IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Transcript: The War on Drugs ravaged Black communities in New Jersey. Now that weed is legal, social equity programs are trying to right past wrongs.

The full episode transcript for The War on Drugs ravaged Black communities in New Jersey. Now that weed is legal, social equity programs are trying to right past wrongs.

Transcript

Into America

Righting the Wrongs of the War on Drugs

Trymaine Lee: Across the street from city hall in downtown Trenton, New Jersey, is a shoppin' restaurant that sells all-day breakfast, hummus and black bean burgers and a whole bunch of weed.

Ed Forchion: You got 12 different varieties here. Actually, it's 16 varieties here today. Different stuff. This is called Bruce Banner. It's a sativa. Barry Mack, a hybrid. Wedding Crashers, a hybrid.

Lee: It's called NJ Weedman's Joint and it's run by NJ Weedman, himself, Ed Fortune.

Forchion: Right here, this here is cannabutter. And cannabutter, you can use that to make anything. So, like, you can put this in anything. You could take barbecue sauce, dump that in there, and make get-high chicken, if that's what you want to do.

Lee: But in our family, he's just Robbie. NJ Weedman is my older cousin.

Forchion: I actually have 11 employees here. They all get paid well. If they make less than $1,500 a week, it's because they didn't come to work.

Lee: Any surprising customers? You ever come in here and see somebody surprise you? Like--

Forchion: No. I think other people are surprised sometimes. But I've been in this game a long time. I've had Orthodox Jewish Jews come in here with the locks hangin' down. And they don't wanna just buy an eighth. They wanna buy pounds. I've had Hindus and Sikhs come in here wantin' some ganja. And weed is becomin' mainstream. Like, that's just it.

Lee: Business has been good for Ed since he opened his doors in 2015. But right now, what he's doing is technically still illegal. And it wasn't until this past winter that the idea this shop we're standing in could actually be above board became a reality.

Governor Phil Murphy: As of this moment, New Jersey's broken and indefensible marijuana laws which permanently stain the records of many residents and short-circuited their futures, and which disproportionately hurt communities of color, and failed the meaning of justice at every level (social or otherwise), are no more.

Lee: In February, New Jersey governor, Phil Murphy, signed three reform bills into law, making marijuana use and possession legal for adults. The move came after months of negotiation followin' a ballot measure that passed last fall.

Murphy: Over the coming months, our new cannabis marketplace will begin to take shape. Businesses will be formed and jobs will be created.

Lee: New Jersey Senator Cory Booker called legalization a step forward in healing the wounds inflicted by decades of government injustice. He said, quote, "The failed war on drugs has systematically targeted people of color and the poor. It was a war launched by President Richard Nixon, five decades ago, at a press conference on June 17th, 1971."

Richard Nixon: America's public enemy number one in the United States is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive.

Lee: This war on drugs, though, was actually a war on Black people and Black communities all across this country were the central battlegrounds. Black people became six times more likely to be locked up for drug offenses and were more likely to serve longer sentences accordin' to the Center for American Progress think tank.

Since 1971, the U.S. has spent more than $1 trillion to incarcerate people for drug-related offenses. My big cousin is 57 today. So, he was coming up in Jersey just as this war was heating up. He was like any other kid from a workin'-class family being told to just say no.

Forchion: I mean, whether it was from church or family or school, it was already ingrained in me that smoking weed was bad. We're relatives, all, so I can remember Aunt Pat was a big, you know, don't say no; you know, say no to drugs, you know--

Lee: --imagine--

Forchion: Yeah?

Lee: --Aunt Liz.

Forchion: Yeah. (LAUGH) My mom was the same way.

Lee: But the first time you smoked weed, what was that experience like and when was it?

Forchion: It was 1979. It was in Willingboro in Pennypacker Park. And I was hangin' out with my cousin, Melvin, on a family function. We were playin' ball. At some point, one of his friends pulled out a joint and he started passin' it around.

