If the name Benjamin Jealous doesn’t ring a bell, he was originally known as Dave Chappelle’s bodyguard and god-brother, and served as the President and CEO of the NAACP from 2008-12 — the youngest person to ever fill the position. Now, he’s running for Maryland governor and is very serious about legalizing marijuana. Polls indicate Jealous has a slight lead over fellow Democratic nominees ahead of the June 26 primaries.
But Jealous recently revealed to Marijuana Moment how an early conversation with Chappelle shaped his views on marijuana legalization.
We were young and we were 20 years old in Mississippi. And Dave had come down there. I was organizing to stop a governor from turning a black college into a prison, and I was stressed out because Dave wanted to fire up a joint, and I didn’t want to go to jail in Mississippi. Dave was like ‘well, this shit should be legal,’ and I was like, ‘yeah, but it’s not.’ That was basically the conversation.
And then it was just an ongoing conversation about the history of marijuana enforcement—the way it was targeted at our community and Latino communities, and that just sort of opened my eyes. And that led me as president of the NAACP pushing for decriminalization in a number of states and cities. That’s ultimately where that conversation led. Dave was the one who really first talked to me about the way in which marijuana enforcement had been targeted at our communities. It just so happened that that day in Mississippi, the stakes were so high, I wasn’t really having it.
Jealous also hasn’t been shy about utilizing celebrity supporters on the campaign trail. In fact, he’s recently turned to Chappelle to appear beside him during TV interviews. While discussing marijuana on MSNBC, Chappelle added his positions on federally legalizing marijuana.
“I look at the legalization of marijuana as an inevitability nationally, not just in the state of Maryland,” Chappelle said. “I’m sure there is a gross disparity in the enforcement of drug laws in general in the United States.”
You can read the entirety of Marijuana Moment’s interview with Jealous regarding marijuana legalization and laws here.