It's the biggest movie of the summer. Not the biggest budget, or the biggest box office, but the most important. I'm talking about the new documentary "How to Make Money Selling Drugs," which will be released in theaters and on-demand June 26.
Written and directed by Matthew Cooke, and produced by Bert Marcus and Adrian Grenier, "How to Make Money Selling Drugs" exposes the hypocrisy and insane destructiveness of the drug war at every level. Of course, the problem with saying a movie is "important" is that it seems like you're saying it isn't entertaining. That's certainly not the case with this film. The director's goal, as he put it, borrowing from Malcolm X, was to effect change "by the most entertaining means necessary." Or, as Hamlet said, "The play is the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king." Or, in the case, the public, which will in turn catch the conscience of the king.
Huffington Post reporter Radley Balko, and Russell Simmons. (And, full disclosure, a cameo by me.)
But the reason the film truly feels like a blockbuster is because you can't leave the theater without being absolutely shocked and outraged by what's going on. Even if you go in feeling like you're well-versed in the insanity of the drug war, you'll leave even more stunned. That was the case for me. I've been passionate about this issue for years. Having dealt with addiction in my own family, I feel particularly strongly about the necessity of treating it as the health issue it is, as opposed to a criminal problem.
On no issue are the cowardice and hypocrisy of our elected leaders writ larger than in the drug war. Nor anywhere are the consequences -- in lives and in money -- more staggering.
Even in its use of the experience of drug dealers as its narrative device, the film shows how destructive the drug war is on the country as a whole. "I think we're led to believe we're a nation of two types: criminals and citizens," writes Cooke in his director's statement. "But truly we are one people. If we are divided by anything it's by two conversations. The truth Americans speak on the streets. And the conversation between our commercial news and Washington elites, blasted across our media -- drowning the rest of us out."
That's why it's so important that that we all lend our voices to the sane conversation, so that it can build and reach Washington and finally overwhelm the entrenched forces that keep this disastrous war -- a war not on drugs but rather, as Cooke writes, "on people" -- going year after devastating year.
Neill Franklin is executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a nonprofit representing more than 5,000 law enforcement workers opposed to the drug war. He's also a 34-year veteran in the Baltimore and Maryland police departments. From his very credentialed perspective, Franklin writes in The Huffington Post about how futile it is to focus on the supply end. For inner city children, drug dealing "often means the only avenue of escape from a life of poverty."
And there's also the opportunity costs of having our limited law enforcement resources focused so much on the futile drug war. As Franklin notes, as the drug war has grown, the national percentage of murders that get solved has dropped, going from 91 percent in 1963 to 61 percent in 2007.
"We cannot arrest our way out of this problem," he concludes. "Take it from someone who tried for 34 years."
Back in 2001, I wrote about the how I hoped the movie "Traffic" would ignite a conversation about the drug war. And for a while it did. But then it fizzled out again, and perhaps many of us took the president at his word that he would change the drug war. And, yes, progress has been made at the state level -- but only in a few states. And while the momentum of demographic change will hopefully keep that progress going, we need to maintain a sense of urgency. Because every day counts. I hope there will come a day when the government no longer wages this insane and destructive war against its own citizens. But how many lives are still going to be destroyed before that happens?
So please, get involved. Or, I should say, get more involved, since we're all involved in this war in one way or another. See this film. And then you're going to want to get more involved.
(Arianna Huffington is president and editor-in-chief of Huffington Post Media Group. Her email address is email@example.com.)
Shining a light on the insanity of the drug war
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