opinions,” Moore said.
Other items discussed during the meeting included the Bone Thugs-n-Harmony concert to be held on Mar. 6, as well as updates from Erick Lankey about promoting food insecurity awareness through the A.S. Food Bank, a progress report on the petition being distributed by the UCen S.U.R.F. initiative and updates on a leadership conference hosted by the Office of Student Life.
[Editor's Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Senator Amir Khazaieli led the opposition, while in fact multiple senators opposed the bill. In addition, it was wrongly stated that Senator Montana MacLachlan disagreed with Senator Andre Theus when in fact she agreed with his frustration with the Senate. The article has been updated to incorporate these corrections.]
This story is a Daily Nexus online exclusive.