Drug Crazy: How We Got into this Mess & How We Can Get Outby Michael Gray
Six years in the making, Drug Crazy offers a gripping account of the stunning violence, corruption, and chaos that have characterized America's drug war since its inception in 1914. Weaving a provocative analogy between the drug scene today and the failure of Prohibition in the 1920s, Drug Crazy argues that the greatest danger we face is prohibition
Six years in the making, Drug Crazy offers a gripping account of the stunning violence, corruption, and chaos that have characterized America's drug war since its inception in 1914. Weaving a provocative analogy between the drug scene today and the failure of Prohibition in the 1920s, Drug Crazy argues that the greatest danger we face is prohibition itself.
While the target of our nation's controlled-substance laws may have shifted from hooch to heroin, the impact on societydiscriminatory policing, demonization of the users, graft and grandstanding among lawmakers and lawbreakersis an instant replay. Instead of Al Capone, we have Larry Hoover of Chicago's Gangster Disciples running a multimillion-dollar drug syndicate from his prison cell in Joliet.
In a riveting account of how we got here, conventional wisdom is turned on its head, and we find that rather than a planned assault on the scourge of addiction, the drug war happened almost by accident but has been continually exploited by political opportunists.
From the explosive opening montage of undercover cops caught in a shoot-out on Chicago's South Side to a humid courtroom in Malaysia where a young American faced death by hanging for possession of marijuana, Drug Crazy takes us to the front lines of the war on drugs and introduces us to a cast of villains and heroes, profiteers and victims. Among them:
¸ Pauline Morton Sabin, a Republican aristocrat who administered the coup de grâce to Prohibition by leading a million women into the arms of the Democrats.
¸ Harry Anslinger, a former railroad cop who guided the Bureau of Narcotics through five administrations and engineered some of the most enduring and pernicious myths of the drug war.
¸ Pablo Escobar Gaviria, the Colombian kingpin who nailed a suspected informer with a bombkilling him along with a hundred innocent airline passengers.
From the men and women in the forward trenches, Drug Crazy brings back a grim report: The situation is deteriorating on all fronts. In a sobering tally of the cost in crime, human suffering, and cold, hard cash, it documents the failure of crop eradication in the source countries, the hopeless task of sealing the border, and the violent world of the major players. We see the steady erosion of the Bill of Rights and a grinding criminal justice mill so overwhelmed that it's running a night shift.
We do, however, get a glimpse of a way out of this swamp. Lessons from Europeand from our own experienceare pointing us toward higher ground.
In Drug Crazy, Mike Gray has launched a frontal assault on America's drug war orthodoxy, and his frightening overview of the battlefield makes it clear this urgent debate must begin now.
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
- Random House Publishing Group
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- Product dimensions:
- 5.89(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.09(d)
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Meet the Author
Mike Gray, author of The China Syndrome, grew up in Indiana and graduated from Purdue University with a degree in engineering. In 1962, he formed his own film company in Chicago, which produced the award-winning documentaries American Revolution and The Murder of Fred Hampton. Since moving to Los Angeles, he has been writing, directing, and producing feature films and series for television.
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