Pubdate: Wed, 26 Jun 2013
Source: New York Daily News (NY)
Copyright: 2013 Daily News, L.P.
Author: Justin Rocket Silverman


Grenier Says Drug War Needs a Fix

Drug-dealing is like any business: There's risk, there's reward, and 
now there's a how-to guide for those eager to get rich or die trying. 
Enter "How to Make Money Selling Drugs," director Matthew Cooke's 
film, opening today, which is just what its title suggests: a 
step-by-step guide on how to rise from a street dealer to an 
international kingpin. Along the way, it makes a searing criticism of 
America's "war on drugs," which last year cost the nation an 
estimated $25 billion.

It's this criticism that attracted former "Entourage" star Adrian 
Grenier, a longtime friend of Cooke's, to co-produce the movie.

"At the bare minimum, the militarized, SWAT-team approach to dealing 
with the demand for drugs is wrong," Grenier tells the Daily News. 
"It's worse than the drug use itself, I would say."

Putting out a film that depicts drug dealers as persecuted 
entrepreneurs rather than opportunistic outlaws - while glorifying 
the narcotics trade for its excitement and earnings - drew heat and 
made it hard to find insiders willing to appear on camera.

"The most difficult thing was trying to convince people to speak 
openly and candidly," Grenier says. "We've been conditioned for so 
many years that drug dealers are inherently evil and should be put in 
jail, that they threaten our communities and we should fear them."

In the film, viewers meet a midlevel cocaine dealer who gives tips 
for success in his highly illegal work, which can pay over $1,000 a 
day, he claims. (Hints: Keep customers at a distance, but be fair and 
friendly, have a stash spot for drugs and money, and have an exit 
strategy ready.)

Despite the controversial content, a number of big names did agree to 
be interviewed, including Eminem, Susan Sarandon, Russell Simmons and 
Woody Harrelson - already a critic of the drug war and an advocate 
for legalization of marijuana.

Rapper 50 Cent (born Curtis Jackson in South Jamaica, Queens) details 
how he learned the dealing life early, as his mother began selling 
when he was young. She became an established and feared drug pusher 
before being killed when Jackson was 8.

As Jackson explains in the film, his mom's dealer friends supported 
him as a young boy, bringing him into the business by giving him his 
first "eight ball" of cocaine to sell when he was 12.

They also gave him very specific instructions if anyone challenged 
his right to sell on the street: He was just to say who gave him the 
coke, and then he'd be left alone ... mostly.

Cops apparently didn't get the memo, and after multiple arrests 
Jackson says he made the decision to retire from dealing. As the film 
explains, for those who aren't killed in the trade, prison time is a 
given. Cooke's film claims the drug war has led the U.S. to put more 
of its citizens in jail than any other nation.

"We hunt the poor and incarcerate them at levels unheard of in other 
parts of the world," says David Simon, who spent years as a crime 
reporter in Baltimore before creating HBO's acclaimed series "The Wire."

Grenier says he hopes the marquee names in the film will give "How to 
Make Money Selling g Drugs" a crossover appeal that previous docs on 
the drug war have lacked.

The self-help style - think "How to Win Friends & Influence People" 
for the "Breaking Bad" " era - could assist.

In the end, Grenier sees the film as a meditation on decriminalization.

"First and foremost, let's stop throwing people in jail for 
nonviolent drug offenses," Grenier says.
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