While Jesse Williams might be best known as Dr. Jackson Avery on the long-running series Grey’s Anatomy, he’s also become an active social justice activist over the past several years. That angle of social justice is how he viewed the opportunity to work with Spike Jonze on MedMen’s “The New Normal” advertisement, which documents the history of cannabis in America.
During a recent appearance on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Williams expanded about some of the themes found in the video and he felt compelled to join the project.
“It’s an important issue. I didn’t come to it from cannabis as the center, that wasn’t my bag,” he said. “But it’s social justice and it’s something we need to decriminalize because we aren’t adjudicating it fairly. We’re not enforcing these laws fairly.”
Williams cited how the War on Drugs disproportionately affects communities of color. Just in New York City alone, 89% of marijuana arrests in 2018 were either Black or Hispanic persons while white people made up just 7% of those arrests. This is a stark contrast, as Williams noted, when so many in the cannabis industry are getting so rich so quick.
“What is the story of cannabis in this country truly? Because it certainly it isn’t a bunch of people in Colorado and California discovering it and getting rich,” Williams said. “It’s not the gold rush as in you just discovered gold and now you’re selling it. Marijuana’s been around forever.
“We used to force Africans to grow it on plantations, including the first president, George Washington, he added. “And now there’s thousands of people locked up in cages for having it in their pocket. So how did we get there?”
You can watch the full interview with Williams above.