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The New York Times released a collaboration Thursday between hip-hop icon Jay-Z and illustrator Molly Crabapple about the effects of decades of a failed drug war on black and brown youth in cities.

In the video, which was produced by activist Dream Hampton, Jay Z traces the history of Richard Nixon’s oiginal “War on Drugs,” through its evolution during the Reagan years, the explosion of the American prison population in the 90s, and the present day discrimination by the legal marijuana industry against entrepreneurs with prior drug felonies.

That last point increasingly appears to be one of the great ironies of the movement to legalize marijuana: America may be changing its mind about drugs, but it hasn’t changed its mind about criminals. In Colorado, for example, those with drug-related felonies cannot own marijuana-related businesses. In California, a licensing agency has for a year had the ability to reject applicants on the basis of past felonies, including those for drug possession and intent to sell — precisely the tasks for which such a licenses would apply.

California may fully legalize weed this November, instantly creating potentially the largest market in the world for the plant. In the meantime, such a piecemeal approach to licensing may conform to the same racist trends of drug laws past: discriminating against a group of people not on the basis of criminality, but rather on the rates at which they are ticketed, fined, arrested, and convicted of crimes that are committed roughly equally across race.

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President Joe Biden

Photo by The White House

Two tiresome realities about being president of the United States: first, everybody blames you for things over which you have little or no control: such as the worldwide price of oil, and international shipping schedules. Should there be too few electronic gee-gaws on store shelves to pacify American teenagers this Christmas, it will be Joe Biden’s fault.

Second, everybody gives you advice, whether you ask for it or not. Everywhere you look, Democrats and Democratically-inclined pundits are tempted to panic. “The cold reality for Biden,” writes New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait “is that his presidency is on the brink of failure.” A return to Trumpism, and essentially the end of American democracy, strikes Chait as altogether likely.

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