Killer Mike, one half of Run The Jewels and recent Ozark star, has long been a vocal advocate of marijuana — both as a medicine and as a creative tool that has helped pull his mile-a-minute mind in focus. Which made him a natural fit to host Weedmaps’ excellent new docuseries, Tumbleweeds. The four-part docuseries follows Killer Mike as he explores the unique cannabis cultures of Las Vegas, San Francisco, New York, and Chicago and chops it up with comedians, cannabis advocates, and business owners in an effort to paint cannabis legalization in a more positive light by showing how weed can tie communities together.
Tumbleweeds is a fun watch that remains as entertaining as it is educational, much of that thanks to Killer Mike’s personality — which can turn from jovial to intensely thoughtful on a dime. We experienced this first hand when we linked up with the rapper and activist to discuss the series, weed policy, restitution for the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) who helped popularize marijuana in the United States, and some radical (but necessary) efforts that states can — and should — make as we steadily march toward federal legalization.
Check out the full discussion below and be sure to catch the final episode of Tumbleweeds on May 8th or all four parts on May 15th on VICE TV and Vice TV Streaming apps.
Something I really like and appreciate about the new series is that it takes what has been a familiar and frankly racist framework — this idea that “pot destroys communities” — and kind of flips that on its head to show how cannabis can be an integral part of communities. Was that the intention going in? Or was it more about exploring the unique cultures of each respective city?
I think it was all of that at one time. I think the best entertainer in the circus is the juggler. I think that when you can show the interconnectivity between things, the better. Not only do we show that pot is a healer, but pot also helps with PTSD, we show pot from an artistic perspective in the museum. We got an opportunity, we got a chance to show that pot smokers are normal regular human beings leading normal regular lives who use this plant versus other medicines.
We got a chance to show that local businesses that grow around pot — whether it was pizza or candy or fine dining — we got an opportunity to really see the interconnectedness of it all. If you look at pot culture from a pot smoker’s perspective, like say the Rastafarians, pot has been used in a bunch of different things. Everything from using hemp to create tools and papers to smoking marijuana, using it in religious rituals and things, so I think that the stoner community already knew that pot exists or cannabis exists in a lot of different places for a lot of different reasons.
What to me was the curveball but I really thought was interesting was adding comedians. Comedians… they take our pain and make us laugh at it and that brings joy. But they’re very, very observational… and usually very smart in some capacity, and I really enjoyed the conversations that I had with comedians.
I enjoyed going to local businesses, and enjoyed meeting the advocates too, but getting the chance to meet people who make people smile for a living and who are users of pot really was an interesting curveball that got thrown in, so it didn’t get too serious. It didn’t get too heavy. It didn’t get too long or instructional. Really remained fun from start to finish.
Is there anything you would say that you learned in this process that you didn’t know of beforehand?
Damn near too much shit to list. What I really enjoyed was talking to — and I’m sorry, I can’t remember her name [Charissa Jackson], “pot does rob the memory,” Kris Kristofferson said that. This young lady was a veteran and an advocate for veterans’ rights around PTSD and pot. I have a sincere reverence for people who’ve served in our US military. It’s not like I want a war machine marching across the earth but any young person who signs up from 18 to 22 and gives part of their life, a very young, whimsical part of their life… They give that to the United States military. I believe they shouldn’t have to pay interest on a home loan. I believe they should be first in line for lower taxes. I really have a reverence for them.
So to see someone give a damn about veterans in a way that made her an advocate for marijuana usage. Someone that’s helping on the Hill, helping Washington come to their senses about medicine via the cannabis plant versus appeal with the VA meant a lot to me.
Fab Five Freddy and the brother that moved from, I think it was down in Louisiana, who had served 13 years I believe for two joints. You have to understand, Fab Five Freddy in my life has been an art teacher, and music director. He has introduced me to culture and this is just from a kid watching him prior to MTV and MTV. But to see him now as an advocate and an ally in terms of pushing legalization or decriminalization were two things I can really say I walked away from the interview much smarter from and much more determined to help normalize cannabis in this country.
