Jay-z War On Drugs
Rapper Jay-Z and visual artist Molly Crabapple just teamed up to make a short film about the U.S.’s war on drugs. After going through a brief history of the war on drugs, Jay-Z points out some troubling stats. Some of the most alarming numbers have to do with the way the war on drugs has created a massive boom in the nation’s prison population. And as Jay-Z points out, that growth has disproportionately affected people of color.
The video begins with a quick history lesson. The war on drugs, which began back in the early 1970s, fueled a massive spike in the number of people locked away in U.S. prisons and jails. In fact, the U.S. now incarcerates people at a higher rate than any other country in the world.
“Today we imprison more people than any other country in the world,” Jay-Z said in the video. “China, Russia, Iran, Cuba, all countries we consider autocratic and repressive. Yeah, more than them.”
From there, the video moves into a discussion of how the war on drugs ends up negatively affecting people of color more than white people. According to the piece, African-Americans represent around 13% of the U.S. population, but make up 31% of those arrested for drug law violations. And that’s despite the fact that white folks commit drug crimes at more or less the same rate as black folks.
Taking all this into consideration, Jay-Z called the war on drugs “an epic fail.” And he’s not the first one to reach that conclusion. Even lawmakers have said that. Earlier this year, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin stated that “the war on drugs has failed us miserably.”
A Focus On Cannabis
The video gives particular attention to cannabis. Jay-Z said there were more than 1.5 million drug arrests in 2014. More than 80% of them were for possession charges. And almost half of those were for marijuana.
Given the enormous number of people who have been arrested and locked up for possessing marijuana, many see legalization as an effective solution. But Jay-Z points out that there might be some problems with that, too.
He said that the emerging legal cannabis industry already tends to privilege white folks over people of color. And that has to do with how the war on drugs has played out.
The video said that in most states with legal cannabis; you can’t open a dispensary if you’re a felon. And since cops arrest more African American people for having cannabis than they do white people, there’s already a huge number of individuals of color already locked out of the legal marijuana industry.
Changing Drug Policies
Despite pointing out some of the challenges that face the legal marijuana industry, Jay-Z concluded that the U.S. needs to change its drug policies. And that’s exactly what might happen later this fall. There are nine states with some cannabis initiative going up for a vote. Four states will vote whether or not to legalize medical marijuana and five states are voting on recreational laws.