I can remember specifically I tried to move positions so that it didn't come to me. (LAUGH) I succumbed to peer pressure that day and I took a puff. I felt good. I felt high. I can remember in the back of my mind wonderin', oh man, am I gonna become a drug addict. I smoked weed. You know? When my mom found out that I smoked weed, by the way, your mom is the one that told my mom that I was smokin' weed. (LAUGHTER) But--

Lee: First, how did my mother know?

Forchion: You know, this was later. I was in my 20s. I came home in the middle of the day, 3:00, 4:00. Your mom was there. My mom was there. And my mom says somethin' to the effect, like, boy, you look tired. Like, you need to (LAUGH) stop ridin' up. You know, she was afraid that I was gonna fall asleep on the Atlantic City Expressway, this, that, and the other. And I'll never forget. Your mom looked at my mom, said, "Elizabeth, that boy ain't tired. (LAUGH) He's high." And I remember my heart, my stomach, you know, like, dropped. (GASPS) Like, she just told on me.

Lee: Not only was Ed smokin' weed, he was sellin' it, too. He started dealing a little bit as a teenager, then more seriously in his mid-20s, after he got out of the army. He made a name for himself as NJ Weedman.

Forchion: And when I got my first AOL account, that was (LAUGH) my screen name.

Lee: But in 1997, things hit a wall.

Forchion: The first time I got caught with weed, I went to prison.

Lee: At 33, Ed was charged with intent to distribute for carrying 39 pounds of weed.

Forchion: I had a house, dog, tractor-trailer, Corvette, Jaguar. Like, I was doin' good. Listen, my idea was, I wanted to run for mayor or run for some political office, too. Like, all these ideas I had, I wanted to do, and then I got busted for weed. I just felt like my life was ruined. Like, my life got ruined over weed. I just came out fighting and I never stopped fighting, and here I am.

Lee: I'm Trymaine Lee and this is Into America. The war on drugs and the criminalization of marijuana ruined millions of Black lives over the past five decades. Now, in states like New Jersey, weed is legal. Lawmakers like Governor Murphy and Senator Booker say they wanna right the wrongs of the past and prioritize social and racial equity when it comes to regulation. But can Black people, guys like my cousin, be included and actually benefit from marijuana legalization? So, this is not a gimmick. NJ Weedman is actually smokin' weed right now. How much weed do you smoke a day?

Forchion: Not as much as people think I do. I usually smoke once in the morning and once towards the end of the night.

Lee: Ed and I caught up in the part of his shop that he calls the sanctuary. There's a giant painting of a Rastafarian-lookin' lion on the wall. And Ed is sitting on an ornate wooden throne as he sparks a joint. I was about 18 years old when Ed got arrested for weed that first time back in 1997. And I remember it was all over the news. And the whole family was talkin' about it.

Forchion: I was a coast-to-coast truck driver. And I discovered that you can buy marijuana for, like, $300 a pound in Arizona and you can sell it between $900 and $1,200 a pound in New Jersey. And bein' the capitalist I was, (LAUGH) and that's what we're all raised as, right, as Americans, we were raised to be capitalists, so all it was was the transport and I had a truck. So, I used to transport marijuana back and forth. At some point, I got lazy and FedExed a box instead of drivin' it. And we got caught; possession with intent to distribute.

Lee: A few months before Ed's arrest, a 1997 bill made marijuana possession a first-degree crime.

Forchion: I went to trial sayin' I would never take a plea. Three days into it, I basically got bribed at my trial. Instead of facin' 20 years in prison, they offered me a flat ten-year sentence which means I would probably do from three to six months in prison and then be released, and I took it.

Lee: Ed ended up serving 17 months, then was released into an intensive supervision program. Not ten years, but the damage was done. What impact did that have on you and your family? What happened?

Forchion: Well, at the time, I had custody of my 12-year-old. I had a two- and a four-year-old who came to visit me every week in prison. I can remember at some point, Deja, when she was maybe six, she was in school. You know how, in school, they write the little words for 'em? I remember she had to write the word, jail. And she basically had a cryin' fit in school because her dad was in jail.

