American Drug War: The Last White Hope

American Drug War: The Last White Hope

2007, Crime  -   45 Comments
Ratings: 8.26/10 from 91 users.

American Drug War follows filmmaker Kevin Booth as he consults with people on all fronts of the war on drugs to create a multidimensional portrait of those impacted most directly, from users and dealers to law enforcement officials and politicians.

Examining the role of poverty in drug use and its perpetuation of the addiction cycle, Booth and his crew go undercover to infiltrate one of the most notorious drug hotbeds outside of Los Angeles to capture footage of street junkies in action. In one vignette he captures a conversation between a police officer and an addict who is disoriented enough to be using directly in front of the police station. The man explains his preference for crack over meth as casually as if he were comparing Coke to Pepsi.

With street drugs now stronger, more readily available, and cheaper than in 1973 when Richard Nixon created the Drug Enforcement Agency, Booth asks why so much time and money is funneled into the criminalization of recreational drugs instead of recovery and addiction support programs. He highlights the futility of criminalizing drugs like methamphetamine, which can be made at home with over the counter ingredients, and questions the dubious entity that is the Partnership for a Drug-Free America - an America which has never existed and, according to interviewee Judge James P. Gray of California's Orange County Superior Court, never will.

While Booth speaks to law enforcement officials like Gray who admit to the failure of the drug war, he also grants time to its proponents, notably Arizona's Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Boasting a reputation as the toughest sheriff in America, Arpaio created S.M.A.R.T. Tents, the largest tent city in the U.S., if not the world, where he houses convicted inmates - about half of whom are there on drug charges.

These are just a few of the stories shared in American Drug War, a dynamic review of the history of the war on drugs in the United States and the societal burden it has created as a result. Genuinely questioning the impact and shortcomings of the United States' war on drugs, it manages to be an unbiased, revelatory film.

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5 years ago

Which book talks about the beginning of the drug trafficking in Detroit back in the 60's and 70's.

5 years ago

Decriminalization is the answer. But how do you shut down the government war machine?

7 years ago

At the end of the show you said Ricky Ross was granted early release from prison. Then a couple minutes later you said he was in prison and his phone privileges were suspended.

7 years ago

Good documentary, just two side notes:
- at about 1:28:20 the documentary maker calls the city of Amsterdam a country, im from the Netherlands so i noticed this :D
- like someone mentioned earlier in the comments, the idea that weed is not a dangerous drug is untrue. Im 27 years old and have been smoking weed since i was about 14-15 but i have to say that weed is not without its dangers. Ture, you will not overdose but you can get mental problems when you abuse the substance. Someone I know actually had a psychosis because he didnt have a job and was smoking hasjies all day.

Randy Ehrler
9 years ago

I am an advocate for the free market. A true free market, where in
individuals produce necessary goods and sell them at a reasonable profit to others. I am not in favor of the “free market” in which we live, wherein markets and “needs” are manufactured through the manipulation and brainwashing. Through advertising, marketing, PR. celebrity endorsements and the constant, never ending message that you are what you own, wear and drive - that you must buy something and participate in the marketplace to be happy.

American Drug War: The Last White Hope is an excellent depiction of a corrupt free market. Reaching far beyond drugs, it provides us with an image of an economy trapped in the need to keep spending simply to be able to keep spending.

Think about the “healthcare” industry, pharmaceuticals, prisons, government agencies, police, courts, rehab and so on - all of them profit from sickness, disease, crime and brokenness. They may speak of their pursuit of solutions and cures, but follow the money, what incentive is there in a cure. Solutions to problems means the problem goes away. So to would the budgets, salaries, bonuses, perks, power and prestige of servicing the “problem.”

The two biggest employers in my county are the public school district and the local hospital. Add on all of the ancillary business who service these two entities and you have a HUGE revenue stream. They produce nothing but consume much.

The hospital is in a constant state of construction - building, expanding, growing - all to better service the never ending stream of sick people flowing through its doors. Cancer and heart disease seem to be its biggest draws - they have buildings of their own. What would they do if there was an actual cure for cancer? Better yet, what if people did not get sick in the first place? That would be unacceptable.

Private and public entities driven by profit require an expanding revenue base - they need to grow. This might be “okay” for Pepsi, but is it for Cancer, AIDS, mental illness, drug addiction, prisons and other social ills? Regardless of anyones opinion, money drives this bus, and these industries are booming. This documentary speaks to the prison industry, but I think it would be safe to apply the same logic to these other

For your consideration:

The private prison industry exceeds $40 Billion dollars annually. - America’s Drug War: The Last White Hope

“Here’show private prison works. You pay someone to build a big, fancy cage. Then, you fill the cage up as full as you can, which is pretty full. Thepeople who paid you to build the cage will then pay you $40-50K a year to keep them in the cage. Keeping 5,000 people in a cage at the rate of $40-50K per year is a lot of money. Then, on top of that, they can use these people as their own private property. They can make them do work or produce goods for [the cage builders] profit - what a great deal [forthe cage builder]. Now, where I come from, when you transform a person into a piece of property that is called slavery.” - Jeff Blackburn, Civil Rights Attorney

