Latino police officers group endorses Prop. 19

LINCOLN HEIGHTS, LOS ANGELES Proponents of /*Proposition 19*/, the measure to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana in California, picked up some new support Wednesday.

First it was the /*NAACP*/, now the /*National Latino Officers Association*/ is endorsing the measure, which they say will cut down arrests in the Latino community. They claim Latinos are two to three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana-related crimes compared to Caucasians.

With the election just days away, people all over the world are now anticipating how California will vote on this issue, including one place where pot has been legal for decades.

Armed with a new list of statistics, Latino police officers are the latest group to publicly support the legalization of marijuana in California.

"The National Latino Officers Association is proud to endorse Proposition 19," said Manuel Rodriguez, National Latino Officers Assoc.

According to a new report published by the /*Drug Policy Alliance*/, young Latinos, like African-Americans, consume marijuana at lower rates than young Caucasians. But despite that:

"In the last 20 years arrest rates for possession of small amounts of marijuana by Latino teenagers have tripled," said Stephen Gutwillig, California stated director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

The Alliance says this disproportionate number of arrests will end if marijuana is legalized.

But Los Angeles County Prosecutor Joseph Esposito of the Major Narcotics Division says despite the statistics, crimes rates will go up if Proposition 19 passes, specifically within the black market.

"The Mexican cartels are going to continue to import cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana into California and out to the rest of the United States, regardless of what California does," said Esposito. "Demand is just too great and there's too much money in it."

Proponents argue California could make a lot of money if marijuana becomes legal.

In Amsterdam, where pot is legal, businesses that sell the drug pay more than half of their revenue in income taxes. Two years ago the Dutch government pocketed $400 million euros in tax revenue.

"We follow the whole debate very closely here, because California could be paving the way forward, or actually shooting itself in the foot," said David Duclos, manager of Cannabis College in Amsterdam.

Despite those numbers from Amsterdam, opponents of Prop. 19 believe the social costs of legalizing marijuana will far outweigh any potential tax revenue in California.

They cite the /*Office of National Drug Control Policy*/, which reports that in 2008 the U.S. made about $10 billion in alcohol tax revenue. But nationally about $185 billion was spent dealing with the social effects of alcohol.

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