Lee: As it's happening, were you all--

Forchion: Oh yeah.

Lee: --feel like--

Forchion: Oh, I was furious about it. Oh. Oh. And like I said, I can remember getting outta jail. My son's seven or so. And the first time I would bring him to midget football, and I wanted to be a coach, and the coaches didn't want me to be a coach because I was speakin' out about marijuana.

Like, later, one of my son's childhood coaches, one of them same ones that didn't want me to be a coach, I smoked weed with him at a 7-Eleven. And I was sayin' to myself, man, I remember about ten years ago, this dude didn't want me to be a coach on the team with you.

Lee: Over the years, Ed's role as a businessman evolved into one of an activist.

Forchion: As I got older and the war on drugs came directed at me, to me, it was all a civil rights argument. That's no different than the Freedom Riders goin' down and sittin' at the dining tables and eating where they weren't supposed to eat or drinkin' water out of the fountain they wasn't supposed to drink. These are all things I was taught. And civil disobedience was-- was the key to all those successful protests.

Lee: Ed has alternated between toeing the line of what was legal and daring authorities to stop him. The biggest challenge came when he opened NJ Weedman Joint across the street from Trenton City Hall in 2015. At that time, only medical marijuana was legal, although New Jersey had some of the strictest regulations nationwide and limited the number of dispensaries. It was around that same time that legalizing recreational marijuana became part of the conversation, too.

Forchion: I say 2015, 2016, Senator Scutari sponsored a bill to legalize marijuana, recreationally. But then as I read the bill, it was really corporatizing it. It wasn't legalizin' it. It was makin' it where corporations could come in and sell marijuana.

And that infuriated me. I really was like, wait a minute, I went to prison for selling marijuana, for possessing marijuana. Now, these guys (these rich white guys), now they get to sell cannabis. What? And it's the same exact thing. There's no difference. There's zero difference, right. We got prison cells and they get to get pensions, you know. All that hypocrisy of it all got me. So, I started this campaign: #SellWeedLikeI'mWhite; and #NJCan'tGetTwelve.

Lee: Let's start with the first one. So, #SellWeedLikeYou'reWhite, how does that actually look in real life? Like, sellin' weed like you're white, what does that mean?

Forchion: All right. Just google. There's 13 ATCs in the state of New Jersey right now; 13 dispensaries that are allowed to sell weed. Google the CEOs and then Google Image them. They're all white guys. And they openly sell weed in violation of federal law.

You have to understand marijuana, no matter what the states do, is still federally illegal. Well, I'm gonna sell weed like I'm white, too. I have employees, I have a staff and I sell weed just like the white guys. I'm across the street from city hall in the state capital and I am in no way bein' incognegro.

Lee: He's selling weed across the street from the same politicians who supported his incarceration. I asked him about his hashtag, #NJCan'tGetTwelve.

Forchion: The founding fathers envisioned the juries bein' the final arbitrator of the law. A jury can do whatever it wants. There may be an opinion by the people before the law catches up. And that's what it is with marijuana, for instance.

Lee: If a jury finds someone not guilty because they believe someone is being prosecuted unjustly, then the jurors are in no way punished for their decision. Ed has been arrested a number of times. But the charges keep getting dropped. It's another reason why Ed thinks the state hasn't really messed with him.

Forchion: If I was arrested for marijuana right now, no problem. I would not take a plea bargain. The state would have to pick a jury of 12 people and I'll see if they can get 12. And that's where my #NJCan'tGetTwelve comes from.

Lee: What is this fight--

Forchion: And it's a protest, though.

Forchion: It's part of my protest. It's part of my protest. I've had people describe it like, you know, the government draws a line and then there's always certain people who are gonna step over it and I'm one of those people. And this particular issue, I keep steppin' over it.

