Latino legislators are arguing that the costs and lost lives of Latino youths over minor marijuana possession are too much for the federal government to continue the way it has been. These arguments come on the heels of Senator Cory Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act bill which pushes for national legalization and highlights the negative impacts on low-income communities and minorities. Would you not agree that in order for the cannabis movement to to win out, there can be no letup from advocates?
A group representing Latino state legislators across the U.S. just endorsed legalizing marijuana and says current prohibition laws are part of a decades-long racist attack on their communities.
“Decriminalization of recreational marijuana will ease the burden off the criminal justice system and law enforcement agencies, allowing police officers, judges, and prosecutors to focus on violent offenses and other criminal activity more deserving of priority, and freeing-up space in prisons and decreasing the budgetary impact from keeping marijuana users incarcerated,” reads a resolution adopted on Wednesday by the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL). “Regulated marijuana retailing greatly hinders black-market drug dealers, prevents marijuana’s (unproven but widely alleged) use as a gateway drug, and directs much-needed revenue to legal business owners, states and local governments instead of organized crime.”
The resolution zeros in on the racist origins of marijuana prohibition.
“During the 1920’s and 1930’s, when it was first penalized in various states, cannabis use was portrayed as a cultural vice of Mexican immigrants to the United States, and racist and xenophobic politicians and government officials used cannabis prohibition specifically to target and criminalize Mexican-American culture and incarcerate Mexican-Americans and, therefore, the prohibition of cannabis is fundamentally rooted in discrimination against Hispanics,” it says.
While the NHCSL measure uses the words “cannabis” and “marijuana” interchangeably throughout, it does highlight the apparent negatively intended implications of the latter term by those who championed prohibition last century. “The racist politicians who first criminalized cannabis, used the term ‘marijuana’ (sometimes spelled ‘marihuana’) to refer to it, precisely because they wanted to underscore that it was a Latino, particularly Mexican ‘vice,’ and that word, with all its implications, has become the most common names for cannabis in the United States today,” it reads.
NHCSL is calling on the federal government to enact “legislation to federally decriminalize marijuana whether for medical or recreational uses” and is asking states to pass bills to “decriminalize marijuana, provide for the of sealing of records for drug convictions for underlying behavior that is legalized and enact responsible and appropriate policies, should a jurisdiction decide to regulate its sale as a legitimate article of commerce, to prevent youth access and curtail cartel and criminal activity.”