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Freebase form of cocaine remains on the streets, but much less so than three decades ago
Notorious Los Angeles drug dealer alleges Miami hip-hop icon stole his identity and likeness
A Philadelphia study found no gap in health and life outcomes for babies exposed to crack versus ones who weren’t
FREEWAY: CRACK IN THE SYSTEM tells the story of broken dreams, drug dealers, dirty cops, and government complicity. More compelling than fiction, it's the real story behind America's war on drugs. This documentary by award-winning filmmaker Marc Levin (SLAM, Mr. Untouchable, Brick City) exposes how the infiltration of crack cocaine destroyed inner-city neighborhoods across the country. At the center of it all is the rise, fall and redemption of "Freeway" Rick Ross, a street hustler who became the King of Crack, and journalist Gary Webb, who broke the story of the CIA's complicity in the drug war.
The subjects reveal a crack in the system that implicates the centers of power in our government, their mass incarceration policies and militarization of police, the spread of gangs and guns, and the loss of entire generations to the war on drugs.
Freeway Rick — not to be confused with the Miami rapper, Rick Ross, who took the Los Angeles dealer's name and identity — built a drug empire that spread crack cocaine across the country, ruining millions of lives but profoundly influencing street culture in its wake.
Throughout the film are interviews with Freeway Rick and his crew, including his mother Anne Ross, former girlfriend and drug dealer Marilyn Stubblefield, and former dealers Cornell Ward, Ollie Newell, and Norman Tillman. For the first time, we hear from a key Nicaraguan trafficker, Julio Zavala, who worked with the CIA-backed Contras and Oscar Danilo Blandón to supply Ross with tons of cocaine.
Former LA Sheriffs Deputy in the Narcotics Unit, Roberto Juarez, and top undercover DEA agent, Mike Levine, tell of the devastating spread of crack and the hunt for Freeway Rick and his crew. More so, they reveal the government complicity and police corruption behind the scenes during the crack era. Hearings on Capitol Hill led by then-Senator John Kerry investigated the shocking connection between the CIA and the influx of cocaine during the Reagan and Bush administrations. At the same time, harsh new laws sent thousands of young men to prison for years with little chance for rehabilitation.
Not until the fateful meeting between an unlikely source, Coral Baca, and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gary Webb of the San Jose Mercury News, did the full story, “Dark Alliance,” come to light. The resulting controversy was explosive, especially in the African-American community. At first celebrated as a hero, Webb soon found himself discredited by major media, which led his paper to back away from the story, ultimately destroying his career and leading to his untimely death. His story is featured in the Focus Features film, “Kill the Messenger,” starring Jeremy Renner. Quincy Jones, III conducted the last major interview with Gary Webb just days before his death, which is featured in FREEWAY: CRACK IN THE SYSTEM.
Freeway Rick describes learning to read in prison, one phonic at a time while serving his life sentence, until he could read the law books that would set him free. Now, he goes to schools and juvenile detention facilities to talk with students and inmates about the importance of literacy. As he works to take back his life, he is also attempting to take back his name from Rick Ross the rapper, who has made millions glamorizing street life and the drug trade.
New pardon attorney to oversee vast clemency effort to roll back unduly harsh punishments
It erases different penalties for crack and cocaine, which critics say amounts to racial discrimination
Commutations follow president's signing of legislation in 2010 that reduced severity of cocaine penalties
Renowned documentary photographer Eugene Richards recorded the brutal realities facing communities affected by crack
In 1986, lawmakers wrote new mandatory crack cocaine penalties in a few short days, using the advice of a perjurer.
Andre Badley, imprisoned in 1997 for dealing crack, could spend his life behind bars while bigger dealers go free
Thousands of prisoners are serving drug sentences now considered unjust. Their last hope is clemency from the president.
Nearly three decades after America revived harsh mandatory minimum drug penalties, lawmakers are trying to roll them back
The violent imagery of crack conjured during the drug wars of the 1980s has faded, replaced by a more mundane portrait