system that makes the laws in the country as it pertains to drug penalties?
EJ: There is enough accountability to go around, but I’m not in the business of blaming because I don’t think it gets us anywhere. Mistakes get made by groups of people all the time. Throughout history wrong ideas take hold, like the [idea of the] world being flat. The notion of attacking drugs so you can launch a war against drugs means it’s going to be a war on people, so you need to see the price tag. Then it turns out the price tag is a tremendous horror to the humanity of mankind as we’ve seen unfold in this country. I don’t care to find whose fault it was that we got there, but it’s some combination of Washington because politicians profit from sounding tough on crime. They get elected and stay elected. It’s partly Corporate America who profits directly off the incarceration of our fellow human beings. It’s horrendous all by itself. It’s not right for America to become the world’s leading jailer with 2.3 million people behind bars and to call itself a democracy while they strip those people of their voting rights [and] reproductive rights, orphan their children, shatters their communities and undermines their capacity to be participants in a democracy. The mass disenfranchisement is a sister of the War on Drugs. The blame game would be just a waste of time. We have an urgent need to resolve this issue.
EBONY: Is it your intention through the film to move people to take a stand against this abhorrent program?
EJ: Yes. I want Americans to think of the 'War on Drugs' as a dirty word. If a politician comes in front of you and talks tough on crime, you should boo and hiss them until they’re replaced by someone better who talks about being smart on crime, who talks about compassionate approaches, who recognizes [that] drug addiction and drug abuse are public health problems. They’re individual problems in the health of a person. And what you do about being tough on them is a far greater monster than helping them. The drug war shouldn’t be mentioned without the word fail in front of it so there is never any doubt. If you look at the numbers over forty years, we’ve spent a trillion dollars and we’ve made over 45 million drug arrests. What has it produced? It has produced a prison population of 2.3 million; more than any other country in the world. For all that, drugs are cheaper, purer, more available than ever before and being used by younger people. It’s a failure on every level. It’s up to us to put the issue to bed.
Chris Williams is an internationally published writer. You can follow him on Twitter @CWmsWrites.