HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html 'Drug Crazy' Challenges Mind-Set Of Policymakers
Source: Dallas Morning News
Pubdate: Sun, 05 Jul 1998
Section: BOOKS section of Sunday Reader
Reviewer: Bob Ramsey
Note: Fort Worth financial analyst Bob Ramsey is a board member of the Drug
Policy Forum of Texas.

Social Issues


Drug Crazy: How We Got Into This Mess, and How We Can Get Out

By Mike Gray / (Random House, $23)

One of these days, somebody is going to make a lot of money writing a book
about the drug war. Mike Gray's Drug Crazy is good enough to be the one.

His style is an easy read. It's refreshing to see the writer of a
successful movie (China Syndrome) take facts and spin them into an emotive
yarn. From the opening chapter, "Chicago: 1995/1925," I was drawn in by his
skillful sequencing. He describes the present, then goes back to
Prohibition and tells the same story with similar developments based on
identical incentives.

He points out the "chilling similarity" of Chicago's neighborhoods in both
decades, just with different drugs and younger faces.

Mr. Gray almost resists editorializing, but about three times in the book
he inserts his message that prohibition is destroying our social fabric.

Chapters are devoted to basics of the drug problem - the history of U.S.
drug laws, the flow of contraband - all revolving around the torrents of
money involved. His alternatives focus on cutting off the money, justified
with such statements as: The rate of heroin addiction has always been three
people per thousand, no matter what the policy toward it.

Mr. Gray interweaves stories illustrating the progression of the drug
business. The downfall of Colombia proceeded from the kidnapping of a
dealer's daughter that united Colombia's traffickers into a cartel, through
thousands of slayings including all anti-cartel Supreme Court members,
until the last incorruptible Colombian justice minister gathered her family
and disappeared into a U.S. witness protection program.

His account of Mexico describes the wave of violence and corruption moving
north like killer bees. Prospects for stopping it are grim since "the
income of the drug barons is greater than the American defense budget."
Victory is so remote that "after a seventy-year battle against illegal
narcotics, it is now possible to walk out the door of the White House and
do a drug deal across the street."

Mr. Gray approaches prohibition's alternatives by describing what other
countries have tried. His centerpiece of the "British System" is the story
of Maureen, an Irish woman in her mid-30s "who could easily be taken for a
businesswoman or a teacher." Her heroin addiction cast her and her three
children into dire circumstances. The British practice of heroin
maintenance changed her life instantly, and Mr. Gray portrays her
experience in terms that ring gut-level true.

Mr. Gray closes by noting that drug policy is the first area to be
dramatically affected by easy information access on the Internet, and he
appends an annotated list of Internet addresses. For the first time in 80
years of drug prohibition, people with access to all sides of the
discussion can inform themselves. And Mr. Gray's very readable book is a
good start.

 1998 The Dallas Morning News 
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Checked-by: Richard Lake