How, where and why the United States lost the “War on Drugs.”
Bill Hicks once cracked, “I loved when Bush came out and said, ‘We are losing the war against drugs.’ You know what that implies? There’s a war being fought, and the people on drugs are winning it!” Hicks would have loved Martin and Rashidian’s cogent, well-sourced and ambitious analysis of the slow decline of cannabis prohibition in the United States. The authors frame the book squarely in the recent passage of Colorado’s Amendment 66 and Washington state’s Initiative 502, both of which legalized the drug for recreational use during the 2012 elections, and the narrative opens on those victory ceremonies. But then the authors dig deeper with interviews with figures like Valerie Corral, the “Mother Teresa of Pot,” who first formed her medical marijuana collective in California two decades ago. There’s also Colorado’s Mason Tvert, a subversive activist who used the media to deliver his message in a way that made sense to the state’s middle class. The authors talked to the activists at Montana Cannabis, where, two years ago, federal agents raided the sedate grow house by coming in with guns blazing. Martin and Rashidian ably ferret out counterintuitive trends, like the fact that much of the opposition to Colorado’s law came not from law enforcement but from those involved in the drug trade. They also examine the fallout and blowback of the drug wars, ranging from the brutal violence that continues to plague the Mexican border to the terrifying buildup of the federal prison population to nearly 7 million inmates, a majority felled by drug convictions and many by the illogical “three-strike rule.”
Not as much fun as Cheech and Chong, but a piercing work of sociological reportage.