“During a debate with Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey, he, with a big smile on his face, bragged that his office (Office of National Drug Control Policy) was getting a budget increase in the coming year from $17B to $18.5B. If you expect someone who controls that much money to be in favor of change (or real solutions) think again, of course they are not, because money is power.” - James Gray, Superior Court, Orange County, CA

“I think that the prevailing view on Wall Street is anyone stupid enough to buy drugs deserves to die and if you can make money from them while they are doing it that’s great. If that’s imposing a crime wave on a community away from Wall Street that’s okay, there is no drug crime on Wall Street.” - Robert Steele, Former CIA Agent

Ultimately, profit seeks profit. The lines begin to gray. The above logic can apply to credit card debt, various loans, payday scams, low-paying jobs and any other private struggle. We have a mythos in our culture of independence and self-reliance. This has created a tremendous out for big business and other industries. While they spends fortunes to influences elections, voting decision and the consumers mind, they then claim we are responsible for our decisions. They have no complicity in what happens. If you were dumb enough to sign the agreement for the credit card at 35% interest you deserve to be punished by an endless cycle of late fees, interest payments, garnished wages and shame. No
opinion registered regarding the morality of any loan at that interest
rate. Profit is our God. That is the truth. No matter the cost.

Don’t believe me, just think about it.

10 years ago

And this is how you create a "Security State".
10 years ago

YES,,THIS IS COMPLETE MADDNESS....make all drugs legal already...this is a HEALTH PROBLEM..not a crime..unless uhurt someone like drinking and driving type of deal....this is big BUSINESS 4THE JUSTICE...our free mason justice system...lots of work 4the RCMP// LAWYERS they r trying to make burning GRASS ''' ILLEGAL''' .....when they come to arrest u 4burning,,,RESTORING NATURE...just tell them to F..OFF....and then charge them....

11 years ago

The war on drugs has been a sham and continues to be. Ever since I can remember it's been portrayed as something done for the benefit of the population. However when you look at the facts and the history of it, it becomes abundantly clear that it's really rooted in racism, greed and lying to the public. Rather than address the demand for drugs the US government has opted to incarcerate non violent drug offenders in prisons where they can be brutalised and used as slave labour, how does that make the world a safer place?

12 years ago

Chris Myers is correct, making something illegal immediately pushes up the black market value. Just like it did when people wanted to make money in the 30's and form prohibition on alcohol. It is a considered choice by Governments and authorities to make Big Bucks for themselves and there co conspirators.
I wont generalize and say all, but the minority that is involved is controlling the majority.
Once upon a time it may have begun with the best intentions but now..... watch "The Prison Industrial Complex" for the facts and statistics. Horrifying to say the least.
For those who disbelieve the truth of it, look at your Governments public records involving Air America and some rouge elements in the CIA. A Fact! Not an urban myth. They flooded the streets of many western countries with heroin in the 70's on onward, including Australia where i live. When i was teenager smack was everywhere and cheaper and easier to get than pot. So guess what, that's what we took and many of the people i used with are now dead or in Jail.
God help here because Australia is going down the same stupid road even though they see the failure.
Here's another fact for you in the argument of an insane policy from America.
When the Local Gov in an area of high drug abuse, HIV transmission and crime tried to implement a safe injecting facility to curb some of the damage they also tried to decriminalize some opiates or try to give free heroin like they do in Holland and guess what?
America threatened them with economic sanctions, Australia also has one of the largest legal Opium growing regions in the world and they threatened to cut them off and not allow them to sell to pharmaceutical companies based in the states.
The war on drugs will continue as long as some make mega bucks from it.
The war also employs thousands directly and indirectly through Law enforcement and Corrections and Treatment and so on, ad infinitum .
Good luck too us all

12 years ago

Americans are insane, you believe everything your government tells you to.
Mariuana is not a dangerous drug.
Your leaders are.

12 years ago

Is the sargeant from LAPD for real, "if anyone wants to get off it, they can easily do it, easily do it". Where's he from? I can't believe it. Don't they know by now that the war on drugs will NEVER be won! They better start thinking outside the box. Also, we all know the corruption at the top of all departments. Just legalise it all, and nobody will need to burgle my home again. We're all getting sick of this game. It's just not funny anymore!

Robert Paulson
12 years ago

What is really scary is that you still have people blindly following the drug war. I have even had discussions with people who will indirectly admit that the war on drugs is a complete failure and that there really is no legitimate reason to put non-violent drug offenders in prison, and they will still be for the war on drugs...Reagan really screwed us

13 years ago

Drugs, oil and minerals- America will do anything to have an upper hand on these. Soon water will feature in there.

13 years ago

After watching this documentary high I have to say am highly thinking I should leave this c@#$$% a@# .. trying to keep me from getting me high country called America am tired off all the lying and they call this freedom and what happen to the bill of right pursuit of happens the rights of man to get high with out a cop beating you up and planting 20kb of some other baking soda drug.

