A coalition of rap artists, scholars and music industry representatives submitted a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday in defense of a rapper who was convicted for threatening Pittsburgh police officers in a song.
Their argument, which focused on how rap music has historically served as a vehicle for political commentary and constitutes protected speech, also contained a thoughtful analysis about how the war on drugs has inspired some of the genre’s most memorable work.
In the late 1980s, rap groups like Public Enemy “launched powerful attacks against the establishment, addressing a host of social problems, including racism, inequality, inner-city drug use, and police brutality,” the coalition, which included rappers like Killer Mike, Chance the Rapper and Meek Mill, wrote in the petition.
The clearest example of that “oppositional postures” can be heard in N.W.A’s 1988 song “Fuck tha Police,” they wrote. While the song was designed to be a “response to the increasingly aggressive policing strategies in Los Angeles” at the time, “it became an anthem of resistance in communities across the country as police began waging the War on Drugs.
“Already weakened by joblessness and drug addiction, these communities watched in horror as newly militarized police departments turned weapons of war—helicopters, armored vehicles, and machine guns—on their own citizens. At the same time, people were being locked up in record numbers, leading to an incarceration crisis that eventually turned the United States into the world’s incarceration capital.
“In Los Angeles, police hostility and brutality were commonplace. Black and brown men in particular were routinely harassed, arrested, and beaten by police, often as part of the city’s anti-gang and anti-drug efforts, which were some of the most aggressive in the nation. Long before the treatment of the current opioid crisis as a public health emergency, Daryl Gates, the Los Angeles Police Department chief from 1978 to 1992, openly opined in a U.S. Senate hearing that casual drug users ‘ought to be taken out and shot.'”
The petition also broadly covered the role of rap music in society and argued that racial prejudice has led the genre to be unfairly cast as violent and dangerous, especially given the more accepting treatment that other genres have been granted even though they produce comparable work.
“Consider country music. Like rap, it often depicts sex, drug or alcohol (ab)use, poverty, and certainly violence,” they wrote. “Indeed, the murder ballad, which can be traced back centuries, has always had a prominent place in country music, thanks to artists like Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and many others.”
“Yet people tend to have very different responses to country music.”
The case that prompted the petition concerns Jamal Knox, a rapper who goes by Mayhem Mal. Knox was arrested on drug and gun charges in 2012, and afterward produced a song that named the arresting officers and contained lyrics such as “let’s kill these cops ’cause they don’t do us no good.”
He was then charged with making terroristic threats and intimidating witnesses, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld his conviction. The coalition of rappers and academics behind the new amicus brief is hoping the U.S. Supreme Court will take up the case and overturn the conviction on the basis that the song was judged out of context and did not represent a true threat.
“This is a work of poetry,” they wrote of the song. “It is not intended to be taken literally, something that a reasonable listener with even a casual knowledge of rap would understand.”
Presidential Candidate Jokes About Why Denver Decriminalized Psychedelic Mushrooms
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) joked on Thursday that Denver voters approved a measure to decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms because they thought the state of Colorado was running low on marijuana.
The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate made the remark during an appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers. The host asked Bennet if it was “true that magic mushrooms are going to be legal in Colorado.”
(The measure actually simply decriminalizes psilocybin mushrooms for adults, and only in the city of Denver.)
Bennet slapped his knee and quipped, “I think that our voters just voted to get Denver to do that, and I think they might’ve thought that we were out of marijuana all of a sudden.”
“And by the way, we’re not out of marijuana in Colorado,” he said.
“That’s what it says on the state flag now, right?” Meyers said.
“Yeah, exactly,” Bennet replied.
The senator, who previously served as the superintendent of the Denver Public Schools, has cosponsored several wide-ranging cannabis bills in Congress, including legislation to federally deschedule marijuana and penalize states that enforce cannabis laws in a discriminatory way.
But before his state voted to legalize marijuana in 2012, Bennet stood opposed.
It’s not clear how he voted on Denver’s historic psilocybin initiative.
At least Bennet is aware of the measure and was willing to joke about it, though. Several of his colleagues who have worked on cannabis issues declined to weigh in on decriminalizing psychedelics when asked by Marijuana Moment recently.
Photo courtesy of YouTube/Late Night with Seth Meyers.
Horses Should Lay Off CBD, Equestrian Sports Regulator Says
Hay is for horses, but CBD isn’t.
That’s according to the U.S. Equestrian Federation (USEF), which set the rules for most horse-related sports in the country, including dressage, jumping and endurance riding.
In a press release on Tuesday, the organization clarified that just because the 2018 Farm Bill legalized industrial hemp and its derivatives such as CBD, that doesn’t mean that horses competing in various equestrian events are allowed to partake.
