Twin comedians and law school dropouts Keith and Kenny Lucas have a peculiar solution for ending police brutality against Black men: "You just got to give every Black dude a two-to-five-minute cameo in a movie with Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum."
That line, which comes from their new Netflix special, "Lucas Bros.: On Drugs," is based in some reality. As the duo explained to us over the phone, their brief appearance alongside the White A-list actors in the buddy cop comedy "22 Jump Street" frequently endears them to real police officers.
"We were literally in Arkansas, riding around in police cars [while filming], and we had weed on us the entire time," says Kenny. "The cops had a police dog, didn't care. Nobody gave a shit about what we were doing."
"This was in a Trump county, we saw a Confederate flag," adds Keith. "If we were supposed to get arrested at any moment, that was it. And somehow, it was cool. They let us pet the dog, it was a surreal moment."
Still, as they explain in the Netflix special, the War on Drugs has left its painful mark on their family. Their father went to prison early in their lives for selling drugs, and several other family members either endured incarceration or stigma for dealing or using crack and heroin. They mine their tragedy for laughs throughout "On Drugs," laconically trading punchlines about drug criminalization and their marijuana use on a stage outfitted with cardboard cutouts of Richard Nixon, the president who kickstarted the War on Drugs to discredit Black resistance.
To celebrate 4/20, a day long associated with marijuana decriminalization and advocacy, we spoke to the Lucas Bros. about their comedy, their plans to fight for legalization and why the scarlet letter of a drug felony shouldn't lock formerly incarcerated people of color out the cannabis industry. Here's a version of that interview, edited and condensed for clarity and length.
Why did you center this special so much on the War on Drugs?
Kenny: We both thought that drug policy had a weird impact on our lives. Our father was arrested for crimes connected to the drug war, and Keith went to Duke University for law school, where Richard Nixon studied law. I imagine that's where Nixon probably conjured up some semblance of the drug policy he enacted while in office. I thought that was kind of a weird connection. Also, we dabble in drugs, weed in particular.
Keith: We smoke tons of marijuana but we've also tried other drugs. But it’s not the trying of the drugs, it's also being exposed to the culture and how people who smoke marijuana are. Freedom tends to be emphasized, and we've been studying freedom since we've been studying philosophy. That's something we wanted to implement throughout the special.
Despite the energy around legalizing and decriminalizing marijuana across the country, Black people are still disproportionately arrested for marijuana crimes and frozen out of the cannabis economy because of laws preventing those with felonies from operating dispensaries. What do you think should be done to end these disparities?
Kenny: You first and foremost have to immediately decriminalize marijuana. I think you should expunge criminal records associated with drug abuse and assess to what extent the guys were drug dealers. If it's just a small possession, I think that should get expunged.
Keith: Or you can levy fines. There are ways to penalize a person without eradicating them from the process.
Kenny: We attempt to shift the narrative on felons when they get out of prison and try to rejoin the workforce. We have to figure out a way to allow them to better transition into the workforce, so that they're not walking around with a scarlet letter for the rest of their lives over a simple drug possession.
Keith: Absolutely, we certainly want to delve more into the advocacy side and be more active in the industry in general.
Kenny: I want to talk with [the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws] and figure out some sort of campaign to get the message out that marijuana legalization is probably the best path. I would love to start writing more and get the message out that way as well.
Do you think wider-spread legalization is possible under the Trump administration?
Keith: I think so. We're just going to have to fight harder than we ever fought, and change is inevitable. The resistance is going to be a lot stronger in this administration, but we’re fighters, so we'll be fine.
"Lucas Bros.: On Drugs" is now available to stream on Netflix. The brothers previously created and starred in the Fox/FXX animated series, "Lucas Bros. Moving Co.," and the Comedy Central online talk show, "The Super Late Morning Show with the Lucas Brothers."