After President Joe Biden granted clemency to 75 individuals convicted of low-level drug offenses, rapper Killer Mike says the nation’s top executive should go even further to rectify incarcerating people for crimes that are now legal.
He suggested one way to do this is to “quadruple” the number of people he sets free and to give cannabis licenses to those who desire to participate in the booming enterprise.
During an interview with TMZ, he was asked his opinion on the clemency move and the “Run the Jewels” rapper said, ”I think we can always do better.”
“I think as many as we are letting out, we probably should quadruple that,” he remarked. “Beyond that, I think there should be a priority for nonviolent drug offenders in terms of marijuana offenders … they should have first bids at licensing.”
According to the Atlanta native, those who were locked up for selling weed should “be the first priority to get their state license and beyond.”
Adding if the nation truly desires to “repent for a drug war gone terribly wrong,” one step toward justice is to offer a lifeline to those the “industry has been built on.”
This is not a novel idea. Other advocates in the cannabis industry have been advocating for the state and federal government to set up a social justice and equity program that would transition former marijuana dealers into legitimate business owners.
The state of New York has taken on this challenge with a three-pronged methodology.
The first proposal is to expunge all cannabis-related convictions for crimes that are now legal, following a model set by Illinois, Vermont, Michigan, and California. According to Brookings, this is vital to making right the failed war on drugs, referenced by Killer Mike, that resulted in 94 percent of those arrested for cannabis-related charges being people of color, despite cannabis consumption crossing racial classifications almost equally.
The second move is to ensure those people most impacted by the criminalization of cannabis, mostly Black and brown people, are afforded an opportunity to participate in the new economic opportunities on the horizon. The third move is to prioritize investment (through education, social justice programs, job development, etc.) in communities damaged by the war on drugs.
In an exclusive interview with Atlanta Black Star, Tremaine Wright, the chairwoman of the New York State Cannabis Control Board (aka the state’s Cannabis Czar), she said she was “thankful” for the White House granting clemency to those formerly incarcerated for selling marijuana.
“I’m thankful President Biden provided relief to these 75 people serving time for cannabis-related convictions,” Wright said. “I look forward to the federal government following New York’s lead in not only ending cannabis prohibition, but also undoing the harms caused by its disproportionate enforcement, starting with record expungement and releasing those serving time for crimes that would no longer exist.”
Another cannabis advocate, Leo Bridgewater, a decorated veteran of the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan war who persuaded former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to legalize medical marijuana in the Garden State, took to Instagram with his thoughts on the president’s act of granting clemency to the 75.
He captioned next to a post about the action from Marijuana Moment, saying, “Setting them free is not the end all be all. Allowing them to be the first to market business entrepreneurs in their communities would be proper restitution.”
The Drug Policy Alliance’s executive director, Kassandra Frederique, said exclusively to Atlanta Black Star, “It’s great that President Biden granted clemency to 75 individuals today, many of which had served decades behind bars, and some of which had multiple life sentences, for drug offenses alone. But let’s be clear — these people should have never been behind bars, to begin with.”
“For every one of these that had their sentences commuted, there remain thousands more — primarily Black and Brown people — that will continue to be unfairly incarcerated because of our inability to provide people with the support they need,” she said. “The drug war has made it easier for policymakers to warehouse people rather than address the very conditions that have led to people’s involvement with drugs. That is the real tragedy here.”
In April of 2022, the House passed a bill proposing to legalize cannabis at the federal level. Woven into the bill is a directive to expunge cannabis-related criminal records, but the Senate has already determined it will not pass in the second chamber of Congress.
While politicians hash out the legalities of cannabis on Capitol Hill, Killer Mike continues to use his platform, like his docu-series “Tumbleweeds with Killer Mike,” to educate everyday people on the social equity options that could be considered in the future.