My name is Fred Brathwaite.
Most of you may know me as Fab 5 Freddy, that guy that used to host that rap show on MTV.
- ♪ Fab 5 Freddy ♪ ♪ Yo, yo, yo ♪
- The number one show. ♪ Rap music ♪
- ♪ Fab 5 Freddy ♪ ♪ Yo, yo ♪ I grew up in the Bed-Stuy section of Brooklyn, New York.
My godfather was jazz drummer Max Roach and best friends with my dad.
Our house was a happening scene.
Good music playing, my mom's great food on the stove, and my dad's friends at the house on the regular, having spirited intellectual conversation over quality cannabis.
Like my dad and his friends, I'm a long-time cannabis connoisseur and an advocate.
More than half of America agrees with me.
As cannabis goes mainstream, it's easy to forget the past: nearly 100 years of prohibition and millions of lives destroyed in a war on drugs.
As this trend of legalization spreads across the country, you have to ask, "Why was cannabis ever made illegal in the first place?"
And why is America only now accepting it?
My journey to answer this question starts right here, in my father's old record collection.
The history of cannabis in America has long been tied to the history of music in America.
Almost 100 years ago, the biggest advocates of the day were jazz musicians.
They used euphemisms.
Cab Calloway, of course, was one of the first with a song called "The Reefer Man."
99.9% of the public wouldn't have no idea what he was talking about.
Reefer, gauge, jive, and weed were some of the slang words jazz greats used when singing about cannabis.
These terms would become some of the popular slang still in use today.
Not only were jazz musicians smoking it, but everybody knew that it gave them a leg up.
When you got high on cannabis, the music slowed down a little bit.
And you could flow improvisationally.
The cat that smoked marijuana, they had better know that... Fats Wallace and Duke Ellington and all of them.
They help you be very creative.
I've been smoking for 70 years and really enjoyed it.
Way back in the days in the jazz era, they were speaking on the plant because the plant was something that was a way of helping them find they groove and find they mind and find they mental, to create some of the most classic music that was ever written, that was ever produced, that was ever sung, and it's timeless.
There's something about that cannabis that brings the best out of whoever you are, if you tap into your spirit or why it's here.
There's a lot of reefer songs going around. "Light Up."
♪ Light up ♪ There's another one.
♪ All the jive is gone ♪
♪ All the jive is gone ♪
♪ I had some fun, but now I'm on the run Because all the jive is gone ♪ Because back in the day, they called marijuana jive.
♪ The latest crave The country's rave is jive, jive, jive ♪
You can trace the roots of cannabis to the city of New Orleans, a port city that was a melting pot of cultures and the birthplace of jazz.
That's right, baby, New Orleans.
At a time when only the hippest cats knew where to find some good reefer in those underground clubs.
Here's the original reefer song.
♪ Hide the reefer Here comes the creeper ♪
♪ Hide the reefer Here comes the creeper ♪
♪ Hide the reefer Here comes the creeper ♪
♪ Hide the reefer Here comes the creeper ♪
Cannabis and its close cousin hemp were used for centuries throughout Asia and traveled across the globe along trade routes.
Marijuana doesn't actually become a social problem per se, until there's early reports in El Paso Texas and also in New Orleans of minorities smoking marijuana.
Marijuana, from its entry point into the US, has been associated with two groups that give Americans great amounts of trepidation, historically then and even now.
And that's African-Americans and jazz culture in New Orleans and Mexicans.
In fact, the name cannabis was shifted in the mainstream discourse to marijuana, in order to make the association with Mexican-ness.
We're talking about this happening in the first three decades of the 20th Century, which are some of the most xenophobic decades in American history, although we're doing pretty well with that now.
But, you know, really intensely xenophobic moments.
So you're talking about individuals coming in through Mexico into Texas, the coming of Jews and Italians, the great migration of African-Americans into northern cities.
So the whole population of urban America is shifting, and there's a ton of anxiety around this population.
They were worried that the blacks in New Orleans who were smoking marijuana would then use it to seduce white teenagers and get them hooked on this mysterious drug that they knew nothing about.
Jazz was the new music of the 20th century.
And Louis Armstrong is its progenitor.
Louis Armstrong is the most important seminal figure in the development of jazz.
I was born, you know, in 1900. In James Alley, they called it.
It's the back of town. That's the real New Orleans.
And as a little boy, they used to call me little Louis.
And I grew up there listening to all the good music.
We know that Louis started smoking weed early on.
And he smoked it every day of his life.
Louis was one of our glorious, early potheads.
And obviously, if you listen to his music, you can see that pot, if anything, had a very salutary effect on his music.
By the 1920s, some states had begun outlawing marijuana usage, including California.
In 1930, Louis Armstrong was playing a gig at the Cotton Club in Culver City, when he got arrested for smoking a joint outside during a set break.
We're in Louis Armstrong's house, which has been preserved as a museum.
This whole desk is Louis' tape recorder, Louis' glasses maybe, I don't know.
All the tapes.
Most of what we know about Louis Armstrong, we know from his own words and letters.
He was very open about his cannabis use.
And he did not mince words in his opposition to prohibition.
One of the things Louis never understood was why marijuana was illegal.
He told his manager, "I'm not so particular about having a permit to carry a gun.
All I want is a permit to carry that good shit.
You must see to it that I have special permission to smoke all the reefers that I want to when I want, or I will just have to put this horn down."
He was way ahead of his time because Louis wanted to get a permit for marijuana.
"I can't afford to be tense, fearing that any minute I'm going to be arrested, brought to jail, for a silly little minor thing like marijuana."
Louis' words were sensible, yet radical for that time.
And they still ring true today.
How is it that a mild intoxicant, a plant that grows naturally all over the world, could be so feared by the American government and become worthy of a war?
Huh. It all comes down to one man.
His name? Harry Anslinger.
Our distinguished guest for this evening is Harry J. Anslinger, United States Commissioner of Narcotics, Treasury Department.
It is the duty of the Treasury Department to damn the harmful and malignant stream of narcotic drugs.
The Treasury Department intends to pursue a relentless warfare against the despicable, dope-peddling vulture who preys on the weakness of his fellow man.
One of the biggest architects of marijuana prohibition, maybe even the father of marijuana prohibition, is Harry Anslinger.
Harry Anslinger was an associate in the Prohibition department.
In 1930, he becomes the first head of the Bureau of Narcotics.
What you have to realize though about Anslinger is that... deep in his bones, he was a racist.
And that informed a lot of the way he viewed, you know, what measures should be taken against people who were basically smoking a very innocent flower.
Uh, I might say that, uh, we find this teenage addiction in certain segments and certain neighborhoods.
For instance, you can almost chalk it down this way.
You see very little of it in New England.
You come to New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh... uh...
Detroit, Chicago, New Orleans.
Most of America at that time would've known exactly what Anslinger meant right here.
These cities were known to have high populations of black and brown people.
Anslinger was a master at PR and at fake news.
So what he was able to do was always create the other.
He had been always amassing these horrid, lurid stories of the devastation that's wrought by marijuana.
So this is just a small sample of what I call The Gore File.
"Hampton Negro Conference."
"Marijuana created a magnificent dream scenery and insanity."
Okay, here's a good one.
"Kills six in a hospital, Mexican crazed by marijuana runs amok with a butcher knife."
And this was published in the New York Times in 1925.
This is a good one.
"Mexican family go insane.
A woman and her four children have been driven insane by eating the marijuana plant, according to doctors who say there is no hope of saving the children's lives.
And that the mother will be insane for the rest of her life."
At that time, most Americans knew nothing about marijuana.
So, um, the idea was, at least for Anslinger, was to build up this consciousness of this public menace, which really, you know, was not a public menace at all.
And one of the great cases is the Victor Licata case.
And this is a kind of place where Anslinger would... um...
This is Inside Detective magazine.
And this is the Marijuana Maniac.
One day, Victor Licata takes an ax and murders his father, mother, two brothers and a sister.
Immediately it gets linked to marijuana.
Actually, Victor Licata was a schizophrenic.
There was no evidence, of course, that marijuana caused any of this.
But Anslinger, for years, used these stories to promote the idea that weed just makes you totally insane.
Under Anslinger's leadership, marijuana propaganda sprouted up everywhere.
Millions of Americans would read it, see it on newsreels in theaters, before feature films.
Marijuana, a Mexican weed smoked in cigarette form, called reefers.
A one-way ticket to the nut house.
Should you ever be confronted with a temptation of taking that first puff of a marijuana cigarette, don't do it.
Don't do it. Don't do it.
And, eventually, there was a series of films, like Reefer Madness, devoted entirely to creating misinformation and mass hysteria around the plant.
People say cannabis was causing folks to act crazy and behave aggressively.
It was causing these young pretty white girls to be lured away from their homes to become prostitutes.
And the federal government had to do something.
So, as a result, in 1937 cannabis was, in effect, banned in the United States.
About this same time, Mayor LaGuardia of New York City commissioned a comprehensive report to be done on cannabis.
The Marihuana Report from LaGuardia devastated every tenet of Anslinger's philosophy and said none of this is true.
There's nothing wrong with smoking pot.
That doesn't lead to criminality.
That it doesn't lead to addiction.
You know, all these bug-a-boos were completely not true.
In the pages of the LaGuardia Report, you can see that 80 years ago, scientists had confirmed that cannabis was not at all the evil Anslinger made it out to be.
Back then, you didn't have internet.
You didn't have access to information the way you do so that you can unveil the bullshit.
It's sort of like being in school and them feeding you history.
They're going to feed you the history that they want to feed you.
They're not going to feed you the whole history.
Psychiatrists and sociologists, from 1936 on, knew that there was nothing wrong with this weed and that it's much worse if you're drinking alcohol than if you're smoking a little reefer.
Our decision-makers chose at every juncture to ignore the science.
To ignore the research.
At every moment when government officials could lead, could actually use science, they chose propaganda.
They chose racism.
LaGuardia's report also uncovered that after the Marijuana Tax Act was passed, people of color made up 78% of all marijuana arrests in New York City alone.
This racial disparity would continue till today.
Anslinger knew that his job wasn't really about trying to prevent people from getting high.
It was trying to prevent people from going to jazz clubs and dancing with people from other races.
A lot of the music scene and the ancillary use of pot happened in New York.
And it happened in Harlem.
White kids, who were kind of hip kids, who were living in Brooklyn and in Queens, went up to Harlem on Saturday nights.
You know, there was integration.
I mean, you know, don't forget, racism was endemic then.
When they went up to Harlem, it was the first exposure that white people had to black culture.
Jazz in its day, was treated as hip hop.
Marijuana was made illegal partially because of the jazz scene.
Because the jazz scene put black people and white people together, in particular black men and white women.
It was used as a tool of propaganda to say marijuana not only makes these niggas uppity and think they're as smart as us, it allows our women to let their guard down and start to dance, have fun, have sex, fuck, procreate.
It relates to a lot of the cultural anxieties that existed at the time, around the notion that too much of this music, which is also associated with too much of those drugs, is going to blacken the American population and American culture in all kinds of scary ways.
Cannabis was always in Harlem and we had various names for it. Like bou, as in bouquet.
Um... weed, which people still use, you know, today.
Pot, yeah. Pot was, uh, one of the phrases.
Old school people call it reefer.
Bud, Mary Jane.
Sess, Buddha bless.
Dank. Hemp. Herb.
They used to call it Christmas Tree in Arizona.
The Harlem jazz scene spread across the country and around the world.
And the music continued to grow in popularity.
Soon, black jazz musicians became household names.
With the ever-present specter of integration, Anslinger's team targeted the black community harder than ever.
The Bureau of Narcotics had a so-called scientist named Dr. Munch.
He said that jazz musicians, when they smoke pot, time would kind of bend for them.
He says, one of the dangers of cannabis is that it slows time down.
And that's a bad thing.
You know, everybody's got to be on the same... four-four.
They didn't... They really, uh... They thought that was a sign of something evil.
And they... just went after all the jazz people.
The crackdown on jazz musicians is accelerated.
They were on Billie Holiday's case. Monk's case. Charlie Parker's case.
People like Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Dizzy.
Hey, cats, it's four o'clock in the morning.
Here we are in Harlem.
Everybody is here but the police, and they'll be here any minute.
It's high time, so catch this song. Here it is.
Cannabis prohibition prompted Fats Waller to record this classic.
But he changed the lyrics just a little, to pay homage to the biggest cannabis dealer of the day, Mezz Mezzrow.
Mezz Mezzrow was a white Jewish guy from Chicago.
He was the original, what Norman Mailer would come to call The White Negro who imagined himself as kind of becoming black through music.
He was called the ambassador between the races.
He was called the white mayor of Harlem.
And he becomes the leading dealer to all the musicians in New York.
And the brand that he was selling was called the Mighty Mezz.
He had a big tree where he would stay under the tree.
And everybody knew that's where you got the Mighty Mezz.
He became one of the leading marijuana dealers in Harlem.
So that there was a period where marijuana and all kinds of slang terms about it used Mezzrow's name as a roller with a long joint.
And Louis Armstrong loved him and he loved his high-quality marijuana.
Mezz Mezzrow was arrested under the Prohibition of Marijuana Act.
And he's in jail for a day and writes a note to the warden, he's been misclassified as a white person.
When he was locked up on Riker's Island, he actually insisted on being in the colored section.
Pretty fascinating figure. He was also...
Mezz Mezzrow was also a great influence on the Beats, Jack Kerouac, and he was a predecessor to that whole movement, the Beat Movement, and taught them how to sort of be hip, be cool, by way of influence of all things black.
The beatniks took the ethos of jazz and brought it into poetry and literature.
You learn everything you can accrue, then come out and use it against them.
The immediacy of jazz, the immediacy of beat life, brings together the cultural dynamic that opens up creative expression for the next 50, 60 years or so.
Do you want to come upstairs? Let's do it.
One of the main characteristics of beat life was altered consciousness, how could altered consciousness contribute to art.
I mean, asking a beat person if you smoked grass was like asking them if they were alive.
We all got together the way people get together to have a drink.
We would get together at each other's studios.
Somebody would take out a joint, and we'd have a buzz.
I'm 79, and I've been smoking since I was 19.
So, what's that, 60 years?
It's probably hard to see me in this one, but this is me in the artist's studio here.
People today do not understand what beat culture did for the freedom of expression.
Here's Ginsberg. We had this reading with City College and the authorities were afraid that they were going to use profanity on campus.
You can tell by the way I talk, that I must've smoked a hell of a lot of marijuana.
Because everything I've said can be looked at as being totally induced by reefer madness.
Influenced by the beatniks, the hippie movement would bring cannabis into the mainstream consciousness from cities to suburbs, becoming a permanent part of the counterculture in America and beyond.
Hippie culture made it possible for marijuana to become legal... because so many people, meaning white people, smoked marijuana.
Cannabis was embraced by a new generation.
People smoked it in public.
White musicians now sang about it.
And the argument for legalization entered the national debate.
Ginsberg is the one who really blows it up, so that it becomes more than just a subcultural phenomenon, because Ginsberg then began to kind of agitate for the legalization of marijuana.
Let me read you something that Allen wrote in 1965, "No one has yet remarked that the suppression of Negro rights, culture and sensibility in America, has been complicated by the marijuana laws.
Use of marijuana has always been widespread among the Negro population in this country.
And suppression of its use, with constant friction and bludgeoning of the law, has been a major unconscious or unmentionable method of assault on the Negro person."
In two critical pieces of legislation, the Boggs Act of 1951 and the Eisenhower Narcotics Act, mandatory minimum laws were imposed, making it now possible for low-level drug convictions, like cannabis, to result in over 20-year prison terms.
Enforcing these laws would escalate in the coming years, culminating in President Nixon's inflamed, anti-marijuana rhetoric and his declaration of an all-out war on drugs.
America's public enemy number one is drug abuse.
In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new all-out offensive.
I shall soon propose a revision of the entire federal criminal code, which will give us tougher penalties against drugs and against crime.
Nixon, fearing that the wrath of social and political movements were a threat to his presidency, signed the Controlled Substances Act into law on October 27th, 1970.
This new law established our current federal drug policy, established the DEA, and expanded law enforcement for crimes related to illegal drugs.
In the United States, we have five schedules.
Schedule I are drugs that are banned.
Drugs like heroin, they have no medical use and they have high abuse potential or addictive potential.
From Schedule II to Schedule V, drugs are legal.
A physician can write a prescription for them.
They can be used in medical practice.
Cannabis is on Schedule I.
That means that it's banned for the entire country.
As part of his war on drugs, Nixon commissioned a report to investigate the dangers of marijuana.
The results of the report proved him wrong and its findings were so controversial that three of its authors held a live televised event to share the truth with the public.
The Shafer Report: What to do about marihuana.
The Shafer Commission pulled together all this information, all this research.
And they basically came out and said the same thing that the LaGuardia Commission said.
That this has largely been mischaracterized.
There has been previous misinformation, false statements, and for that reason, we've attempted to demythologize the drug.
The occasional use of marijuana does not do any physical harm and may not do any psychological harm.
Unfortunately, because marijuana has become politicized, the realities have become blurred.
We hope that you will study our report carefully and that it will have an influence in America.
But it didn't.
Instead of following the advice of the report, which recommended decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana, Nixon doubled down.
I shall continue to oppose efforts to legalize marijuana.
I shall propose mandatory, new tough penalties for drug pushers.
♪ Come on, brother, get down ♪
♪ Things are gonna get better ♪ And it became political.
And then they started going after people who were anti-war and anti-establishment and putting them in jail.
You know, it really became a tool to repress dissent.
Tapes recorded during Nixon's presidency were revealed decades later and exposed Nixon's private anger.
I want a goddamn strong statement on marijuana.
I mean, one on marijuana that just tears the ass out of them.
Funny thing, every one of the bastards out for legalizing marijuana is Jewish.
What the Christ is the matter with Jews, Bob? What is the matter with them?
By God, we are going to hit the marijuana thing, and I want to hit it right square in the puss.
John Ehrlichman, a close Nixon advisor, divulged the sinister truth behind their harsh drug policy.
He said, "We couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities."
They weren't worried about people getting high.
They were worried about people marching against war.
The drug war targeted hippies and black people in particular.
Hippies are white people progressive enough to feel that we are not superior to people based on race. All right?
So, let's get progressives and the black people that they advocate for or on the behalf of, let's get them forever on the target list of US law enforcement.
This is where drugs becomes a proxy to race, right?
We used to just be able to say, "We killed him because he was a nigger."
Can't say that anymore.
So what you got, because you could no longer legally write race into the law, you could write drugs into the law.
Back in the mid-1970s, I was a teenager and a new sound was hitting the streets: reggae.
Similar to the counterculture movement in America, there was a growing movement in Jamaica against the remnants of British colonialism.
And like jazz musicians were the focus of a government crackdown, Rastafarians and reggae music found themselves deemed public enemies.
The Rastafarian faith began in the 1930s.
Cannabis, known in Jamaica by its Indian name ganja, was their spiritual sacrament.
The Rastas' radical black nationalist beliefs and dreadlock hairstyles, made them perpetual outcasts until the popularity of reggae music in the 1970s.
When Rasta emerged, it was seen almost like a cult and people were scared.
You know, we get so used to the images of Peter Tosh and Bob Marley and songs like "One Love," that we kind of forget that really these guys were really real rebels...
You know, they were, you know, not really accepted by society.
Rasta came to be accepted within Jamaican society through the music.
This is now the popular music of the day and the popular song of the day in the island, you know what I mean?
So, that brought a lot of power to the movement when that happened.
Most people know the Jamaican word ganja, but few knew about kaya, a word for cannabis that Bob Marley sang a song about.
♪ Got to have kaya now ♪
♪ Kaya, kaya ♪
♪ Got to have kaya now ♪
♪ Kaya, kaya ♪
♪ Got to have kaya ♪ And then because of my father's now international success and being accepted throughout the world that ended up kind of holding up a mirror to Jamaica, saying, "What you doing?"
Because how you're not going to accept your own people, but they're being loved all over the world and accepted and invited all over the world. You know what I mean?
Have fans all over the world.
Bunny, can you talk about your early relationship with ganja?
I understand your father was a ganja farmer.
I don't think I like that kind of a conversation.
Yeah, you sound like a police.
The purpose of the ganja, it's good for the human consumption.
The medicine it carries, the whole world gravitates to it.
Rasta and ganja are twins.
I would say the original Wailers been Bunny, Peter, and Bob.
Of course, all of them were advocates for the legalization of marijuana.
You know what I mean?
So I guess in that kind of case, being if you are a fan of their music, you would perhaps become an advocate also.
Peter Tosh, he said, "Legalize it, because it is good for you."
And not only legalize it, but I will advertise it.
Peter Tosh did a revolutionary thing, did many revolutionary things, right?
He is who really was reggae music for me in the beginning, because of how fierce he was.
And this is a dark-skinned man who get beaten by police.
Peter Tosh's "Legalize" is an anthem.
And part of what was the highlight of that song is really the medical benefits of the plant. You know what I mean?
I smoke recreationally, but it's much more important the value that the medicinal side of the plant is bringing to the table right now.
You talk about some serious illnesses, serious diseases, and these things that it's helping with.
But Tosh's list of the plant's health benefits was not just based on Rastafarian folklore.
It was that same year that a man in Florida received medical access to cannabis for glaucoma.
The federal government has a federal cannabis medical marijuana program.
It highlights the hypocrisy in American drug policy, because we say, "Cannabis is bad," but yet it's clear that it has medical utility.
What you can call me is a neuropsychopharmacologist.
And I'll break that down.
So, "neuro" is just the study of the brain, brain cells.
"Psycho" just means the study of human behavior.
And "pharmacology," the study of drugs.
So you combine the study of brain cells and the brain with human behavior with drugs, that's who I am. That's what I do.
We have conducted studies that have shown that cannabis has potential medical benefit for some conditions.
Now, remember, DEA, or the Drug Enforcement Agency, is a law enforcement agency.
What in the hell does a law enforcement agency have to do with medicine or pharmacology?
But it shows that the scheduling of cannabis and other drugs, it has more to do with politics than it does science.
If you'll place your left hand on the Bible and raise your right hand.
I, Ronald Reagan, do solemnly swear...
"That I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States."
That I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States.
When we think about the '80s, the worst thing for the community was Ronald Reagan.
We often talk about crack or other drugs being put into our communities and we don't talk about what Ronald Reagan took out.
Because everything that would send people into chaotic drug use, everything that would make it impossible for people to get treatment, everything that would make somebody say, "My life matters," was taken away.
Jobs, healthcare, housing.
Poor education, deprived communities, and crack just happened to be there.
This is drugs.
This is your brain on drugs.
Drugs are menacing our society.
They're threatening our values and undercutting our institutions.
They're killing our children.
The casual user may think when he takes a line of cocaine or smokes a joint in the privacy of his nice condo, listening to his expensive stereo, that he's somehow not bothering anyone.
But there's a trail of death and destruction that leads directly to his door.
Terrifying evil of drugs and the dangers of marijuana.
Illegal drugs are deadly.
Leading medical researchers are coming to the conclusion that marijuana, pot, grass, whatever you wanna call it, is probably the most dangerous drug in the United States.
Dangerous drug. Dangerous drug.
And we haven't begun to find out all of the ill effects, but they are permanent ill effects.
Government officials consistently peddle propaganda, despite the proof and the evidence.
And if you're talking about the drug war, you cannot ignore the role that marijuana prohibition has played.
You know, nearly half of all drug arrests are for marijuana.
A disproportionate majority of those arrests are of people of color.
Take, for example, a place like New York City.
For the last 20 years, the racial disparities have hovered between 80 and 85% of arrests being black and Latino.
If you're looking at the way that marijuana laws are being enforced, then you're recognizing the racial injustice that is law enforcement. Right?
Law enforcement is going in communities of color and enforcing marijuana laws at disproportionate rates.
And you know, some people will say things like, "Well, it has to be the fact that, you know, people of color are using marijuana at higher rates."
But what government data consistently shows us is that everyone's using marijuana at the same rates.
In the 1980s, when black people were being just... like Nazi Germany on trains, just being shipped into prisons wholesale.
Right? 2.5 million people go missing on our watch in our lifetime, our family members.
And they are sent to prisons.
At the same time, on Wall Street and throughout law firms in America, people were using crack, white people.
They were using powdered cocaine, which is pharmaceutically the exact same drug as crack.
And you know what they got? Employee assistance programs.
They got treatment. They got another shot.
We got life imprisonment.
New York in the 1980s.
Yeah, baby. Downtown, the arts scene was really blowing up.
Things was popping.
But uptown, in the Bronx, a new sound was hitting the streets, something called hip hop.
Rappers were telling stories about a city ravaged by Reagan's policies and scarred by the influx of crack.
Music videos like "White Lines" by Grandmaster Flash, Brand Nubian, and Public Enemy weren't glorifying cocaine.
They were telling it like it is. Use it and you can die.
On the war on drugs, hip hop has done a better job than the fucking government.
Because how many hip hop artists do you know that built record labels, gave opportunity, showed people how to make money other ways?
Like, that's the war on drugs, not locking motherfuckers up and coming in the hood just harassing people and planting drugs on people and, you know, doing all the shit that they do. That's a real war.
We're not the war on drugs. We're fighting the war on drugs.
The era before me, they was on PCP, heroin, uppers, downers, all kind of shit.
And I don't know if people knew this, I was a cocaine drug dealer and I was to the point to where I had seen so many people destructively die and get hooked on that shit.
My mission was to get everybody hooked on chronic.
We wanted to do something that was fly.
And every time we seen somebody smoking weed in the '70s, they was fly as a motherfucker.
And every time we seen an entertainer or a singer that was weed related, they was fly as fuck.
Anything that was related to weed was always cool shit.
Here's something that's totally perfect for this.
"Rock Box." Run DMC's song, "Rock Box."
♪ Wheeling, dealing You've got a funny feeling ♪
♪ You rock from the floor Up to the ceiling ♪
♪ Grooving, you're moving It has been proven ♪
♪ We calm the savage beast Because our music is soothing ♪ Check this out.
That rhyme originally was a rhyme about weed, man.
♪ Wheeling, dealing You've got a funny feeling ♪
♪ You try to smoke that sesamillion ♪
♪ You tried your best to smoke that ses Now it busts your motherfucking chest ♪ So, it was a weed rhyme.
My generation, it was herb.
And I remember the first time that I smoked it.
I was 12 years old and it was a guy named Dexter Miller.
And Dexter was 15 years old, right?
This is funny though, 'cause we smoked it, right, and it was good.
It was cool, and we're sitting there.
So the next day I come over his house and it's just funny, I come over there, "Yo, Dexter, man, can we smoke some more marijuana?"
And he goes, "Man, don't say it like that, man.
♪ Hey, girl. What up? You got that cheeba cheeba? ♪ That was about as big as "Fresh."
The information and the education leaped through the music.
It never really boomed through the music because the feds were always lurking to see if they could find a lead.
Just as jazz musicians sang about their favorite dealer, the Mighty Mezz, hip hop artists rapped about their own weed legend: Harlem's Branson.
♪ Microphone check, one, two ♪
Branson is... his name is like, in Harlem...
I mean, the same way you know Fredrick Douglass Boulevard, you know Branson.
If you smoked weed and listened to hip hop, you knew about Branson because he was referenced by everybody in these hip hop songs.
Red Man, Method Man, Wu-Tang, you name it.
They all mentioned going to see Branson.
And people starting hearing like, "Branson, Branson, Branson."
You would think that he had his own strain.
He was like Keyser Soze back then.
It was like this legendary figure you heard of but never really seen.
You can find trash weed everywhere, but, like, when you wanna find that shit, you know, guys like that come into the fold.
And we would hear his name a lot.
I ain't never asked nobody to put my name in no record.
Next thing I knew, I turned around, there's 70-plus songs that I've been mentioned in.
So, at the end of the day, I'd imagine that I've provided a quality service.
That 70 songs represents a global scale.
You know, when Biggie did that "Tracy Lee" joint...
♪ If you don't wanna die Keep your hands high ♪ Biggie was in the studio, he called me to come see him.
And I went down there to take care of him and then when I got there, he said, "You know I couldn't do this shit till you got here."
And then he spit that shit. Yo, the studio was rocking so crazy, man.
I was like, "Wow!" And then...
♪ Now we lampin' Twelve-room mansion ♪
♪ Took me and Little Cease ♪ No. ♪ We took Kim and Cease advance ♪
♪ Bought ten pounds Of weed plant from Branson ♪
♪ Now we lampin' ♪ You don't expect that shit.
♪ If you don't wanna die Keep your hands high ♪
Cannabis has always been legal in my situation.
I really had a dispensary.
A stationary location.
I serviced the community with marijuana products and variety, hash.
We had Thais on a stick, we had the thin sticks, the big sticks.
You understand what I'm saying?
Now, here it is that you got dispensaries and they got menus and shit like that.
I mean, I had a menu that wasn't on paper then.
So, wait a minute, we're on 123rd Street.
Yeah, that's right. We're on 123rd Street, you know, so...
So this was a block, when I was a kid in the 70s, I came up here because this was where we heard you could get chunky black.
123rd Street. Yep. It was clockin'.
It was amazing up and down this block. Motherfuckers was turning paper.
Looks like these niggas are still out here hustling.
It look like he got it.
You might have it. You might have it.
For real. He got the bag.
Meanwhile, on the West Coast, a new brand of hip hop would bring cannabis into the homes of millions more.
A lot of us on the West Coast wanted to become guys like Run DMC.
Hi, Yo, MTV Raps, bringing you new and exciting hip hop grooves first.
I wanna introduce y'all to one of my new favorite groups, Cypress Hill.
What's up? What up? B-Real in the house.
Anyone who was anyone in the game got interviewed by Fab 5 Freddy, so we were stoked like a motherfucker. We're like, "Damn, we're right here.
We're with Fab 5 Freddy from Wild Style. Get the fuck out of here."
A reporter from The Source magazine told me, "You should put Cypress Hill on the cover of High Times."
I said, "Okay." It sold through the roof.
So after that, it was like, "Okay, who's next?"
You know, Red Man, Wu-Tang, you know, Snoop Dogg, they all sold like crazy.
Let me get a fresh joint for that.
Paint on this baby is incredible.
Looks like a Jolly Rancher.
Ah, man, this is it, baby. Oh, yeah.
The switch is alive and direct. It goes up, down, to the side, side, side.
Smoke starts happening, you know, it gets pretty thick.
Cool, thanks, man. Word up.
The war on drugs was raging at the time when you guys made the decision to do what you did.
Talk about what was in your head, what was happening.
When you heard about the war on drugs, and specifically if you were out there slanging, you know, okay, there's a new enemy.
It's not just the Bloods or Crips.
Now it's the government. Right?
When Jack Herer came out with the book called The Emperor Wears No Clothes, it opened up all of our minds.
We started seeing some of the stuff that the government kept from the people, in terms of what cannabis can do.
When we came across that, we said, "Okay, well, you know, we could just be stoners 'cause that's who we are, but we also are activists and we also do want to see this legal."
So, the only way to do that is to spread the education.
So we took what we learned from Jack Herer, and we put that out there to counter some of the propaganda that had been coming out since the '30s, '40s.
In the music world, you know, when you hit the mainstream as a cannabis group, it could be interesting because there's a lot of opportunities that didn't come our way because of that, you know, because of our stance on cannabis.
You know, there's folks that maybe won't work with you because, "Oh, they're promoting drugs to the kids!"
Once again, Cypress Hill.
Yo, New York City!
On Saturday Night Live in 1993, after being told they could not smoke a joint on stage...
Cypress Hill lit up anyway and got banned from the show forever.
People just thought we had, you know, a lot of balls to go out there and say, "We're doing this illegally and we're good with it and we don't care who says what."
It looked like we didn't know what we were rapping about, like, we didn't have our history or our knowledge about cannabis, but really, we did.
I think we woke a lot of people up.
There was an artist doing it before us, but in terms of hip hop, it's Snoop Dogg, Red Man, Method Man, and Cypress Hill.
We are considered the forefathers in cannabis culture in hip hop.
I think I was the extension of the greats, like Louis Armstrong and Cheech and Chong and the greats like Willie Nelson and Bob Marley.
I think I was like the extension of what they were in they era, but even more up front because I was a different breed than they was, but I come from their cloth.
I'm a piece of each one of them that I named, but I just was a different version, like, a more up-front person.
That's amazing, Snoop. Listen, Snoop.
I just wanna have this moment with you... Well, you gotta hit this one time.
But you know I gotta do the interview. That's that Bubble Gum laced by Snoop.
That's the sound I was looking for. God. Damn.
♪ That's the sound of the man Smoking what, Dogg? ♪ Pass that shit to Vic.
What was my first experiences with cannabis?
I would have to say, um... in the '70s, '77, 1977.
One of my uncles, I ain't gonna say his name, 'cause I don't want the police to come get the nigga, even though... it's over 40 years ago.
I remember one day, he was like, "Snoop, come in here."
And I came in the living room.
He had a Shlitz Malt Liquor Bull on the table.
He was like, "You wanna taste that beer?"
I'm like, "Yeah!" So I drunk a little bit.
And he grabbed the roach clip.
He said, "Hit this."
"Nah, inhale it, nephew."
That was my first experience, 1977, smoking some Colombian Red with my uncle, on a roach clip.
As Snoop became a household name, he brought cannabis culture into the mainstream.
He even helped Dr. Dre come up with the title for his debut album.
You know, when we seen all that shit, that was cool.
Dre didn't have no title for his album.
I was smoking that shit and told cuz, "Nigga, the chronic is the shit on the streets, and nigga, your album is gonna be the shit on the streets.
That's what you need to name your album, cuz, The Chronic."
When The Chronic hit the streets, it reintroduced cannabis to a whole new generation, and the plant's audience grew wider than ever before.
It's a plant that's from the earth that was supposed to be here.
When a nigga get high, he low key chilling.
I don't see no fighting.
You could put a thousand motherfuckers in one room that don't like each other, put some weed in the air, them niggas gonna be taking selfies and doing all kind of cool shit.
You could put four people in a room that don't like each other, and one glass of fucking alcohol, somebody gonna be fucking dead.
You know what I'm saying?
I'm saying some real shit.
Y'all all done been around somebody that's drunk and somebody that's high.
Somebody that's drunk, you be ready to get rid of that motherfucker.
"Man, get this nigga out of here." But somebody that's high, they relaxed.
You can sit them in the corner, they gonna be all right.
Can you think of any weed songs that you, like, pop into your head?
♪ DJ Quik, we smoke tha bomb bud ♪
♪ Five on it I gotta put five on it ♪
♪ I'm a stoner, I'm a stoner I'm a stoner ♪
♪ 'Cause everything's better When you're high ♪
♪ Everything's better when you're high ♪
The bad thing is that there's still people rotting in jail for it.
A man in Louisiana has been sentenced to 13 years in prison for having possession of the equivalent of two joints' worth of marijuana.
This is a 49-year-old African American father of seven.
Because he had two prior civil possession convictions, the Orleans Parish District Attorney's Office sought the mandatory minimum sentence of 13 years and four months.
Everybody's heard of California's three strikes law.
Louisiana came up with its own system that basically punished repeat felony behavior.
We are definitely on the more extreme end in terms of how we treat marijuana, both as the initial offense, but also in the ability to enhance sentences and turn marijuana into a felony and then use our... as far as I'm concerned, draconian multiple bill statute, which is why you have stories like Mr. Noble going to jail for 13-plus years for marijuana.
The stage was set for Bernard Noble's long prison sentence when Representative Boggs, from New Orleans, led the charge for mandatory minimums back in the 1950s.
Under multiple bill sentencing, convicts' sentences got longer with repeat convictions.
Because Bernard had non-violent minor drug offenses in his past, his more recent conviction led to an imposed minimum sentence.
It's a newfound slavery, you know...
This state in particular, you know, that's their way of enslaving our people.
They have destroyed his life.
My brother is about to be 60 years old.
It's a lot that has passed him by.
He has lost contact with his children. Yeah.
His girls are now teenagers. They're all in high school.
And he was close to those kids.
He loved those babies.
All of that is missing now.
So, if he... when he comes home, he's gonna have to try to rebuild and pick up the pieces.
All over again.
And 60 years old, trying to find a job... now you have a record, you have that attached to you.
Right. It's gonna be hard.
It's very hard.
- The first judge gave him... The judge gave him five years.
Five years suspended sentence though.
May 27th was supposed to be his release date.
His release date. I bought him a Greyhound bus ticket.
I talked to Bernard. I talked to the jail.
And they informed me that that was gonna be his release date of May 27.
However, May 27 come, instead of them bringing him to the Greyhound bus station, they brought him back to court, they re-sentenced him to 15 years because they said they were gonna multi-bill him because the law of Louisiana states you have to be out of trouble ten years in between charges.
He had been out of trouble nine years and six months.
His previous charges had to be mostly marijuana arrests for possession.
It's not like he was a violent criminal that you had to get off the street.
The first judge was outraged, but he said it was out of his hands because the D.A. Cannizzaro said they had the power over the situation and he couldn't change it. Couldn't do nothing.
Everybody involved on the district court, with the exception of the D.A., including the judge, didn't want Mr. Noble to get that sentence.
The district attorney fought it and took it to the Louisiana Supreme Court, and our Supreme Court said that you have to give him the mandatory minimum.
He had been in jail ever since.
- He never came back home. Never came home.
That was eight years ago, Mom? Yes.
He been in there that long?
Yes, since 2009, for a joint. I thought it was close to nine.
Oh, my God.
From a joint.
That's what it boiled down to. That's what it boiled down to.
A joint. One joint?
You know what? We've had a brother that passed away while he was in jail.
I called them and I asked them, "Can y'all please let him come to the funeral?"
They told me, yes, they would have a ride for him.
I showed up to the jail to pick him up for them to tell me that they didn't have a van to bring him to Mississippi.
He never even got a chance to see him.
It's a shame.
There's so many levels of prejudice even if it's just kind of subconscious, even if it's just systemic as opposed to intentional.
That has definitely created a cycle of disproportionate abuse, in terms of the criminal justice system coming down on African Americans.
There's no question.
So if somebody was walking down Bourbon Street smoking a joint...
Well, the police would arrest him.
Um... Well, they would detain him.
They would have the option now to either arrest or issue a citation.
If you're African American, you're more likely to be arrested.
I see that in court all the time, in terms of who's in jail for marijuana and who's been arrested.
Uh... And the other issue is the money that it brings in.
We have financially incentivized incarceration so much, building a system where sheriffs become dependent on high incarceration rates.
The short offenses, the two, three, four, five-year sentences go to local prisons.
Those prisons operate on a per diem.
They bill the states for every person that they have in their facility per day.
Over the past 20 years, they've expanded those jails in order to bring in more inmates and make more money.
They then employ more people.
They become, in some parishes, the largest employers in the parish.
And their political clout grows accordingly.
When my stepson, who I co-parented, was a young man, like a lot of young men, he liked to smoke marijuana.
And... he was arrested for it.
That cycling early on into the prison system set a young man, who, at one time, had wanted to be a massage therapist, who wanted to be a healer, onto a path that said, "All you can do is cycle in and out of prison.
All you can do is be a drug seller."
It was almost like there was a conspiracy to say that you can only live within this very narrow confines.
After he got a record, he could not really get any kind of job worth anything.
He continued sort of working in an underground economy.
He was shot in April of 2005.
He was stabbed not long after that in July.
And then, on August 19th of 2015, he was murdered in an act of drug war violence.
This was a kid who wasn't violent at all and was actually trying to protect his family, and so...
I'm aware that I do this work standing in the blood... of my child.
But I also know that my story is not unique.
I know that this is a story of men I love, women I love, people in my community to who I am connected.
I am of them, and they are of me.
I've watched millions and millions of people just... thrown away, thrown into a prison system, said that you don't count, said that you don't matter.
To me, every life has value.
Young black men are the most incarcerated people in the history of the world.
Prisons are like dumping grounds for people who society regards as garbage.
As a prosecutor, one of my tasks was prosecuting drug crimes... including the most frequently prosecuted drug crime, marijuana.
I went after, like every other prosecutor did, a lot of black people for using marijuana and selling marijuana.
But here's the problem.
If you go to a criminal court in DC, then, that was in the 1990s, and now, you would think that white people don't commit crimes.
White people are about 40% the population of the District of Columbia, but they are not present in the criminal court.
And it took me too long to realize this, but at the end of the day, I understood I didn't go to Harvard Law School to put black people in prison.
And that was the work that I was doing.
My presence as a black prosecutor was supposed to send a message.
I know you don't see anybody but black people being prosecuted, young black men like me.
But it's all good.
Go to sleep.
I can imagine that it sucks to be sitting in prison for a weed charge and seeing people make so much money off of it.
I'd be pissed. I'm pissed for them.
I got five years, because it was a mandatory minimum.
The judge couldn't go under that.
Now I'm a two-time felon. I get one more, I'm gone for 25 years.
You have, you know, laws changing state by state, but guys like me still can't participate because it's still federally illegal to be a part of anything.
When you get into a legal or regulated cannabis industry, you have a crazy background check.
I was fortunate enough to talk my way out of every situation I've ever had and not go to jail. You know what I'm saying?
That allowed me to get up the ladder, but a lot of cats in the street that have the knowledge of the herb and how to move the herb, how to grow it, they're not allowed to be in this game.
I think because they saw that there was a positive power in it, even now, because, you know, now it can make money now legally.
You know what I'm saying? Now they're trying to keep us from having what was originally ours in the first place.
The number of Americans in favor of legalizing marijuana has reached a new high.
Business is booming in states where legalization has already happened.
Legal marijuana is projected to be a seven-billion dollar industry.
♪ A friend of weed ♪
♪ Is a friend indeed ♪
♪ So if you get that weed You can hang with me ♪ I moved here to Portland, Oregon about five years ago.
Quit my engineering job and decided to grow my business from my garage.
My name is Jesce Horton.
I'm a cannabis cultivator, retailer, activist, entrepreneur.
First and foremost, I'm a cannabis connoisseur.
I'm a smoker, and I care about the consistency, the look, the taste, everything. That really matters.
That's part of the reason why I got into the industry, was because I really love cannabis flowers.
This is the picture of health.
You see them accepting as much light as they possibly can to generate that photosynthesis to create what you want, right, in that bud, in that grow.
To be a good cultivator, you have to have the passion, the dedication.
You have to care about every variable in that cultivation room.
You can never slip.
Each and every one of these flowers is gonna be different.
Maybe only one of these, maybe none of these strains are gonna work out for us.
Each and every day, we've got to try to get things crossed off the list.
No days off at all. No days off.
Miller is my partner.
We went to school together, engineering school.
We used to smoke a lot of weed together. And now we get to grow.
I wanted to kind of pull other people in, because the most important thing that I think you can do for black people is us being able to see someone else that we know doing it.
Jesce is one of a small percentage of black entrepreneurs diving into the cannabis industry, trying to erase the decades-old stigma associated with its past.
You got rappers who was rapping about the weed.
Now they become a CEO.
They owning businesses. They got tech plays.
They got shit in different states, and it's becoming a business for them, because they stood on it so long to where people relied on them.
So when it became legal, their face and their brand was one of the brands and one of the faces that could actually take this business to another level.
Cliff Robinson excited about it.
Cannabis has always been a part of my life.
Let me just put that out there.
My stepfather used it to supplement the family's income, because we had a mixed family.
So he used that as a way to help us get by.
This Cliff Robinson could easily have not grown to be Uncle Cliffy, eighteen-year NBA career, because I was arrested at a young age, arrested for a nickel bag of cannabis.
And that could have easily...
My career could have easily took a different direction.
Former NBA player Cliff Robinson with his partners Johnny Green and Sid from Pistil Point, have developed a line of sports-related cannabis products called Uncle Cliffy.
These are mother plants.
These mother plants represent every single one of the genetics that we currently are housing at Pistil Point.
We got a couple different OG.
These are all Mendo Breaths over here.
This is called Piña. This is a pineapple strain.
Gorilla Glue number four.
Orange Cookies on the right side.
This is a Death Star.
This batch alone, when I'm looking at these tables, they're gonna pull about $50,000 out of just this area over here.
Everybody smokes here. Pretty much everybody smokes here, and there should be no negative stigma, you would think.
But I always caught one from the fans here in Portland.
I didn't understand that.
You know, it was always heavily reported.
That negative stigma has been something that I've had to deal with throughout my career.
People wouldn't talk about you being an all-star.
They wouldn't talk to you about being a six man of the year.
They would talk about how you consumed cannabis, you know, as if somehow that tainted your career to the point that that's what they should remember you for.
Well, that perceived negative perception is a big reason why I got involved in the cannabis space.
When you look at the monumental role that the war on drugs played in mass incarceration, about half of those arrests were from cannabis.
I got arrested three times, and each time it was less than two grams.
One time I got arrested for a seed.
It's not even just going to prison that hurts people's lives.
It's all the negative things and the repercussions that they have to deal with afterwards.
I lost my college scholarship, had to drop out of school.
Got lucky enough to get back into school and graduate.
But those charges followed me for a long time and kind of got in the way of a lot of opportunities.
A lot of us didn't have to start off in that negative position.
I definitely think about my father.
He ended up going to prison for cannabis distribution at a time right after he was accepted to one of the top colleges in North Carolina.
Ended up spending seven years in prison and was able to get out and finally get his master's degree, but was only able to essentially get a job, a low-level job, a janitor even with those degrees.
He was able to work up, right, for 35 years and retire at a really high position at his company, but what I think about is what if he didn't have to start off as a janitor.
It takes two generations to get to where this family would have gotten in one generation.
Those types of things essentially stifle families and stifle us as a community as a whole.
One of the most frustrating things about working on marijuana reform is how much people think it's a joke.
It has never been a joke.
You know, when we talk about marijuana reform, one of the biggest pushbacks we get from academics and pseudo-doctors is that marijuana is a gateway drug.
None of the science says that.
But what science and research has consistently showed us is that marijuana is a gateway to deportation.
It is a gateway to eviction.
It is... If eviction, it is a gateway to homelessness.
It is a gateway to getting your kids taken away, and it is a gateway to the generations of destabilization and decimation that we have seen in the United States.
So, before we talk about tax structures and regulatory models and who should have licenses and should the government control it or not, we need to have a conversation about how we're going to get out of this mess, because the damage has been comprehensive.
And the solution has to be even more comprehensive than the damage.
Breaking news in the Trayvon Martin shooting case tonight.
Evidence just released shows Martin had marijuana in his system.
The judge allows in evidence that Trayvon Martin did have marijuana in his system at the time he died.
What difference, if any, does that make?
It makes a big deal of difference. If he was high?
Isn't it true that when you smoke pot, you just want to lay on the sofa and eat?
♪ Southern trees ♪
♪ Bearing strange fruit ♪
♪ Blood on the leaves ♪
♪ And blood at the roots ♪ George Zimmerman, his main defense was he believed that Trayvon Martin was intoxicated on cannabis, and so therefore was out of his mind and came at him and attacked him.
♪ Strange fruit hanging ♪
♪ From the poplar trees ♪ When you look at the levels of cannabis that was in Trayvon Martin's system, he could not possibly have been intoxicated, because the levels were so low.
They were, in fact, lower than the levels of people in our studies who hadn't received cannabis on several days.
But it didn't matter.
All his defense team had to do was to present it to the jury who has consumed drug misinformation.
And so they believe that cannabis can make you so crazy that you attack people.
The judge ruled today that jurors will be allowed to hear that Philando Castile had THC in his system at the time of the shooting.
Authorities said Bland hung herself in her jail cell.
They say she had marijuana in her system.
We know now he did have marijuana in his system.
And we've had stories, remember, of people going berserk on marijuana and killing people.
It's more dangerous than people think.
Shortly after the funeral ended, one of several search warrants became public record.
The list of some of the items seized from Botham Jean's apartment included a small amount of marijuana.
♪ For the leaves ♪
♪ To drop... ♪ Even when they are killed, a mere mention of marijuana is used as a justification for the blood in the streets.
♪ And ♪
♪ Bitter ♪
♪ Crop ♪
Even people who once took a stand against cannabis for medical or recreational use are now changing their minds about it.
It's time for the federal government to take another look at this.
And I think de-scheduling this drug, allowing for the research would be very helpful to the American people.
It just seems that, as it pertains to America, as soon as white men want to do something, they change the laws and it's okay.
CannaCon is one of the nation's largest business-to-business cannabis shows.
It went from this black market industry to a real industry where real millionaires and multimillionaires are investing.
Howl's Tincture, it's a cannabis-infused organic avocado oil.
White Widows are my favorites. It's very complex.
I was in a 75,000-square-foot facility just last week in Denver.
That ain't a black market run.
She has bad anxiety.
CBD will help.
We don't want to make any promises, but studies have shown that it will help reduce anxiety, inflammation, irritation, itch, and also support bone growth.
We're here to infiltrate the edible side and try to convert really from a very basic chocolate, a non-refined chocolate, to a gourmet couverture.
We have topical creams, oils, and essences.
It makes your skin glow.
Cannabis is the new thing. It's new.
It's new. It's new.
It's the same old weed.
When it relates to the influx of capital into the cannabis industry, a lot of people of color are having a hard time accessing this capital.
And, you know, those are for obvious reasons.
Most of the time, it's private equity, giving money to people that they're most comfortable with.
I mean, a young black dude who's been arrested a number of times for cannabis, even though I have the background, even though I have the knowledge, even though I have the credentials, maybe not as easy for them to give me that million dollars as it is for them to give someone that they identify with more.
I actually got a phone call from my uncle who worked for the company previously.
He's like, "Hey, we need a new face for the industry.
We need somebody who's a little younger, interested in it," and offered me the job.
Black people own fewer than 1% of the dispensaries.
This mirrors how black people are treated in most phases of the marketplace, right?
The contradiction here is that we were in the marketplace, just underground and incarcerated.
This is one of the questions we're gonna have to reckon with.
It costs us a hundred grand a year for prisoners, right?
A hundred thousand dollars a year for prisoners.
Don't you think those pioneers, I mean, the people who used to grow, sell weed, and got busted, should have a chance to make some money in this new expanding industry?
Yeah. You know, that's a tough one though because a lot of those guys would be bad businessmen, right?
And so, we can't say, "Hey, just because you grew in your garage, let's, like, give you this license because we want you to do it well."
And so we still have to be very cautious of that, because at the end of the day, this still is an industry.
So it still has to be ran by business people, not by potheads.
Those guys, most of them are potheads, right?
It's more professional.
I took my 80-year-old dad to a dispensary. He loved it.
He couldn't believe what he was looking at.
I would have never have taken him to my old guy.
We love to have the bags open and invite people to not only see them, but get their hands in them.
You can definitely see, even just from on-camera, the difference between them as you go down the line.
When the first cultivators were coming up in New York state, we had to have like 200,000 liquid cash.
Nobody in the ghetto has 200,000 liquid cash.
That's somebody that's already rich and has already made it.
And they're the ones who are allowed to even apply for a license.
This industry is growing, and it's growing fast.
And doors of opportunity are shutting.
We need to move this quickly, ensuring that people of color, especially people that have been targeted by the war on drugs, are in the industry, are successful in the industry, and that the communities are benefitting from the industry.
That also means social justice, of course, looking at people who are still in prison for cannabis use, looking at people who are still being arrested at disproportionate rates and figuring out ways to lobby for sensible laws to help to reduce that.
Some cities had begun steps to correct the past by expunging records and freeing prisoners.
But the country still has a long way to go.
Marijuana gives African American people the greatest opportunity to have a jump-start on wealth in this country, probably since the de-prohibition of alcohol, which we weren't allowed to be in.
Take, for instance, if you have two black marijuana growers dispensing your brands that become Jack Daniels.
You're looking at a hundred years of jobs for the greater community, not just your community at that point.
But if you don't think like that, if you don't think that maturely, even on the other side of marijuana, you just remain a customer.
And that... You know, I don't give a fuck how legal it gets.
If that's all we get out of this shit, we failed.
Now that it's becoming legal, I think it's only fair that we be a part of it.
Something that I'm very concerned about and hope to really be a voice for is those people who have fed their families over the years by taking a risk, but are now being perhaps muscled out because they don't necessarily understand how to go and register themselves to be legal farmers and growers and sellers of the plant.
This moment right here is not about people coming to the table and saying, "Oops, my bad.
We were wrong. Let's all make money on it now."
You can't do that.
When you have knocked out two, three, four, five generations of folks in the United States.
You can't just come to the table and decide that now we're all good.
You can't do that.
You can't say, "Well, I didn't write the laws, so I don't have any responsibility to reinvest in the communities."
Because news flash, we are owed.
You cannot regulate without reparations.
And yes, I said reparations.
I would love to get those reparations for a 54-year drug war.
I would love for marijuana licenses to have to be 50% African American and Mexican American.
I would fucking love that, because that way my community, instead of begging for help via subsidies, gets to assert itself in leadership positions in terms of business.
And not only that, then you get to buy and pay for your own politicians.
You know, the fact that none of the presidents did the right thing...
Nixon was wrong for that.
I'm a Carter fan, but he was wrong in his support of the drug war as was Reagan.
Later Bill Clinton, with a bill written by Joe Biden.
That became a three strikes law.
And after that, I would even argue with President Obama, who could have taken marijuana off the Schedule I list but chose to not.
And he himself has smoked marijuana in his lifetime.
There is something to the fact that we the public not pushing them to do the right thing.
We have sat around too long.
Yeah, people's minds are changing and beginning to accept cannabis.
It seems as if everyone is jumping on board.
You know, I couldn't fit this award in my bag, but I did find this, so thank you guys very much.
Pop stars, CEOs.
By the way, I have a present for you for your new office.
Talk show hosts.
Even country music singers.
♪ Sometimes the only way to get by ♪
♪ Is to get high ♪
Now that cannabis has become more mainstream in the public consciousness, you'd assume that our story ends here.
America is many places with a complex history, many losers, winners, and victims.
Our story ends where a lot of it begins, the state of Louisiana.
Since 2011, I was in Orleans Parish Prison fighting a marijuana charge that was worth five dollars on the street.
How in the world did I get 14 years for five dollars' worth of merchandise?
It's been so many years.
I just can't wait to see...
I just can't wait to see him walk out these doors for the first time.
We got ten minutes. I'm excited.
I'm glad. Like my sister just said, I just want to see him.
I just want to see him walk out of there.
Seven more minutes, eight more minutes. Eight more minutes.
Okay, people, he's coming. Here he comes!
Oh, my God!
Let him out. Let him out, y'all.
Let him out.
Big brother! What you doing?
Miss y'all. Oh, we miss you, brother.
Oh, brother got braids.
I'm glad that's over.
I'm just so relieved to be out of this kind of predicament.
I'm still not sure, you know, how did this happen.
It's been confusing the whole entire time.
I, uh... I met a couple of other guys in.
Uh... They were facing life sentences for small amounts of marijuana.
And I look at the news all the time and I see how stuff is going on with marijuana laws.
And I'm just... I'm still confused about it.
But I finally made it out, and I'm real grateful just to be here right now standing out.
I'm a free man.
Like Harriet Tubman said, baby, we out.