The last time I got busted for weed, big amount of weed, was 2016. And they came in. Made the front page of the papers. Was all over NJ.com, was all over the newspapers, the television. But quietly, two years later, they just dismissed the case. And now, nobody busts me at all.

Lee: Ed is so brazen about what he's doing that he's gotten away with sellin' weed illegally in recent years. But the reality is, the war on drugs has never really let up. New Jersey actually increased its rate of marijuana possession arrests by 45% from 2010 to 2018.

And despite similar usage among Blacks and whites, Black people were arrested three-and-a-half times as often. That's according to the ACLU of New Jersey. In the months between the ballot measure passing and Governor Murphy signing recreational marijuana into law, in February, New Jersey cops issued 6,000 charges for minor marijuana offenses.

What do you think about the hypocrisy? As you mentioned, all kinds of people indulge in marijuana; white, Black, old, young, religious, non-affiliated. But the way it's been racialized, that everyone smokes weed but then it seems that Black folks, not just seems, Black folks have borne the disproportionate weight of the legal system when it comes around weed.

Forchion: Well, it's a legacy of slavery. It's the systemic racism that's built into a lot of what America's founded on. We all know pretty much everybody smokes the same proportion. To be honest with you, I gotta tell you somethin'. I think white people smoke more than Black people, because I've been sellin' weed for a long time and I really think that. Here, right now, I'm in Trenton, New Jersey, which is a predominantly minority city. And most of my customers are white. Now, there's other reasons for that. Marijuana is very prevalent in the neighborhood so they have other options.

Lee: They're also like, I ain't goin' across from city hall to--

Forchion: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, (LAUGH) there have been people afraid of that, too.

Lee: Like, nah. Ed's been fighting his whole adult life for legalization. And now, it's happening in New Jersey. The bills that Governor Murphy signed into law in February legalize recreational marijuana for adults, decriminalize marijuana possession in small amounts, limit the use of previous marijuana convictions, and create a regulated marketplace for weed. Cities have the power to decide where dispensaries can be located. And 70% of tax revenue from sales is slated to go to areas of the state most impacted by drug arrests. Ed is skeptical.

Forchion: I believe in legalization and what I see happenin' is more like corporatization. Of all the states in the country that have legalized marijuana, you know New Jersey's the only one that has not allowed home grow. It's because the big corporations that came in here, mostly from California, they came in bribin' our politicians to write it into law that home growing marijuana is still banned.

Only the big corporations are supposed to be allowed to grow marijuana. Thirty-seven companies are supposed to grow all the marijuana to be consumed in the state. Those 37 companies growing marijuana, their product would be legal. And anybody else's black market weed, coming from another state, any of those are still illegal. That doesn't sound like legalization to me.

Lee: A cannabis regulatory commission was set up to help establish this marketplace but also to address the concerns of people like Ed; folks who were harmed by the war on drugs and are now wondering where they fit in the push for legalization. With the war, there've been a lot of casualties. A lotta Black people have spent a lotta time in prison, lost hopes and dreams and everything they had; all their goals and aspirations, families, as you kinda outlined.

Forchion: Yeah, that was happenin' to me. That's what I'm sayin'--

Forchion: --that was my motivation.

Lee: But now, there's this commission set up by the state that's supposed to look at social equity and make things better. Do you buy that the commission's actually a good faith actor in tryin' to make things better?

Forchion: I think the people on that board, I think they really wanna do it. I think so. I think the governor, Governor Murphy, has mandated to them or, you know, appointed them so they could bring some type of social equity to it. But I don't think it goes far enough. I don't think they're gonna have enough power. It's gonna be a paper tiger board. Think the issue is too big for them.

Diana Houenou: I live in Trenton, myself, and, yeah, I think cannabis businesses in Trenton could really offer something great for this city.

Lee: We'll hear more of what the chair of New Jersey's Cannabis Regulatory Commission has to say after the break.

Houenou: From the day I set foot in Jersey, this fight has been a part of my world.

