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America's century-long love affair with dope-busting is the subject of Mike Gray's engrossing Drug Crazy: How We Got Into This Mess and How We Can Get Out. Gray is a Hollywood screenwriter and director with a jones for muckraking -- he co-authored The China Syndrome and produced a documentary titled The Murder of Fred Hampton.
From the 1914 Harrison Narcotics Act to the current blooming of medical marijuana in Arizona and California, Gray covers the usual historical landmarks with entertaining twists. Although he is indisposed to prohibition, his easy-to-read, fast-moving polemic has the feel of fairness. The true beauty of the book, the forest behind the trees, is its Voltaire-level refutation of the Church of Drug Enforcement. Gray seems particularly good at reporting the social and political context of destructive policy decisions. For example, a bogus 1909 cure for opium addiction prepared the way for the cruel Just-Say-Cold-Turkey attitude of our earliest narcotics laws. His chapters on the hemispheric quagmire created by exporting our drug war south of the border makes you want to burn Old Glory.
Gray sees an escape route running through Holland and Great Britain. Hamstrung by a United Nations treaty, the Dutch cannot easily legalize marijuana. But they have found a loophole -- tolerance. Small sales of weed are permitted in no-hassle coffee shops under government supervision. In theory, this keeps Dutch youth off the harder stuff by socializing the use of the non-addictive leaf. In practice, the trade-off appears to be working. Experimentation with heroin and cocaine has dropped steadily among Dutch teenagers while the marijuana-using population doubled between 1988 and 1992. The increase, of course, looks like red meat to the zero-tolerance crowd. But Gray points out that use by American teens likewise doubled in the same period, "despite the most repressive prohibition in history."
As for the cocaine- and heroin-afflicted, Gray describes the success of an old-fashioned, now heretical maintenance program in a Liverpool clinic where clients were dispensed their daily doses and expected to carry on with their lives. What happened? No HIV, high employment and a 94 percent fall in client crime. Naturally, the clinic was closed down. So how insane is the U.S. about drugs? Tobacco and alcohol are licensed to kill in the millions, but a few grams of gentle cannabis can land you in jail, forfeit your house and lose you your job -- unless you are Rep. Dan Burton's son (his stash included eight pounds and 30 plants) or play for the Dutch-oriented National Basketball Association. --Salon June 10, 1998
|1. A TALE OF TWO CITIES--CHICAGO: 1995/1925||3|
|2. MAY IT PLEASE THE COURT||23|
|3. LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT||39|
|4. THE DEVIL AND HARRY ANSLINGER||65|
|5. ADDICTION TO DISASTER||93|
|6. THE RIVER OF MONEY||111|
|7. MONTEZUMA'S REVENGE||133|
|8. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE||145|
|9. LESSONS FROM THE OLD COUNTRY||153|
|10. REEFER MADNESS||171|
|11. PRESCRIPTION FOR SANITY||183|
|U.S. MURDER RATE||200|
|FEDERAL DRUG WAR BUDGET, 1981-1993||201|
|STATE AND FEDERAL PRISON POPULATION, 1966-1996||202|
|APPENDIX B: AN ACTIVIST'S GUIDE||203|
Posted October 28, 2001
When I was young and naive, I thought we were too soft on the drug war- now I want it to end. A big reason for that, (besides adulthood wiping away your naivete and the propaganda you drank as a youth), is this book and how well it presents the facts in one place. It traces the earliest 'drug war'- prohibition- and gives you FACTS in the form of studies and numerous references, not these hazy sound bites or unsupported allegations you hear but have never seen evidence on. The laws concerning mandatory minimums are disproportionate to other crimes, people are given incentive to rat on others, property rights laws are swept aside -seized first, proved guilty later- in pursuit of this crime that is mainly committed by consenting adults. A real eye opener. Our money and resources are better spent elsewhere than on this 'war' that is eating up the US and putting so many people in prison that they are hugely overcrowded with nonviolent drug offenders. Where are we going to put the REAL bad guys- murderers, rapists, terrorists?Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.