Horses competing under USEF rules who test positive for CBD will be considered in violation of GR4 beginning September 1, 2019. Read more 👇https://t.co/6M0MHo8Vq4
— US Equestrian (@USequestrian) May 14, 2019
“From time to time, new products appear on the equine supplement market claiming to enhance a horse’s performance,” USEF, which does not regulate thoroughbred horse racing, wrote. “Over the last several years, cannabinoids have gained increased attention and have become nearly mainstream.”
CBD, both synthetic and natural, “are likely to effect the performance of a horse due to its reported anxiolytic effects” and the products are therefore “no different than legitimate therapeutics that effect mentation and behavior in horses.”
“It is for these reasons that USEF prohibits CBD and all related cannabinoids,” USEF explained. “Horses competing under USEF rules who test positive for natural cannabinoids, synthetic cannabinoids and other cannabimimetics will be considered in violation of GR4 beginning September 1, 2019.”
It’s unclear whether USEF has already developed technology capable of testing for CBD metabolites, as standard cannabis testing instruments are generally only designed to detect for metabolites of THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
However, USEF said that, in fact, “analytical methods are being implemented to detect CBD and similar cannabinoids.”
What about the human athletes involved in the horse sports? USEF referred anyone curious about that policy to the World Anti-Doping Code, which does allow the use of CBD while maintaining a ban on THC.
Professional golfers are also being warned about using CBD products. Last month, the PGA Tour published a newsletter urging caution when using CBD, as some products may contain trace amounts of THC that could turn up in a drug test.
As in equestrian sporting, golfers are also barred from using marijuana.
Jeopardy Contestants Are Getting Tested On Their Marijuana And LSD Knowledge
In another sign of the times, contestants on the wholesome, long-running game show Jeopardy have been challenged to answer questions about drugs like marijuana and LSD on at least three occasions in the past several weeks.
And, shocker: professional sports gambler James Holzhauer, who’s on the second-longest winning streak in the game’s history, got all three questions right.
Host Alex Trebek asked contestants on April 9 to name the “bitter buds” used for flavoring that are part of the cannabaceae family alongside marijuana. The first contestant to hit the buzzer guessed it was hemp. (His answer was initially deemed incorrect but he was later given credit by the show’s judges because the non-psychoactive cannabis cousin is indeed used to flavor some beers.)
Check out this Jeopardy question from last night about the relationship between marijuana and beer. pic.twitter.com/0cKUhYEleR
— Tom Angell 🌳📰 (@tomangell) April 10, 2019
Holzhauer swooped in with the more obvious answer, hops. Researchers recently discovered that millions of years ago, marijuana and hops were genetically much closer—more like sisters than cousins—but they evolved to become more genetically distinct.
On April 22, Trebek said “Bubba Kush” on national television.
— Tom Angell 🌳📰 (@tomangell) April 22, 2019
“On Jan. 1, 2014 in Denver, 1/8 ounce of Bubba Kush was the USA’s first legal sale of this for recreational purchases,” the host said.
Again, Holzhauer was on it and quickly answered “marijuana” for a cool $800.
But Holzhauer’s drug knowledge isn’t limited to cannabis. One of the $2,000 challenges on a recent episode was to identify the first part of the name of a “well-known hallucinogen” that ends “acid diethylamide.” The contestant said “lysergic,” as in LSD.
James Holzhauer correctly answered a Jeopardy question about LSD this week. pic.twitter.com/5mDF4QtF9A
— Tom Angell 🌳📰 (@tomangell) May 3, 2019
While Trebek has a reputation as the family friendly face of one of the country’s longest-running game shows, he and the show’s producers are clearly not shy about incorporating drug questions into the show.
And The A.V. Club recently revealed that while Jeopardy bans contestants from wagering certain naughty sums like $69 and $666, as well as numbers associated with white supremacist groups, it’s totally fine to bet $420.
Trebek, in fact, has some personal experience with marijuana, albeit during an accidental encounter. In the 1970s, Trebek visited a friend in California to have dinner and let his chocolate craving get the best of him. Seeing a plate of brownies, he dove head first and unknowingly consumed half a dozen hash-infused treats in one sitting.
“I love brownies—I’m a chocoholic—and I didn’t realize that they were hash brownies,” he told The Daily Beast in 2017. “And… whoa. That threw me for a loop.”
“The dinner party was on a Friday, and I was not able to leave that house until Sunday afternoon,” Trebek said. “I spent the next day and a half in bed. It was not a good trip, and I have not done any of that stuff since!”
UPDATE: After this story was published, Holzhauer weighed in on Twitter:
If there’s no room for me on the VGK analytics team, maybe I can have a career as a counterculture icon. https://t.co/XkTuH0nBp7
— James Holzhauer (@James_Holzhauer) May 12, 2019
Photo courtesy of Jeopardy!