Lee: Diana Houenou has been in New Jersey since 2016. She moved here from North Carolina to advocate for marijuana legalization with the ACLU. And now, she's the chair of New Jersey's Cannabis Regulatory Commission, a six-person body responsible for creating a framework for what is required to operate a cannabis business, and how weed will be regulated in the state.

Houenou: We first launched April 12th. We have a deadline to get some initial rules done by mid-August. It doesn't leave a lot of time for us to, you know, build up as an agency and get the work done. So, we've dedicated hours of our public meetings to soliciting ideas and thoughts and recommendations from the public, from experts from around the country, from government officials, so that we can take what they want to see in the regulations and see what we can put into place here in New Jersey.

Lee: One thing they keep hearin' over and over again from the public is a desire for social equity.

Houenou: Good evening, everyone. It's my pleasure to welcome you all to the third meeting of the Cannabis Regulatory Commission.

Lee: Droves of people spoke up at the commission's May 4th meeting to demand that Black people benefit as the state makes sense of this new industry.

Archival Recording: We spent $50 billion a year on the war on drugs. We shouldn't be talkin' about pricing right now. Let's talk about how we're gonna educate these folks and put them in a position to not only enter the cannabis industry, but stay in the cannabis industry.

Houenou: A lot of people in the communities have shared that they are fearful of not being able to start up a business successfully in this space. And so, we haven't hammered everything out. But we are taking a serious look at how can we implement requirements and standards that are achievable for Black communities, given their history of economic exclusion while also making sure that we are creating a system that is not ripe for exploitation and tokenism and deceit.

Lee: How difficult is the application process? And can you kinda, like, just walk us through what the process is like to apply for an application to sell weed legally?

Houenou: So, we don't have specifics just yet on what is required for applying for a license in New Jersey. That will be coming soon. But, you know, on the whole, as we look at other places across the country, it has required things like demonstrating that you have sufficient funds and insurance, demonstrating that you can maintain a facility or build out a facility to meet the needs of the actual cannabis business.

Lee: First of all, I just heard a bunch of red flags for a lotta people (Black folks); access to the capital.

Houenou: Yeah.

Lee: Access to the space. All the insurance. Is there gonna be any work, you think, in tryin' to help people overcome those? Because those are barriers for us when we're talkin' about gettin' a house or startin' a business or it's, you know, par for the course. How do we address that?

Houenou: So, that's where we hear ideas from others about the commission should offer supports to prospective Black/Brown business owners, be it through efforts to access capital or mentorship. And we've also heard of, you know, just making sure that the connections are there, that Black communities see us, the CRC, as an agency that wants them to succeed, you know.

For generations, the government has played an active role in stifling Black communities. And that needs to be acknowledged and it's a hard thing to overcome. In collaboration with the CRC, private banks, landlords, vendors and suppliers, everyone has a role to play here.

And making sure that we reach out to folks in the legacy market, you know, people who have prior experience in the cannabis space, whether in the unregulated or regulated market, I think that inherently has to be part of the work here, too. And as we are setting up the rules for prospective entrepreneurs, you know, the fact that the commission will not be looking at prior marijuana-related offenses and disqualifying anybody from applying is great.

So, even individuals who have prior convictions, they can still apply. They can still get a shot, because we need to divorce the association between entanglement in the criminal justice system and your ability to set up a business, which ultimately means, you know, divorcing criminal justice from life outcomes, more broadly.

Lee: One thing on a lotta people's minds, as New Jersey moves toward marijuana legalization, is expungement. Will people like my cousin have their records cleared for good? Diana told me about a Jersey law that just went into effect on July 1st to help give folks a clean slate.

Houenou: So, in New Jersey, our statute requires the state to proactively identify and expunge all of these records. So, imposing no burden whatsoever on the individual.

Lee: So, if I have a record, I don't have to apply? I don't have to fill anything out? You will proactively search the records, and anyone who has whatever that offense is that applies, the state would just make it go away?

Houenou: That's what the law says.

Lee: Wow.

