In BET’s new documentary Smoke: Marijuana + Black America, director Erik Parker facilitates a conversation around the impact that marijuana has had on the Black community, as well as what steps need to be taken to ensure that Black Americans, who have disproportionately imprisoned on charges related to the plant, get their fair share of the entrepreneurial opportunities being sprung out of increasing legalization.
Interviews for the documentary took place between January and March 2020, prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. These interviews include high-profile politicians like Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, as well as musicians, professional athletes, and cannabis entrepreneurs.
Narrated by executive producer Nas, the documentary sheds an important light on the intersection between race and legalization, particularly its effect on people who have spent much of their lives imprisoned for marijuana-related charges in places where the drug is now legal.
The film tells the story of Corvain Cooper, a man who is now serving a life sentence for selling marijuana in a place where dispensaries are now legal. The Los Angeles clothing boutique he used to own was, for a time, a legal marijuana dispensary.
“If you’re talking about legalization…” director Erik Parker told BET.com, “What happens to what they call the black market when it becomes legal? What happens to those people?”
“There are some people who want to decriminalize but don’t want to legalize because their argument would be that big business is going to come in and just take over like with tobacco.” he says.