Latino Legislators Reject DOJ Cannabis Directive


The National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL) firmly rejected a recent memorandum by Attorney General?Jeff Sessions?revoking Obama Administration policy that directed US Attorneys not to focus scarce law enforcement resources in prosecuting low-level cannabis offenders in states where it has become legal for either medical or recreational use. The new policy is contrary to scientific evidence, the democratic wishes of voters in 29 states plus the?District of Columbia, and will disproportionately affect Latinos and other minorities.

Last Summer, NHCSL’s Executive Committee approved a?resolution?calling for the?decriminalization of cannabis, becoming the first national Hispanic organization to take a bold stance on the issue. The?resolution?also recalled the anti-Latino bias at the root of cannabis prohibition laws.

“Attorney General Sessions’ recent cannabis directive is contrary to science as well as President Trump’s own campaign promises to let states regulate the use of marijuana. Mr. Sessions is ignoring overwhelming research that demonstrates that marijuana not only has a plethora of medical uses, but is also not as harmful as the former?Alabama?Senator claims. Mr. Sessions also seems to be ignoring the chronic abuses that cannabis criminalization has historically inflicted on Latinos and other minorities,” NHCSL President and Pennsylvania State Representative ?ngel Cruz said. “NHCSL is proud to have been the first national Hispanic group to call for the decriminalization of cannabis and we will not stand idly by while the Department of Justice undermines the rule of law in 29 states and?Washington, DC. Our preciously scarce police resources should focus on pursuing actual criminals that are harming others, not law-abiding patients and other legal cannabis users,” Cruz added.

According to the text of NHCSL’s?cannabis resolution, “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…”

Colorado State Representative?Dan Pab?n,?the sponsor of the?resolution, and who is also the Chair of NHCSL’s Task Force on Banking, Affordable Housing and Credit, said: “Colorado?has successfully decriminalized cannabis. The health, economic, and public safety benefits have been a boon to our states and other jurisdictions who have followed our lead. In addition to the?$300 million?a year our state has been able to collect from the legal cannabis trade, decriminalization also strikes at the heart of the black market and the vicious crimes that stem from cannabis prohibition in other states. Now is not the time to turn back the clock on states’ rights and common-sense policy. Congress should follow?Colorado’s?example and fully decriminalize the use and sale of cannabis and help other Americans reap the rewards of the type of sound and evidence-based cannabis policies we have pursued in?Colorado.”

“Theoretically, under the Constitution, Congress has the power to regulate or even ban marijuana from interstate commerce. But it cannot and should not reverse state policy to regulate or prohibit the growing, processing and use of marijuana within state lines. This should be for the citizens of each state to decide,” concluded NHCSL Executive Director,?Kenneth Romero.

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