A new political powerhouse aimed at dismantling the war on drugs in general, and the war on marijuana in particular, may now be emerging.
That powerhouse: presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and rapper Killer Mike.
A new series of six videos—filmed in Killer Mike’s Atlanta barber shop and released this morning on the rapper’s YouTube channel—shows the two having conversations about a number of political issues including economic opportunity, social justice, healthcare, political protest, and more.
In the fourth video, the two begin discussing the war on drugs (they really start diving in to the topic around the 6 minute mark:)
Their conversation focuses primarily on the ways that the war on drugs has had a disproportionately harmful effect on people and communities of color throughout the country.
In particular, they talked about how black people are arrested, convicted, and imprisoned at rates significantly higher than white people.
They also discuss the ways that once a person is arrested for a drug-related crime, it becomes incredibly difficult to get a job and in many cases, they often end up losing their right to vote as well.
Sanders and Mike both agreed that one of the most effective ways to put a stop to this particular form of structural racism is to make marijuana legal.
“I think this is an issue that we’ve got to absolutely focus on,” Sanders said. “And it’s not just reforming police departments or doing away with minimum sentencing, but it’s also taking a hard look at the so-called war on drugs, which has destroyed many peoples’ lives.”
“The federal Controlled Substance Act says that marijuana is the same as heroin. What do you say about that?” Sanders asked Mike.
“I’m a marijuana smoker and that is absolute bullsh*t,” Mike responded.
“Of course it’s crazy,” Sanders said. “Everybody knows it’s crazy.”
“My legislation would take marijuana out of the Controlled Substance Act completely. That means you’re not subjected to federal prosecution.”
In case you’re not sure if Mike and Sanders are correct to identify marijuana prohibition as a key link in the war on drugs’ racist outcomes, here are some numbers:
Marijuana accounts for a huge percentage of all drug-related arrests. The ACLU reports that “between 2001 and 2010, there were over 8 million pot arrests in the U.S. That’s one bust every 37 seconds and hundreds of thousands ensnared in the criminal justice system.”
These pot arrests are a huge drain on our system, costing taxpayers about $3.6 billion every year.
To make matters even worse, black people are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person despite the fact that marijuana possession and use is essentially equal between the two groups. If anything, marijuana use is slightly higher among whites.
By legalizing marijuana, not only will we eliminate a huge number of unnecessary arrests and free millions from our criminal justice system, but we will also eliminate one of the primary tools law enforcement uses to target people of color.
Sounds like Killer Mike and Bernie Sanders know what they’re talking about.