Why were the cities of Las Vegas, San Francisco, New York, and Chicago the cities settled on in the series? As someone who was born and raised in and around Southern California’s cannabis culture, I actually appreciate how you skipped over Los Angeles, which I feel gets too much of the spotlight.
Los Angeles is a hell of a city but Northern California still has better weed. I just got to be frank about that. Shoutout to Satellite OG, shoutout to Berner and Cookies, shout out to Lemonade, shoutout to a few other brands that I’ve smoked great weed from but those hippies in Northern California sure know what the fuck they’re doing.
Illinois as a state is lightyears ahead of the state I’m in, Georgia, and I thought Illinois decriminalizing and making use for recreational use was brilliant. Chicago was dope in terms of the artwork that I got to see there. It was dope in terms of comedy and it was dope in terms of having some fire bud in that motherfucker, I gotta be frank,
Vegas… in my opinion, gambling doesn’t want anything to get too in a way of gambling, some of the restrictions were a little tighter for me, a little more uncomfortable until you got into shops. Once you got into the shops, the people were amazing, the way they educated you about the brands was amazing. But in terms of the laws, you can tell that Vegas is not going to let cannabis and prostitution compete with gambling.
When I was walking back into the casino, I remember one of the doormen, he was a young Black guy, he walked to me and said, “Mike, I’m not tripping on you but I’m gonna tell you sometimes they trip on guys who come in with the Cookies bags and whatnot so next time just put it into your bookbag” and I was like “oh, shit.”
The casinos really don’t want you so high that you can’t leave your room, they need you out there pulling that slot machine.
New York is much more conservative than I thought it would be. I can literally buy weed right on the corner in front of the store where we were eating CBD chocolates. But yet it hasn’t made it inside the store. But they don’t trip about you standing around smoking weed, so I’m not tripping on that, but I’d like for them to get a little more progressive.
SF is just the capital of marijuana in my mind. If you’re not talking Amsterdam, you’re talking Northern California. When I’m in Amsterdam, they ask you for Northern California seeds. So shouts out to Northern Cali because that’s just the best OG Kush in the world.
In the past, you’ve mentioned that BIPOC deserve a considerable share of the marijuana industry for helping to popularize it. Agreed, can you tell us how you envision that specifically?
I would envision it the same way politicians who envision bullshit laws that allow six licenses for a whole state would envision it. If Georgians are made up of 35% Black people, then 35% of the licenses should go to Black people. And those Black people should have to partner because you’ve got the Black bourgeoisie, being from Atlanta I’m gonna tell you, you got Black Republicans, you got Black bourgeoisie, Black circles that want to keep it in there. You should have to partner with someone convicted of a marijuana felony. Now that’s radical, and that’s some American shit because we were started by a group of motherfuckers who didn’t want to pay taxes.
What I would say is you would have to partner with say a group of Black money or capital investors, they would have to partner with a former Kingpin and then I would bring in business mediators and help those people build the industry from the ground up and I would allow those licenses to be free-flowing and not be so constricted that no one else could make it into the market.
Our first Black mayor was a man named Maynard Jackson and Maynard Jackson made it so that if you wanted a city contract with the city of Atlanta, at least 29% of your company had to be black or people of color. So all of a sudden you saw businesses opening up partnerships and opening up subcontractors and things of that nature and it grew a Black working class and middle class and it gave us 60 years of successful mayors, our economy has grown, even through this COVID thing, our economy is great.
I’m only speaking locally because I do my work locally — 35% of these motherfuckers Black? 35% of licenses should be Black! They should have to partner with people convicted of marijuana convictions, and in terms of dispensaries, there damn sure should be an unlimited amount you put out there. You should be able to open up a dispensary with the minimal amount of shelf, you shouldn’t have to have $150,000 liquid and no shit like that you should be able to open up a dispensary if you’re an old lady, you grow your plants and you sell it curbside like a lemonade stand in the summer.
…If you can’t tell I put a little thought into this.
