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Jay-Z: War on drugs is an epic fail

Jay-ZLos Angeles (CNN) Rapper Jay-Z is getting political — calling the U.S. war on drugs an “epic fail.”

In a video op-ed published in the New York Times, he says the drug war unfairly targets African Americans.

Jay-Z narrates over Molly Crabapple’s artwork taking viewers on a journey back to the early 1970s when President Richard Nixon began the crusade against drugs.

“Judges’ hands were tied by tough-on-crime laws,” Jay-Z says. “They were forced to hand out mandatory life sentences for simple possession and low-level drug sales. My home state of New York started this with Rockefeller Laws. Then the feds made distinctions from people who sold powder cocaine and crack cocaine, even though they were the same drug. The only difference is how you take it.”

As the drug war ratcheted up in the 1980s, Jay Z says, “No one wanted to talk about Reaganomics and the ending of social safety nets, the de-funding of schools and the loss of jobs in cities across America.” Instead, he continues, “Young men like me who hustled became the sole villain and drug addicts lacked moral fortitude.”

Jay-Z 4Entertainment journalist Segun Oduolowu joined “CNN Newsroom L.A… “We must separate the messenger from the message,” he says. “What he says about the safety nets and social programs that were stripped away — after-school programs where poor, low-income people are going to fall into, no pun intended, cracks in the system and they’re going to sell drugs when things have been taken away to go and get better jobs.”

They NYT highlights the fact that African-Americans make up around 13 percent of the United States population — yet 31 percent of those arrested for drug law violations — even though they use and sell drugs at the same rate as whites.

Jay-Z 3Before the war on drugs began, 200,000 Latinos and African-Americans were incarcerated for drug arrests. Today that figure is two million.

“Even though white people used the sold crack more than black people, somehow it was black people that went to prison. The media ignore actual data to this day,” Jay-Z said. “Crack is still talked about as a black problem. The NYPD raided our Brooklyn neighborhoods while Manhattan bankers openly used coke with impunity.”

Today, marijuana is legal in several U.S. states and entrepreneurs are getting rich off of dispensaries while people in other states where pot is not legal are sitting in jail for doing the exact same thing.

“How cruel and ugly,” Oduolowu said. “You are serving time for something that someone is now getting rich off of. Drugs that are legalized in states where black and brown people were going to get sentences where they would throw the key away. It’s ridiculous. The war on drugs is senseless.”

Jay-Z 6Jay-Z points to Prop 64 on the ballot in California this November as a way to end biased policing and mass incarceration.

If passed, The Adult Use of Marijuana Act would treat weed less like heroin and more like alcohol — as a regulated but acceptable product for adult use in California.

In essence, it would decriminalize the use and sale of the drug in the state — and people in prison for low-level marijuana offenses would be released and have their records wiped out.

Prop 64 goes a step further pumping millions of dollars into communities most harmed by the criminal justice system.

Written and produced by: Ben Bamsey for “CNN Newsroom L.A.”

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