13 years ago

Marijuana is a dangerous drug like anything else that isn't used moderately. I have a friend that got sectioned under the mental health act because of weed and i myself suffer with anxiety through prolonged use. I agree with a lot of what is said in this doc but im afraid it is biased. It is very anti establishment and pro liberalism, documentaries are supposed to be objective and non bias. This documentary maker has let his own beliefs get in the way of reality.

13 years ago

I'm surprised the tests on suffocating monkeys to death with pot smoke and saying pot kills brain cells was not mentioned. That happened during the Reagan debacle and it took six years to get the results of those tests. More crazy neo-con lies. I say the war on pot is a class war as well as a race war. Since the right wing just seams to hate the poor but loves to create poverty to have more poor to hate.

13 years ago

your arguement to prove weed is dangerous and hence should remain illegal is that the violent gangs distributing it kill thousands of people, which happens solely because it is illegal? jesus man, try thinking about things and THEN forming opinions, you end up sounding kinda stupid i you do it the other way round

13 years ago

USA has become one sickening country.

13 years ago

weed should be legal

13 years ago

Bob is a plant himself.....

13 years ago

"The people in your movie tell us again and again that marajana is not dangerous."

... um no im pretty sure tabbaco and alcohol kill more ppl evry year than pot.

google around for one pot toxicity related death. I think youll be very supprised.

But what the hell those are nice taxable drug's right.

13 years ago

"Prohibition will work great injury to the cause of temperance. It is a species of intemperance within itself, for it goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man's appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A Prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded."
Abraham Lincoln, U.S. President. 18 Dec. 1840

13 years ago

Bob, I disagree sir. What you're describing is a civilization that lives in fear, and in order for people to preserve their own hides, they have to be watching and snitching on their neighbors. You say that marijuana is dangerous, giving the border towns where marijuana passes as an example. If people were free to grow their own marijuana in their own homes, wouldn't this border town violence DUE TO MARIJUANA soon stop?

13 years ago

Bob=illiterate and ignorant. Marijuana is not dangerous. Drug dealers are.

13 years ago

Joe Arpaio....EGOTISTIC fool. Good documentary!

13 years ago

Joe Arpaio is a disgusting man

13 years ago

Watched the video, what manure.... I can't say how many times the Race card gets played. Every time the word White person is said with distain. It shows over weight southern guys being manulipated to get low income people angry at White America. Why? So he can sell a video. The author uses the logic that Booze is legal and sold by big EVIL cooperations. So the answer to America's drug problem is to make it legal. I must ask the author, who do you think will make these (new) drugs. (bathtub guys) No, big companies that you hate. Then you will have lawyers suing these companies when their kids get in accidents in their cars. So another big business. You want to know why you have a drug problem???? The answer is that desperate people who have nothing are willing to risk going to jail because they don't have anything to loose. The people in your movie tell us again and again that marajana is not dangerous. Tell that to the border towns that are going through drug wars where hundreds have been murdured. You say you can't legislate morals. Your wrong! Back in the 60ies if you got stopped while driving after drinking the cop would just tell you to be careful. Now they throw you in jail. Result, the bar industry has collapsed, and no one but sick people will risk drinking and driving. Same with smoking.... The answer is you need tougher laws. Convasgate everything, no parol. Seize the house of the relatives of drug sellers. Make it so scary for drug makers to do business that they are afraid the relitaves will turn them in. Then and only then will you have a drug free America.

13 years ago

Great doc.

13 years ago


14 years ago

Yup I've watch this twice its just a very good doc. plus it has that boy freeway Ricky Ross.. and we the youth of America it is our turn to say to the old in washington to get the fudge!! outt!! their methods didnt work and aren't working lets used that white out and start all over.. its a lil sad when other lesser countries are beginning to see the picture and here we are still stuck on the first gear.. please people lets change our America..

14 years ago

I haven't even watched the video and I can already answer the question why the war on drugs is failing everywhere. It's a huge buisness. It's so big and raking in so much money there's no way it'll ever go away. With so much demand it's not going away anytime soon.

14 years ago

Awesome. Very informational.

14 years ago

We need to stand together as citizens of this country and stand up to the gov't. All those people in jail for bullshit. We will loose all freedoms soon and we won't even know it. We are so acustomed to it that are children will be the ones that will suffer. Enough is enough we need to stand up and unite no matter where we are or how rich or poor or if we use drugs or not because it affects all of us. Lets open up our eyes and not believe everything they feed us. We have to question everything!!!!

14 years ago

Great Site!! Thanks!! Gotta love documentaries!

14 years ago

well what i honestly have to say is that, even though i kinda knew already about how the gov. supports and may also distribute the sale of drugs in the US, this film truly does open a lot of windows in your mind. I mean when you have 80% of the country in favor for something.. why are the people in washington ignoring it? and thats true on what happen to freeway ross.. he was at the bottom and since america has to blame someone for the drug or any problem for that matter, they go and reach for the fattest small fish.