Dispatches from the war on drugs from author (Angle of Attack, 1992), screenwriter (The China Syndrome), and filmmaker (The Murder off Fred Hampton) Gray. His conclusion: We’re losing.
In 10 days, a mid-level “crack” dealer takes in $451,000. Colombian drug lords are multibillionaires. In one year, 1996, worldwide opium production increased by 20 percent. Such facts, concludes Gray, indicate that despite an 80-year battle in the US to fight drug use through prohibition, despite the U.S. government spending $300 billion in the last 15 years alone on the war on drugs, drug production, sale, and use continue unabated. Gray further contends that this war on drugs is tearing apart the social fabric of the US. Few are the government antidrug agencies not contaminated by corruption. While the vast majority of drug users are white, those convicted of drug sale or use are overwhelmingly black and Hispanic. The Constitution is regularly disregarded in the search for drug convictions. The prohibition approach to the drug problem has not worked. Prohibition—whether of alcohol in the past or drugs today--produces just the effects it aims to prevent. Forced onto the black market, drug sales will inevitably fall into the hands of the most ruthless criminals. In the search for profit, these criminals will produce those drugs that are the most profitable and the easiest to produce. Thus when the price of cocaine goes up, crack (very cheap and highly addictive) is created. Gray argues that control, not prohibition, is the answer. Marijuana use should be controlled in much the same way alcohol is; hard-core drug addicts must be allowed treatment that includes legal access to the drugs on which they are dependent. A tightly controlled legal drug market would end illicit drug trafficking and its costs in blood and money.
Gray’s analysis is, of course, controversial. It is, however, argued eloquently and persuasively, and deserves a hearing.