Raza, it’s time we take our holiday back. For far too long, Cinco de “Drinko” has proliferated in cities all across America every 5th of May promoting racist caricatures of Mexicans and negating the actual reason we raise a shot of tequila: to celebrate the day on which the vastly outnumbered and ill-equipped Mexican army defeated the invading French army at La Batalla de Puebla in 1862. While the French would go on to occupy Mexico for three years, in the end, Mexico prevailed.
Similarly, the failed war on drugs has invaded our communities and left a trail of devastation in its wake. I would like to propose that we take back our holiday and celebrate Cinco de Mayo by ending marijuana prohibition and the failed war on drugs.
Here are five reasons why Latinos should support ending the war on drugs:
1. Keeping families together
In 2010, nearly 50,000 Latinos were incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses and, according to a recently released TRAC report, nearly one-quarter of a million people were deported for nonviolent drug offenses in just the past six years. Ending prohibition is an important step in halting the failed war on drugs and keeping families from being needlessly torn apart.
2. Ending the violence
According to Human Rights Watch, prohibition and the failed drug war has led to more than 60,000 deaths in Mexico from 2006 to 2012. The failed war on drugs has only served to exacerbate the violence and enrich cartels while our communities suffer needlessly.
3. Creating safer communities
Marijuana use is not a violent crime, and yet in 2011 law enforcement arrested someone for marijuana possession every 42 seconds. Ending the failed war on drug would allow police officers to go after more serious offenses that pose a real threat to our community.
4. Treating cancer and PTSD
Studies have shown that medical marijuana provides relief from patients suffering from cancer, veterans with PTSD and other debilitating illnesses. Ending marijuana prohibition means prioritizing the needs of sick people and helping to end their suffering.
5. Saving lives
The war on drugs has prioritized incarceration over saving lives and has led to individuals witnessing an overdose not calling 911 for fear of arrest. Arresting someone for their own personal drug use does not make our communities safer or stop them from engaging in drug use after they’re released. Providing treatment to those who need it and leaving those who don’t alone is smarter solution than locking them up.
So this Cinco de Mayo, I hope you’ll join in me taking our holiday back and saying Ya Basta to the failed war on drugs.
Jeronimo Saldaña is a legislative and organizing coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance.