Grass is Greener (2019) Movie Script

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
-[man] The number one show.
- Rap music
- Fab 5 Freddy
- Yo, yo
[Brathwaite] I grew up inthe 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.
[man] 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.
[Brathwaite] 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.
[man 2]
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.
[man 3] 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.
[man 3] There's a lot of reefer songs
going around. "Light Up."
[hums melodically]
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
[upbeat jazz music plays]
[Brathwaite] 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.
[man] 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
[Brathwaite] Cannabis
and its close cousin hemp
were used for centuries throughout Asia
and traveled across the globe
along trade routes.
[Sloman] 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.
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.
[Hager] We know that Louis
started smoking weed early on.
And he smoked it every day of his life.
[Sloman] 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.
[Brathwaite] 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.
[Sloman] 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.
[Brathwaite] 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.
[Sloman] 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."
[Brathwaite] 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.
[man] 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.
[Sloman] 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 basicallysmoking
a very innocent flower. [chuckles]
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...
Detroit, Chicago, New Orleans.
[Brathwaite] 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.
[Brathwaite] And, eventually, there was
a series of films, like Reefer Madness,
devoted entirely to creating
misinformation and mass hysteria
around the plant.
[man] 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.
[girls laughing]
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.
[Sloman] 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.
[Brathwaite] 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.
[man] 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.
[Hager] Anslinger knew that his job
wasn't reallyabout 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.
[Sloman] 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.
[man] 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.
Grass, pot.
Sess, Buddha bless.
-Hemp. Herb.
They used to call it Christmas Tree
in Arizona.
Weed, marijuana.
[Brathwaite] 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.
[Sloman] 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.
[Sloman] People like Louis Armstrong,
Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington,
Count Basie, Dizzy.
[man] 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.
[jaunty jazz music plays]
[Brathwaite] 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.
[Sloman] Mezz Mezzrow was
a white Jewish guy from Chicago.
[Dreisinger] He was the original,
what Norman Mailer
would come to call The White Negro
who imagined himself
as kind of becoming black through music.
[Sloman] 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.
[Schaap] 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.
[Preston] 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?
-[man] Let's do it.
[Preston] 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.
[Preston] 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.
[Preston] 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.
[Hager] 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.
[Preston] 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."
[Brathwaite] 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.
[Nixon] I shall soon propose a revision
of the entire federal criminal code,
which will give us tougher penalties
against drugs and against crime.
[Brathwaite] 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.
[Hart] 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.
[Brathwaite] 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.
[man] 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.
[scientist] 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.
[Brathwaite] 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
[Sloman] 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.
[Brathwaite] Tapes recordedduringNixon's
presidency were revealed decades later
and exposed Nixon's private anger.
[Nixon] 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."
[Hager] 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.
[chuckles] All right?
So, let's get progressives
and the black peoplethat 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.
[reggae music plays]
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.
[man] 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.
[Brathwaite] 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
[Damian Marley] 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.
[all] Rastafari.
[Brathwaite] 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.
[woman] 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.
[Damian Marley]
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.
[Brathwaite] 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.
[Hart] 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?
Absolutely nothing.
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."
[Reagan] That I will faithfully execute
the office
of President of the United States.
[Hart] 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.
[man] This is drugs.
This is your brain on drugs.
Any questions?
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.
[Frederique] 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.
[Bandele] 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.
[hip hop music plays]
[Brathwaite] 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.
[McDaniels] 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.
It's weed."
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.
[Brathwaite] 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. [chuckles]
[man] 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. [laughs]
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.
[Branson] 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
[Branson] Took me and Little Cease
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
[Branson] 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.
[Branson] Yeah, that's right.
We're on 123rd Street, you know, so...
[Brathwaite] 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.
[Branson] 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.
[Brathwaite] Meanwhile, on the West Coast,
a new brand of hip hop
would bring cannabis
into the homes of millions more.
[B-Real] 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.
[B-Real] 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."
[Hager] A reporter from
The Source magazine told me,
"You should put Cypress Hill
on the cover of High Times."
I said, "Okay." [laughs]
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.
For real.
-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.
My dude.
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.
[cheering and applause]
Yo, New York City!
On Saturday Night Live in 1993,
after being told they could not
smoke a joint on stage... [chuckles]
...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.
Good Lord. [laughs]
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."
[imitates coughing]
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.
[Snoop] 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.
[Snoop] 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. [laughs]
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.
[reporter] 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.
[man] 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.
[Brathwaite] 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.
[woman] 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.
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.
-It's gonna be hard.
It's very hard.
-[Lashawnda] The first judge gave him...
-[Gwynne] 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.
-[Gwynne] Couldn't do nothing.
[Bosworth] 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.
-[Gwynne] Never came home.
Eight years.
-[man] That was eight years ago, Mom?
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.
-[Brathwaite] One joint?
One joint.
[Lashwandra] 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.
That's crazy.
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.
[Brathwaite] So if somebody was walking
down Bourbon Street smoking a joint...
[sighs] 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.
[Bosworth] 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.
[man] 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.
Everything's cool.
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 havingwhat was
originally ours in the first place.
[woman] 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
[man] 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 noneof
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.
[Brathwaite] 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.
[Robinson] 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.
[announcer] Uncle Cliffy.
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.
[Gupta] 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 Pia.
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.
[Green] 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.
[Horton] 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.
[woman] 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
[Hart] 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
[Hart] 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.
[woman] 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.
[man] Authorities said Bland
hung herself in her jail cell.
They say she had marijuana in her system.
[man 2] 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.
[man 3] 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...
[woman] Even when they are killed,
a mere mention of marijuana
is used as a justification
for the blood in the streets.
[bell ringing]
[Brathwaite] 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.
[man] 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.
[man] 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.
[both] 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.
[Bandele] 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.
[Smart] 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. [laughs]
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.
[Brathwaite] 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.
[Killer Mike] 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 itselfin
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.
[Brathwaite] 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,
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
[Brathwaite] 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.
[Bernard Noble]
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?
[woman] 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.
-[buzzer sounds]
-Let him out.
[cheering and laughing]
Big brother! What you doing?
Oh, brother!
-Miss y'all.
-Oh, we miss you, brother.
Oh, brother got braids.
So glad.
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.