You mentioned some states and they all approach cannabis differently. In your opinion, what state is really doing it right and how can others do it better? Aside from what you just laid out, of course.
I like what Illinois did going straight to recreational — I don’t think they did the hump of a strict medical thing first. I like how Colorado was putting money back into the school systems and improving the school system. I don’t think we have had the best version yet. Because we do not have the right people advising. We need people convicted of marijuana convictions at the table with lawmakers making the law, it should not just be conglomerates and lobbyists or corporations that want to get into medical now.
It should be Black farmers who have been for the last 80 and 100 years cut out of many industries in this country. It should be people who were victims, people you would call Kingpins of bullshit drug laws, many of which our current president helped to instate. It should be those people at the table and it should be common folk, recreational marijuana users helping to shape the laws that are going to go forward. We should not be restrictive like the prohibition was with liquor, we should not only allow four, five, or six licenses and we should not cut and carve regions so that only politicians and their friends, or companies get them, we should make it less restrictive.
We should have less licensing in terms of keeping a tight hold on the money that gets sucked into taxes. We should make it from day one, the time you open your dispensary, the time you get your first dollar for a marijuana sale, you should be able to bank in the United States. You should be able to put that money in a bank, it is a shame that people who run dispensaries have to worry about robbery, have to worry about seizures, have to worry about ATF, and the alphabet boys because they simply cannot bank. So all those I would bring to the table and I would put a particular interest in Black banks like my bank Greenwood, like Citizens Trust Bank, like Carver — I’d put a particular interest in Latino banks because who were the people used to villainize marijuana? Black people and Mexicans.
I’d try to make some restitution by providing opportunity. I’d allow the people to shape the laws on the ground to be everyone from everyday stoners and smokers that go to work to people that have served long, lengthy marijuana sentences for kingpin drug laws. I’d bring people who are already in the industry as outlaws the people who are growing and people going against the government now and choosing to do it in terms of helping the free, I’d make sure the people who’ve been involved in NORML for the last 40 years have a seat at the table and get an opportunity to talk.
It’s time for the people that use marijuana to make the rules for marijuana and not the other way around.
I know you’re a fan of indica strains, I’m just curious, what about indicas appeal to you particularly?
I’m naturally hyper — my mind naturally is moving on 100 different things at 100 miles per hour 100 times a day. And indicas allow me a very dense body high, and even cerebral, that allows me to focus in on one or two things that I need to get done. Even when I go for my walks in the morning or running around the gym, with a indica high by the time I realize I’m in pain the workout is almost over.
Although sativas are credited with being cerebral, I think if you’re a person whose mind moves a lot that indicas are great for you because they put you at calm. When I wake up in the morning and do breathing exercises or yoga or tai chi or whatever the fuck my wife has me doing, it’s cool to take a couple of puffs off one of these [gestures to the lit joint in his hand] and settle myself and not think about the other things that are going on.
And that the grandfather of it all, that OG Kush — I like to smoke it. Curren$y’s a big fan of it. There’s just nothing that’s as mellow and cool. Indicas fulfill the stereotype of marijuana being a thing that puts you in a very cool vibe, you know what I mean? It’s one of the reasons I love it.
And just as my last question, I’m curious– and you kind of alluded to it a little bit just now — if you could take us through your typical smoking ritual.
I get up and roll three of these a day. I wake and bake, I get up and do my walks, or I do the tai chi or yoga stuff. I smoke about a quarter of this and then when I’m done with that, I’ll finish the other three quarters over the process of the next two hours or so. I’ll grab food in the afternoon, I try to wait to eat till about 12 or 1 now. Usually, after I’m done with that one my wife starts moving around, we’ll share one, go have lunch, talk about the day, and do some business.
That will hold me until say about 5 or 6, just do whatever, kick it with the kids. If I have a late meeting or something I hold it and usually I smoke the last one right before I leave wherever I’m going or I’ll sit in the driveway, look at the stars on my truck bed and smoke the other half and that was my three grams for the day.