In an interview on Sway in the Morning, rapper, record producer, and founder of the Wu-Tang clan RZA offered an incisive critique of the growing legal pot industry and America’s criminal justice system.
But first, when asked his thoughts on the election, RZA said that he likes to go for the more experienced person.
“I’m not gonna hire a painter to cook my dinner,” the legendary rapper pointed out. “I’m gonna hire a chef.”
“While Mr. Trump is a fellow New Yorker and a great businessman and really has done great for his family, I don’t see that politically and on a world stage being great for our country.” He points out that under the Presidency of George W. Bush, when he’d travel the world people would treat him “uncomfortably.”
“They wasn’t feeling our energy, they wasn’t feeling the spirit of America.”
As the interview progresses, RZA turns to what he sees as the most important issue facing America domestically.
“Let’s focus on the criminal justice system collectively, as one,” RZA says. “Criminal justice, in my opinion, that needs more correction than any part of our system. You see what they’re doing as far as arresting us, beating us on the head, killing innocent citizens, unarmed citizens,” RZA said. He also pointed out that anytime he comes into the country he has trouble going through security because of a weed charge from when he was a teenager, highlighting the racial injustice of the momentum for legalization.
“Even though it was a criminal industry, it was an industry we built. And now these young men and corporations are about to make millions and millions of dollars on it and nobody’s going to go to jail for it. And yet, we got kids that’s sitting in jail from the same entrepreneurship.”
“You know who I sold [marijuana] to? Wall Street.” He describes how he and Ol’ Dirty Bastard would meet stockbrokers on their lunch hour. But sometimes, the cops would bust them, lock them up for a few days. “What makes it a crime when I do, and legal when they do it?”
In fact, studies show that even now, in states where recreational pot is legal, minorities are still arrested for marijuana at equal—and sometimes higher—rates than before, as NPR reports. And it’s no secret that the legal weed industry is extremely white, in part due to policies that ban former inmates from starting pot businesses.
President-elect Trump has made scant statements on the momentum for criminal justice reform, although as Jezebel points out, prison stocks rose when he was announced President.
In recent years, there’s been a bipartisan push to lower prison rates, calls to reform police training, and an effort to undo the harms caused by mandatory minimum sentencing—a special project for President Obama, who has commuted the sentences of 942 people, primarily non-violent drug offenders serving long sentences.
Although Trump has previously said that he supports legal pot, there’s concern among advocates of legalization that if Chris Christie or Rudy Giuliani is nominated to lead the Department of Justice, they might crack down in states where marijuana is legal. At the same time, as US News notes, the financial windfall in legal pot might discourage a federal crackdown—a telling illustration of RZA’s point.