As states decriminalize cannabis, Republicans soften toward immigrants, our research finds.Posted by On


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In October, President Biden announced he would pardon all prior federal convictions for simple possession of marijuana, urged governors to do the same under state laws, and launched a review of how marijuana is classified under federal law. Given long-standing links between criminalization and immigration enforcement, this announcement is likely to boost public support of immigrants.

In his announcement, Biden noted that people of color have been disproportionately arrested, prosecuted and convicted of marijuana offenses. In part, this is by design. U.S. drug laws have been deliberately crafted to criminalize and incarcerate people of color. More specifically, marijuana was criminalized to target Latino immigrants, particularly Mexicans.

The flip side is that as marijuana is decriminalized, attitudes toward Latinos and immigrants are likely to improve, our recent research finds.

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Anti-immigrant attitudes drove drug policy

Journalist Olivia Waxman reports that as anti-immigrant attitudes surged in the early 20th century, they coincided with increasingly popular associations of marijuana with immigrants. Political scientists Nancy Marion and Joshua Hill write that some people believed marijuana was a powerfully addictive drug that turned people into rapists and murderers; some Americans believed that, as they write, “All Mexicans are crazy, and this stuff is what makes them crazy.”

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