Wednesday, March 12, 2014

To End the War on Drugs

To End the War on Drugs


My friend and colleague Dean Becker has been reporting on the War on Drugs for fifteen years, first on radio and more recently on television as well.  If you have attended a conference on Drug War policy in the last several years, you have probably seen him with his microphone and camera.  This work has resulted in an archive of over 40,000 pages[1].  Dean has taken excerpts from that archive and made them the basis of his new book, To End the War on Drugs: A Guide for Politicians the Press and Public[2].  Over 115 interviews are quoted.

The book is a great read for almost everyone.  Those new to the issues of drug law and reform will find most of the issues laid out in ways easy to understand.  Old timers in these issues will become acquainted with the names they have been hearing for years and also learn more about them individually and about what has motivated them.  It is structured with short excerpts (from a few paragraphs to a few pages) that, as well as contributing to the overall flow of Dean’s argument, stand alone so that the book will be welcoming to browsers to pick their way through it.  The sets of excerpts are tied together with essays by Dean that provide context and organization and tell a lot of Dean’s personal journey as well.

The scope of these interviews is breath-taking.  They range from people in law enforcement – police (mainly retired and members of LEAP as is Dean himself) to judges to a prison warden – through medical researchers and practitioners to medical marijuana patients and their families to victims of the drug war to those who have led the fight against it.  While this breadth leads to some repetition, even that repetition paints more details into a vast and vibrant landscape.

My major regret with the book is that Dean didn’t start early enough.  I would have liked to read the thoughts of the first cucaracha to bring his mota across the Rio Grande or to hear Dr. O’Shaughnessy talk about his experiences with cannabis in British India or learn what George Washington hoped for the commercial prospects of his hemp crop.  But maybe we will be lucky enough to hear his interview with the president just after he signs the act repealing drug prohibition.

This is a good book that will educate, hearten, and inspire you as it welcomes you into the community of those trying to make everyone’s life better.  Pick it up and read it.  You’ll be glad you did.

If you want more of Dean, in addition to his book, you can go to:

·         “Century of Lies” radio broadcasts, KPFT-FM



·         Archives, The James A. Baker III Institute, Rice University

[1]  Now at the James A. Baker III Institute of Rice University.
[2] Available at in both paperback and Kindle formats.

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