Jay Z labels the war on drugs an 'epic fail' and takes aim at the hypocrisy of legal marijuana


Jay Z has provided the narration to a history lesson on the war on drugs, taking us all the way from the Nixon administration's declaration in 1971 to the present day, where marijuana has been legalised in many American states but poor African-Americans with felonies are blocked from its benefits.

"Today we imprison more people than any other country in the world," Jay Z says. "And even though white people used and sold crack more than black people, somehow it was black people that ended up in prison... to this day, crack is still talked about as a black problem."

The Dream Hampton-produced video, featuring visuals from Molly Crabapple, was put together to ask the question: Why are white men able to get rich off the very same thing black men and boys have been going to prison for, for decades?

Illustration by Molly Crabapple war on drugs
(Molly Crabapple/New York Times)

"When the war on drugs began in 1971, our prison population was 200,000. Today it is over two million," Hov, who came up drug dealing in the Bed-Stuy projects, says.

"There's no compassionate language about drug dealers, unless of course we're taking about a place like Colorado, whose state economy got a huge boost by the above-ground marijuana industry. A few states south in Louisiana they're still handing out mandatory sentences for people who sell weed.

"Most states still disproportionately hand out sentences to black and latinos for drug cases. Former felons can't open dispensaries. Poor people who sold drugs for a living are now prohibited from partaking in one of the fastest growing economies."

Most damningly, he wraps it up: "Rates of drug use are still as high as they were when Nixon declared this so-called war in 1971, 45 years later, it's time to re-think our policies and laws. The war on drugs is an epic fail."