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If you had to point to any singular example of institutionalized racial prejudice in America, the so-called drug war is a shining example. The prohibition of drugs in the United States, and subsequently much of the Western world, has its origins in racism, classism, and xenophobia (as well as the socio-economic control of industry, but that’s a different story for a different time). The war on drugs was a classist and racist war on people of color (the origin of the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937) and those representing a threat the governmental powers that be, such as hippies and anti-war activists (Nixon’s launch of the war on drugs in 1971).

If we are to move forward into the better world, one that heals the wounds rotting at the core of the rise of Trump, and begin to understand the systemic foundations of racism in the United States, we need to understand the history. This episode, with Martin Torgoff, author of Bop Apocalypse: Jazz, Race, The Beats, and Drugs, offers a piece of that history. In particular, it follows the history of drug prohibition and institutionalized racism along the coupled history of Jazz music from the early 20s, told through the stories of the musicians, political leaders, and poets whose lives are inseparable from that history.

Topics Discussed

  • cannabis as a profound awakening agent of the western worlds, pros, and cons
  • the origins of Jazz music and its connection to the spread of Cannabis
  • racial segregation coupled with drug prohibition (then and now)
  • the evolution of cannabis into heroin in the underground jazz culture
  • the prohibition of cannabis and the fanatical mission of Harry J. Anslinger
  • the stories of Miles Davis, Jack Kerouac, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Allen Ginsberg, and more.

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