Houenou: And so, there's no filing fee. You don't have to send certified copies anywhere. The state is required to do it for the individuals.

Lee: The state is expected to deal with about 360,000 cases through this process. So far, New Jersey has dismissed about 88,000 marijuana convictions. And the next step will be expungement; clearin' them from people's records entirely. What do you say to people who don't trust the system at all, who are skeptical, or people like my cousin, Ed Forchion, AKA NJ Weedman?

I'm not gonna call him my favorite cousin 'cause I might have some family listenin'. But he's, like, top two, (LAUGH) as one of my favorite cousins. I love him to death. And he's been fightin' this fight for a very long time. And he has the scars and the record to prove it, right.

What do you say to folks like him who say, nah, I've been around the block? I see how the system operates. And this will play out just as everything else does in America. We'll be marginalized and then the money, the white folks come in, and will just get rich off it while our lives have been ruined. What do you say to folks who have, again, weathered it time and again? What do you say to them?

Houenou: I say to them, I know you've been marginalized time and time again. And I know that the government has at times played an active role in harming you and your communities. And it's time for us to change and here's how I think we, as a government agency, can change those practices, can turn the tide here.

I would try to show them how we are working to open up the door as wide as possible so that should they want to walk through it, they would be invited with open arms. And I hope that they can see and trust me in that. And if they don't, I understand why. But to those individuals, I say I hear you. I wanna change. This is how I hope to change. And this is how I hope you can be a part of this change, too.

Lee: Do you think there's an actual chance to legalize marijuana equitably and socially and racially in New Jersey?

Forchion: No.

Lee: No way? My cousin, Ed, NJ Weedman, he's not totally buying what Diana's sellin' here.

Forchion: No. It's not gonna happen. Will we get a little bit more? A little bit more of a piece of the puzzle? Yeah. Do I think I've moved that conversation that way? Yes. Do I think I moved it all the way to make me happy? No.

Lee: It makes sense that Ed is doubtful. Since 2016, nine states have taken some type of action to ensure diversity in the form of social equity programs: Virginia, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and now, New Jersey.

But by and large, these equity efforts have struggled. 2020 was a boom year for Illinois, bringing in over $1 billion in marijuana revenue, tripling sales. And yet, when new licenses were first doled out this year, not one minority-owned business was a finalist.

Massachusetts has over 260 retail marijuana stores but only three of them are Black-owned. So, Ed isn't holding his breath about success in Jersey. After all, how do you really make up for these injustices and compensate people for what they've lost? But Ed's got some big ideas.

Forchion: I think people who've been locked up and put in prison should be treated just like veterans are by the feds. You know, vets, you get certain points and things if you apply for federal jobs. I think if you're a felon, especially if you went to prison, that you should just get some type of head start on a license, whether it's a point system, whether it's maybe they give away certain amounts of it. We'll say veterans of the drug wars. They should get that.

I think the monetary costs should come down. And it should be locally owned. I think it should be little guys. And especially after what happened, the war on drugs has really devastated communities of color. I think there should be a form of reefer reparations in New Jersey when it comes to weed and the people who became the victims of that should have some type of reparations.

Lee: When you talk like that to, you know, some folks on the commission, are they receptive to that kinda stuff? Do they brush it off?

Forchion: Absolutely. The other day when I ran into the head of the CRC board, Diana, I actually asked her if she would come visit my place and inspect my place. I said, "Look, in your position, I'm sure you've been in plenty of these big corporate dispensaries. You've seen how their operations work. And you're tryin' to figure out how you can make this operation, put this operation into statewide. All right, well, you need to come to some of the little Black marketplaces, too." And I invited her to come here. She said she would. I feel like I just got a coup. I got the director of the CRC board to agree to come inspect my black market operation.

Lee: Let me ask you, with all that, there's probably nobody in the state with a stronger individual brand about weed than you. Are you ready to get your license?

