¡No Se Puede! California Latinos are Done with the Failed Drug War

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May 22, 2014 - By Jeronimo Saldaña

It’s a far too familiar scene happening everyday all over the country: a person is arrested, incarcerated, possibly deported, for a non-violent drug related offense, and a family is torn apart. Thanks to the failed war on drugs, that person is most likely an African-American or a Latino even though whites use drugs at the same rates.

In 2010, nearly 50,000 Latinos were incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses and nearly one-quarter of a million people were deported for nonviolent drug offenses in just the past six years.

"Latinos are really fed up with the war on drugs, which has really become a war on Latino families," said Arturo Carmona, executive director of Presente.org, during a Tuesday conference call with reporters to release the findings of a recent poll asking 400 Latino voters their opinions on the drug war.

Sixty-nine percent of respondents agreed either strongly or somewhat that "California should minimize the penalties for drug possession, but drug sellers should be held accountable.” The poll, commissioned by the Drug Policy Alliance and Presente.org, marks a historic collaboration between the nation’s leading drug policy reform organization and a top Latino advocacy group.

According to Human Rights Watch, prohibition and the failed drug war has led to more 60,000 deaths in Mexico from 2006 to 2012. Armando Gudiño, Policy Associate at the Drug Policy Alliance, has seen a progression in the views of the Latino community regarding prohibition and the drug war. “Latinos come to the United States to seek refuge from the violence created by prohibition and the drug war only to find it again in their communities in California.”

The failed war on drugs has only served to exacerbate the violence and enrich cartels while penalizing African-American and Latino communities. Tuesday’s poll reveals that Latinos are aware of the negative impact the drug war has had on their trans-national families and are seeking reforms that will strengthen their communities, create opportunities for their children, and spur the economy. Supporting sentencing reform and decriminalizing marijuana are important first steps in the right direction that will do just that.

It is clear from the survey and the collaboration between the Drug Policy Alliance and Presente.org that drug policy reform is a Latino issue and Latinos are saying no more drug war.

Jeronimo Saldaña is a legislative and organizing coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance.

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