HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Judge Kane Reviews 'Drug Crazy'
Source: Denver Post (CO)
Pubdate: Sun, 28 Jun 1998
Author: John L. Kane Jr. Special to The Denver Post
John L. Kane Jr. is senior U.S. district judge, district of Colorado.

DRUG CRAZY How We Got Into This Mess And How We Can Get Out
By Mike Gray Random House, $23

June 28 - Mike Gray, an awardwinning documentary producer and author of the
original screenplay "The China Syndrome,'' has turned his formidable
dramatic talents to a page-turning look at the failure of America's "War on
Drugs.'' Opposition to that war is reaching critical mass, and Gray
provides it with devastating ammunition.

The judges, prosecutors, prison officials and police officers at the front
line of this war know from bitter experience that the nation's present
strategy is the height of folly. What they and the public may not know is
just how this chronic medical problem was transformed by lies and scare
tactics into a bottomless pit that costs federal taxpayers more than $17
billion a year. Moreover, the drug market in the United States is estimated
at $150 billion a year.

Gray describes true events that the eminent economist Milton Friedman says
are stranger than fiction. "Who would believe,'' Friedman asks, "that a
democratic government would pursue for eight decades a failed policy that
produced tens of millions of victims and trillions of dollars of illicit
profits for drug dealers, cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars,
increased crime and destroyed inner cities, fostered widespread corruption
and violations of human rights - and all with no success in achieving the
stated and unattainable objective of a drug-free America.''

According to Gray, not only are we losing the war, but we also have been
fighting the wrong battle all along. Gray spent six years researching and
writing "Drug Crazy,'' and it is packed with facts. Given his considerable
talents, Gray is successful at dramatizing the disastrous consequences of
our current policy.

For example, he says that from 1919 to 1923, while the federal government
was preoccupied with enforcing the Prohibition laws against alcohol, a
clinic in Shreveport, La., sold morphine and heroin to addicts without a
single resulting death. Crime was reduced in Shreveport, its black market
dried up and its children had no access to drugs. Apparently fearful of
local innovative programs, the federal government brought that program to a
screeching halt. Shreveport's crime rate, black market and child addiction

One of the most fascinating tales Gray tells demonstrates how the drug war
happened almost by accident, and has been exploited by political
opportunists from its inception.

It began on May 1, 1908, in Washington, D.C., when Cal O'Laughlin, the
Washington correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, sought to find a job for
41year-old Hamilton Wright, the son-in-law of one of the period's major
power brokers, W.W. Washburn, Republican senator from Minnesota. O'Laughlin
asked Wright if he would like to be a member of an opium commission about
to be appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt.

Wright knew nothing about the commission, nor did he know much about opium,
but he appreciated a sinecure when he saw one. "I saw at a glance that it
was bound to be a large and expensive bit of work,'' he said. The
commission was a creation of the U.S. State Department in the aftermath of
the Boxer Rebellion, an uprising in China against British importation of
opium and foreign domination of trade that led to massive economic
sanctions by world powers. Drug control was included merely as a means to
an end; the object was to curry favor with the Chinese in hopes of opening
up the rich China trade market.

Wright began the untrammeled fight against drugs and made it his personal
crusade. He also started a tradition of overstating facts, plumping up the
numbers and appealing to racism whenever it would fan the flames of
enthusiasm. Wright's personal drug of choice was alcohol, and he was
eventually fired by teetotaling Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan.
In search of another mission, Wright went to France as an ambulance driver
in World War I, but died as the result of injuries from an automobile
accident. His crusade, however, did not die with him.

From Wright's ignoble beginning to the present the only law that seems to
have worked in the war on drugs is the law of unintended consequences. In
1993, a former Colombian high court judge advised an American drug policy
conference that the income of the drug barons is greater than the American
defense budget. "With this financial power,'' he said, "they can suborn the
institutions of the state and . . . purchase the firepower to outgun it.''

Gray notes, "It is important to remember that this particular impending
catastrophe can be avoided with the stroke of a pen. The criminal
enterprises that now encircle us . . . the powerful, ruthless combines that
threaten to overwhelm the rule of law itself - all could be cut off by
simply the black market money tap.''

Ending the black market and cutting off the supply of funds to organized
crime, however, is not a complete answer. "Drug Crazy'' presents only the
first half of the solution. Gray's suggestions for dealing with drug
addicts through a controlled market and medical care are very sketchy. He
does not deal with the existing federal classification system for dangerous
drugs or the regulations in place that constrict appropriate medical
treatment for addicts.

Although "Drug Crazy'' is subtitled "How We Got Into This Mess and How We
Can Get Out,'' Gray hasn't really provided us with sufficient detail to
demonstrate "How We Can Get Out.'' Still "Drug Crazy'' is a book to be read
and shared. It is an essential and concise source for an intelligent
evaluation of the most avoidable, yet dire predicament facing our society.

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Checked-by: (Joel W. Johnson)