Forchion: I've gone back and forth for that. I actually had several politicians and lawyers all pretty much beggin' me to fill out the application. And thing with that is I never wanna see myself envisioned as a sellout. I don't want you to give me somethin' to shut me up. So, I have a little problem with that.

Even if I was made legal, I wouldn't wanna buy my product from these Walmarts of weed here. I still would wanna seek out the growers in Oregon, growers in Washington state. Few minutes ago, I received a phone call that happened to be one of my growers in upstate California.

Lee: So, one of New Jersey's biggest advocates for legalization might not participate in this new regulated market. It begs the question, even with these social equity efforts, even with promises to help Black communities, what happens if Black people don't trust the system enough to wanna be a part of it.

For now, Ed's focusing on expanding his business. He just opened up a weed lounge in Miami where he's challengin' Florida's marijuana laws the same way he took on Jersey's. I'm gonna ask you this question. What does my sweet Aunt Liz (your mother) think about all this? And Aunt Liz (LAUGH) is one of my favorites, you know. I love your mother. What does she think about it?

Forchion: Obviously, she's my mom. So, obviously, she's proud of me. But I remember she was really worried for me, like, say, in '97, '98 when I was just talkin' publicly about weed and gettin' arrested and, you know, the high-intensity drug task force focused on me.

Stuff like that happened, she was afraid for me. She used to tell me to shut up. Like, I could still hear her now sayin', oh, Robbie. You know, my mom calls me Robbie. So, would you please be quiet? Like, she begged me. I remember when I first started growin' my dreads and sayin' that I wasn't gonna cut my dreads until marijuana became legal.

I remember her thinkin' that that was so silly. Cut your hair. Like, she used to always say, "Cut your hair." And I'd be like, "No, I'm not, Mom. Like, I'm stickin' to this. This is my dedication. I'm stickin' to it." And now, you know, she's proud of me.

She calls me when she sees a certain thing in the paper about, you know, weed. She listens to NPR or somethin' and she'll call me. Hey, turn on NPR right now. They're talkin' about marijuana, right. So, my mom has done a complete 360 as far as supporting me with my issue. She still won't smoke no weed. I keep tellin' her one day I'm gonna come over, slip her a edible.

Lee: Don't do that. Don't do that to my aunt, man. (LAUGH) Don't give my aunt no brownies--

Forchion: My mom has a sweet tooth so it could happen, (LAUGH) you know. Put some candy on it.

Lee: Yeah, Aunt Liz, I remember working for her sometimes and she'd give me, like, a Marcus Garvey tape or somethin' like that. I remember, I'm like, I wanted some money and she gave me a tape. (LAUGH) But has she ever been able to see it? She's always been kinda about it in that way. Has she ever been able to see it as a civil rights issue?

Forchion: Oh, she always did.

Lee: Okay.

Forchion: My mom knows I'm the last man standing. I always thought there would be that day that people would say marijuana's legal, and that day has happened. So, I feel like a winner. I feel like I won.

Lee: On Wednesday of this week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer introduced legislation that would legalize marijuana at the federal level. The Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act would remove weed from the Controlled Substances Act, begin regulating and taxin' it, and expunge federal records for people arrested and convicted for nonviolent marijuana offenses.

Chuck Schumer: At long last, we are taking steps in the Senate to right the wrongs of the failed war on drugs. It's not just an idea whose time has come, it's long overdue.

Lee: Thanks for comin' along with us to Jersey this week. If you like what you heard and like our show, week to week, please share with folks in your circle. And as always, please reach out with your thoughts and story ideas. We love hearing from you.

You can tweet me @trymainelee. That's @trymainelee, my full name. Or write to us at IntoAmerica@NBCuni.com. that was IntoAmerica@NBC and the letters, U-N-I dot-com. Into America is produced by Isabel Angell, Allison Bailey, Bryson Barnes, Aaron Dalton, Max Jacobs and Aisha Turner. Original music is by Hannis Brown. Our executive producer is Ellen Frankman. I'm Trymaine Lee. Catch you next Thursday.