In 1999 at the suggestion of WCVI Board Member Dr. Avelardo Valdez IMI explored a partnership with the Lindesmith Center (who later merged with the Drug Reform Institute to create the Drug Policy Alliance) to begin programming in the US Latino community against the War on Drugs. Dr. Valdez, the preeminent US Latino expert on the impact of drug use in the Latino community had worked with Lindesmith Center and their well-known leader Ethan Nadelman in the 1990's.
Hope for ending the drug war had been rekindled in 1996 when California become the first state to legalize use of Marijuana for Medical purposes thru Prop 36. The ballot measure had been developed and managed by LA based Bill Zimmerman (founder of Medical Aid for El Salvador in the 1980's) and former San Francisco Supervisor Jim Gonzales.
Thru its first ten years of IMI activities WCVI had learned much about the horrific impact of the US drug war in Latin America as well as in the US Latino community where in the 1980's Los Angeles and El Salvador were equally violent!
Thru its partnership with DPA IMI sponsored regular outreach and educational activities in communities in California and Texas during 1999-2009 and was the only national Latino organization working in the "End the Drug War" space. IMI's Drug War activities in this period were managed by Ambassador Roberto Vargas from San Francisco. Vargas had lived in Nicaragua during the Sandinista Revolution, but returned to the US after the Sandinistas lost power in the Feb 1990 Presidential election.
During 2010-16 Marijuana legalization ballot measures in states like Colorado, Washington, Nevada, and California crystallized as the top priority for the anti-drug war movement.
This trend intensified in California with 2010's Prop 19 legalization ballot measure to legalize Marijuana (which lost 54%-46%) and 2016's CA Prop 64 (which won 57%-43%). In both cases WCVI's IMI led Latino outreach across California!
Notable in the two elections was the role of Latino voters who opposed Prop 19 narrowly in 2010 but reversed in 2016 to support Prop 64 by a three to two margin! WCVI's IMI (and its sister organization the Latino Voters League) were instrumental in educating Latino voters and ultimately shifting their opinion to one of support for marijuana legalization. Key in this work at WCVI and the Latino Voters League was Armando Gudino -who became a leader of the Drug Policy Alliance in 2014.
Due to the California victory it is likely that Marijuana will be legalized nationally soon. Legalizing Marijuana in California means that tens of thousands of arrests of mostly minority youth will not occur and thousands of persons with "felony convictions" on their records will have them expunged. It also means thousands of good paying jobs will be created and more than a billion dollars annually in state taxes will be generated for education and treatment programs. Perhaps most importantly legal marijuana in California denies illicit drug profits to violent drug cartels in California and Mexico.