While others are using 4/20 to toke the day away, film director Rodney “Mehka” King is using it as time to elevate the conversation with his sophomore documentary project, The Color Green: Cash, Color and Cannabis. This film covers some key cannabis topics that affect minorities: past drug policies that have been proven to be racially biased and enforced; mass incarceration epidemic; ownership for minorities; and legalization, or lack thereof. The Color Green examines the declassification of cannabis in the United States, and where minorities, who bore the brunt of the destructive drug laws, fit in the new multibillion dollar industry. It also explores the stigma and propaganda associated with cannabis, the ineffective war on the drugs and how its racially biased policies impacted minority communities, just how differently two different generations view cannabis, and how minorities can turn these new laws into a way to heal, live and build a legacy.
Highlighting Atlanta, Washington, D.C.; New York City, New Jersey and Boston, Massachusetts, the filmmaker speaks with cannabis professionals, journalists, politicians, experts, celebrities about this new “Green Rush,” and how it could benefit a group of people once terrorized by it.
The documentary features key interviews with Attorney Brandon Wyatt, VP of development for Leafhead Charles Johnson, Georgia lobbyist Michael Hempzar, Hydro Wars creator Hydro Yo, hip-hop and urban legend Branson, Cannabis Industry Advisor co-founder Sabria Still, emcee and ganjapreneur Ben Familiar and more.
Here’s what King had to say.
How did you arrive at this career choice? Was it a deliberate decision or a gradual and natural evolution?
My choice was deliberate. I’ve wanted to be a music journalist for as long as I can remember. I’ve been blessed to be able to have stories magazines I grew up reading and later, working with blogs over the years. As I writer, I started to see the the industry trending away from print stories and longform stories and more towards using video. I want to continue my career, telling stories and the only way to really do that in a way that I felt would be effective was to find some camera people and start documenting my stories in a new way.
What separates you from others in your field? What is unique to the experience that you create?
What separates me from others is my ability to move with the times. Even now, I’m producing a documentary called, The Color Green: Cash, Color and Cannabis. The film is about the legal cannabis industry and why people of color aren’t joining the industry as you would think they should be. It is an industry our culture has aided in building. I felt that this was such a unique topic that most media outlets wouldn’t really know what to do with it. So when we got to the point where we had a trailer ready for the film, rather than lean on blogs and social media to get word out about the film we held live screenings. We would partner with an event or find a venue, and block out time where we can show the trailer to people live. The response was great. We are doing two more trailer screenings this week in Atlanta.
For those considering entering this arena, what skill sets do you recommend mastering? What traits are most conducive to success?
I would say organization and learning when to take something out of your hands. I’m learning how to master both of those things everyday. It’s crucial for you to be organized when it comes to producing content, because there are so many moving parts to work with. It’s another reason when you have to learn when to turn work over to someone else and when to handle it yourself.
How do you stay at the leading edge of your craft?
I spend a lot of time outside. Living in Atlanta, I’m able to use MARTA all day. Doing that, I’m able to see music and fashion trends come to life and hear conversations from people about what’s really concerning them. That helps me the most. I try to stay in tune with the world as it moves.
Do you think there are widely held misconceptions about what you do? If so, what are they and how do you work to dispel them?
I’m sure there are. I’ve been writing professionally since 2007. I’ve watched so many people come and go and change careers and life goals that’s it shouldn’t be a shock that someone would be confused with how you work or how you are able to bring things together. The most I can say is, that’s a process that we all will go through. If you’re working for any period of time and someone doesn’t ask, “What do they really do?” then you didn’t make enough noise in the first place.
How do you map out your goals? How do you measure your success?
I measure success by how relevant the work we produce is and how lasting it can be. I don’t want to be part of anything that’s for the moment. I would want to see a link or see a screening for something I produced 20-years from now and know that the questions asked and the story told can still be relevant.
Who do you consider to be your peers in your field? Who do you see or use as examples to emulate?
There are a lot of people I admire. I’m a huge fan of Spike Lee when it comes to film. I really look up to Reggie Osse from the media side of things. I really love how Reggie went from The Source to launching his podcast and building it the way he has.
Name two of your top role models: one from your industry and one from outside of it.
Reggie Osse from the media side. LeBron James. I really admire how he’s managed to be a star athlete, while developing so many other outside businesses.
Name three books, works, performances or exhibits that changed how you view life, yourself or both.
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, Hoop Dreams and Jay Z’s Reasonable Doubt.
Why do you consider continued learning important?
I’ve learned from my mother that continuing to learn new things and being open to new ways of doing things is key to living a productive life. You can’t stay stuck in the past while the world is moving in another direction.
What affirmations do you repeat to yourself that contribute to your success?
It’s OK to be happy when other people are not.
What role does technology play in your day-to-day life? How do you utilize it?
Huge. From phones to tablets, to software and apps. You have to keep up because things will change from minute-to-minute.
What software, app or other technological innovation has made the biggest difference in your life or career?
It was an app and I’d say Twitter. Twitter streamlined communication in a way that Myspace couldn’t and it really helped my brand myself over the last few years before Instagram became popular.
Please define your personal brand.
We craft the stories that become the culture.
What is your favorite vacation destination and why?
Boston. I [was] born and raised in Boston, so every time I go home is a great moment.
If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
I would have free internet. I think the internet is a library of information and if I can go to the library for free, why should I have to pay for use the internet?
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would become way more patient.
What does it take to be iconic? In your estimation, who has achieved that status?
Becoming iconic means that your brand stood the test of time. I think Jay Z is an icon because of that. He went from being an artist to being an executive. His purchase of Tidal and his partnership with Harvey Weinstein is going to help his trendsetter tag live for another four decades.
What keeps you inspired?
Knowing that I have a good team of people around me, family and business who keep me motivated.
What Scripture(s) are you leaning on?
Philippians 4:13 I say it to myself constantly.
How do you stay connected with fans?
Aside from doing events and screenings, social media.
What’s on your playlist?
As of this week, I have Kendrick Lamar, Playboi Carti, Don Q, MadeinTYO, Killa Kyleon.
Where did you vacation this summer?
I don’t. We have to make trips to L.A. and one to Denver before we close out production and go into edit for The Color Green: Cash, Color and Cannabis. This summer will probably be like summer school for me. Less fun and a whole lot of sitting in a room.