Letters + Opinion » The Week in Weed

Art of the Deal (With Video)



A trio of short videos taking aim at the war on drugs and the burgeoning legal marijuana industry have been tearing though the interwebs in recent weeks. (Watch them below.)

First we have music mogul Jay-Z, who turned money made from selling crack as a teen into a career rapping about selling crack, which he then turned into his own music label and now has a net worth of more than $600 million. Jay-Z teamed up with graphic artist Molly Crabapple to create a four-minute video released as an op-ed for the New York Times, in which the rapper narrates an incredibly concise breakdown on the 45-year history of the war on drugs first announced by President Richard Nixon in 1971.

"Drugs were bad; fried your brain," he narrates. "And drug dealers were monsters, the sole reason neighborhoods and major cities were failing. No one wanted to talk about Reaganomics and the ending of social safety nets, the defunding of schools and the loss of jobs in cities across America. Young men like me who hustled became the sole villain, and drug addicts lacked moral fortitude. ... Today, we imprison more people than any other country in the world: China, Russia, Iran, Cuba — all countries we consider autocratic and oppressive."

Jay-Z concludes that the war on drugs has been an "epic fail," noting that it has seen the U.S. prison population explode from 200,000 to more than 2 million. In 2014, he says, the U.S saw more than 1.5 million drug arrests, 80 percent of them for possession only and about half for marijuana. The rapper also notes the inequity in current marijuana laws, which see legal use in Colorado while mandatory minimum sentences are still being handed out in Louisiana. And, he touches on the inequity of new laws that prohibit "former felons" from participating in newly legal weed industries, while studies show the criminal justice system has discriminately arrested and convicted people of color at far higher rates than their white counterparts, while blacks, whites and Latinos all use marijuana at similar rates. Even in states that have decriminalized marijuana, the legacy of a racially-motivated drug war continues to hold minorities back.

Snoop Dogg, meanwhile, took a different tact. Rap's favorite stoner skipped the fancy graphics and simply filmed himself smoking a blunt. "It took me three minutes to roll this blunt," Snoop tells the camera while puffing away. "It only takes three minutes to register. If you want your marijuana legal, then go register to vote so you can do like I'm doing whenever you want. Legally."

The nonprofit Drug Policy Action took a more somber approach, warning that "as long as marijuana is illegal, it will be used to criminalize people of color." Citing statistics from the American Civil Liberties Union, the video warns that even today in California, blacks are four times more likely to be charged with marijuana possession than their white counterparts, while Latinos are twice as likely.

Meanwhile, up in Oregon, a 26-year-old white guy by the assumed name of Tony Greenhand has been grabbing a bunch of headlines after news broke that he'd been paid $7,000 and given pounds of weed to roll some joints for a guy out of Florida. So what's $7K in smokeable weed sculptures look like? In this case, a small arsenal: a 1.5 ounce golden Glock pistol, a half-pound AK-47 and 2 ounce hand grenade.

Oh what a strange, strange world this war on drugs has created.

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