New York hip-hop mogul Jay Z’s latest hit isn’t a song — it’s an op-ed in the Grey Lady.
The New York Times
opinion piece “The War on Drugs Is An Epic Fail” is an illustrated video narrated by the platinum-selling artist and highlighting pot prohibition and legalization's racial inequity.
The video was produced with drug-law reformers Drug Policy Alliance — who held a Washington, D.C., meeting on racial equity in legal pot this week — as well as Revolve Impact. Viral videos and the internet more broadly are helping to drive support for pot prohibition's end to historic levels.
Illustrated by Molly Crabapple, the video promises to “educate millions of people about the devastation wrought on the African American community because of the drug war,” stated Asha Bandele, Senior Director for Grants, Partnerships and Special Projects at the Drug Policy Alliance. “That it is offered at a moment when policymakers are finally joining advocates in demanding an end to the architecture that actually incentivizes biased policing and police violence makes it especially timely,” said Bandele.
On Facebook she wrote: "The drug war has created or driven policies that incentivize extrajudical killing. It's one tool we can take out of their evilass box. Thank you #JayZ"
“As a resident of California, I am especially pleased that this video speaks directly to the heart of economic equity,” stated Dream Hampton of Revolve Impact. She stated, “In November, Californians will have the opportunity to vote Yes on Prop 64, which is the most racial-justice-oriented marijuana legalization measure ever. It not only reduces and in many cases eliminates criminal penalties for marijuana offenses, but it’s retroactive, meaning people needlessly sitting in jail for small amounts of marijuana, can get out and have their records expunged. Plus, it drives hundreds of millions of dollars in direct funding and investments to communities most harmed by police and the criminal justice system,” Hampton stated.
On Thursday, the DPA briefed Congress on diversity in the cannabis industry, where less than one percent of the growing legalized market is owned and/or operated by individuals of color. Structural barriers in highly regulated pot markets block entry for people without large amounts of money, political connections, and a clean record.
Jay Z notes in his video that since 1970, blacks and other marginalized groups were targeted by the drug war, leading to unprecedented mass incarceration, marginalization and poverty. Today, one in ten black men will be imprisoned in their lifetimes.
“It is clear the historical enforcement of cannabis prohibition has been overwhelmingly against people of color, now we are seeing the systematic exclusion of people of color through the state procurement process for licensing cannabis operators," said Dr. Malik Burnett, a physician at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. "It’s simply unequal treatment under the law by another name. Minority cannabis operators from around the country are coming together to discuss how we can stop this discrimination and use the cannabis industry to create equity, economic justice, and restore communities most impacted by the failed war on drugs," he said.