No one is really arguing that the United States’ long-running war on drugs has been effective, yet somehow there seems to be a staunch refusal to get out of it. Maybe the numbers and facts just haven’t been presented in a way that those on Capitol Hill can understand; maybe they need something simpler, prettier, and animated. Well, that’s where Jay Z comes in.
In a new video op-ed for the New York Times, Jay Z outlines the failures of US drug policy since Richard Nixon launched the endless “war on drugs” in 1971. Jay wrote the narration himself, delivering his critique over animation by Molly Crabapple based on an idea from Dream Hampton. The semi-autographical story begins with a young Sean Carter growing up in the Reagan era, as the then-President “doubled down” on policies that essentially boiled down to “Drugs were bad, fried your brain, and drug dealers were monsters, the sole reason neighborhoods and major cities were failing. No one wanted to talk about Reaganomics and the ending of social safety nets.”
He goes on to explain the head-scratching statistics of US incarceration rates and how they disproportionately affect minorities. For example, during the crack era, white people and Wall Street bankers used the drug at a higher rate than blacks, yet it was the latter who saw more jail time. Jumping to today, even as drug laws become more lax, they still target minorities; in New York City, marijuana possession is no longer an arrestable offense, but citations are more likely to be issued in Crown Heights than Columbia University, despite weed use being equal if not greater on college grounds, Jay Z contends.
And while marijuana is a legal, lucrative business in some states, Jay Z notes that a felon who went to jail for selling the same drug ironically can’t open a dispensary.
“Rates of drug use are as high as they were when Nixon declared this so-called war in 1971,” Jay concludes. “45 years later, it’s time to rethink our policies and laws.”
Watch the full op-ed above.