Latinx legislators call for decriminalizing cannabis, LGBTQ rights

BOSTON — For the first time in its history, the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL) has taken a bold stance on two issues directly related to correcting chronic injustices committed against Latinos and many other Americans.

NHCSL today approved two separate resolutions calling for the decriminalization of cannabis at the state and federal levels, as well as for stronger protections against workplace and service discrimination against the LGBTQ community. NHCSL has thus become the first major national Latino group to call for the decriminalization of cannabis. This comes on the heels of NHCSL’s recent announcement that it has canceled its annual convention in Austin, Texas and moved it to Chicago due to the Lone Star State’s recently enacted anti-immigrant SB4 Law.

“Marijuana policy in this country has disproportionately targeted Latinos from the start. In fact, the term entered the national consciousness in 1937 when it was used by the federal government as part of an effort to discriminate against Latinos. Research shows that the benefits of legalizing cannabis range from taking advantage of its medicinal benefits, increasing tax revenues for health and education, to lowering crime while at the same time reducing disproportionate incarceration of minorities. NHCSL believes that our laws should focus on ending the current lawlessness of the black market and allow sound public policy based on scientific evidence to prevail on the issue of cannabis,” NHCSL President and Pennsylvania State Representative Ángel Cruz said. “Banning LGTBQ discrimination in the workplace is another civil rights issue and we are making it a priority for our organization. We are proud to stand with the LGTBQ community and will fight any form of bigotry because an attack against one community is an attack against all of us, and we will not stand for the mistreatment of our gay and lesbian herman@s,” Cruz added.

According to the text of the 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 Pabón, the sponsor of the resolution, and who is also the Chair of NHCSL’s Task Force on Banking, Affordable Housing and Credit, said: “I am proud to stand with my fellow Latino legislators in taking a strong position in favor of common sense cannabis policy. In Colorado, we have successfully legalized cannabis and we have been able to reduce crime by 10.1%, increase revenues by more than $300 million that we dedicated to our schools, and have a new thriving industry that creates jobs. 29 states and the District of Columbia currently allow some form of legal cannabis because they recognize that it is one of the most effective ways of cracking down on the cartels and criminal activity fueled by the black market. Smart decriminalization and tough regulations also allow our youth to thrive instead of subjecting many of them to unfair and discriminatory treatment by law enforcement. This is a civil rights issue and we urge our fellow lawmakers to view it as such and act accordingly.”

The other major resolution passed by NHCSL calls on policymakers to enact protections against workplace and service discrimination directed at LGBTQ individuals. According to that resolution, “the United States economy faces an estimated cost of $64 billion every year because more than 2 million American workers leave their jobs due to unfairness and discrimination… and one in every ten LGBTQ employee has left their job because their work environment was unwelcoming, and more than one-third of LGBTQ employees feel that they must lie about their personal lives at work.” The resolution further calls on President Trump “to keep the LGBT Non-Discrimination Executive Order 13672 and reverse his announced intention of banning transgender persons from serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, as it would send a strong verdict that President Trump is indeed a ‘real friend’ to the LGBT community, as he promised while campaigning for the presidency and reaffirmed once inaugurated.”

“Defending our LGBTQ brothers and sisters from discrimination – in the workplace and in the military – is a moral duty for us as state legislators. NHCSL has taken a bold stance on this matter, which is the civil rights issue of our time, and I could not be prouder to stand with them as we move forward to enact policies that protect everyone from being mistreated for the mere fact of whom they love and not for any harm they have committed towards others,” said Arizona Representative César Chávez, who sponsored the resolution.

To see the complete text of the resolutions, please click HERE and HERE.

National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators