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Author, Filmmaker, Drug Reformer Mike Gray Dies

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #782)
Politics & Advocacy

We received word Wednesday that Mike Gray, probably best known in the drug reform community as the author of "Drug Crazy: How We Got in this Mess and How We Can Get Out," has died.

Mike Gray, RIP
A fixture at drug reform conferences for the last decade, Gray had been a staunch advocate of ending drug prohibition and had worked with Robert Field at Common Sense for Drug Policy to publicize the abuses of the drug war and assist local activists seeking reform. Among his many works at CSDP were the DVDs "Law Enforcement Against Prohibition," highlighting spokespersons of the group by the same name, and "Cops & Clergy Condemn the War on Drugs."

Born in 1935 in Darlington, Indiana, Gray received an engineering degree from Purdue University, but found his life's work in documenting political violence as a filmmaker. He was a cofounder of the Chicago-based Film Group, a pioneering collection of documentary filmmakers whose works included "The Murder of Fred Hampton," the Chicago Black Panther leader gunned down by police in 1969. Gray's iconic coverage of the police riots at the 1968 Chicago Democratic convention were seen around the world.

Gray moved to Los Angeles in 1973, where he expanded his creative endeavors to include screenwriting credits for four-time Oscar nominated "The China Syndrome" and other films, for episodes of "Star Trek: The Next Generation," as well as a number of books. His written work addressed issues such as the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island and the use of the death penalty, as well as drug reform. In addition to "Drug Crazy," Gray returned to the issue of drug policy with "Busted: Stone Cowboys, Narco-Lords, and Washington’s War on Drugs."

Gray won the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Drama and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, and for the BAFTA Award for Best Screenplay.

Your reporter conversed briefly with Gray at the California NORML conference in January. He didn't appear to be in ill health; his death comes as a shock, if not a surprise, given his age. He will be missed.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Leslie (not verified)


Mike Gray passed yesterday... he was working when that great heart just stopped and so, one of the dearest, most generous and brilliant among us has gone ahead to pave the way... Mike was my first mentor and constant friend for nearly fifty years - when I wrote my last little book, it was only Mike's review I wanted - and being Mike, he came through with one I didn't deserve. 

Mike has always been the funniest, most kind, attentive, nurturing, loving supporter and friend for nearly half a century. He was a brilliant human being who never lost sight of the goal and never stopped working to make this world a better, more reasonable place.

Mike, you are loved, you are missed and above all,you are  treasured for having shared your vision, your talent, your time and your heart with all of us who gloried in riding your wake... safe travels dear friend, safe travels and endless thanks...

Thu, 05/02/2013 - 9:53am Permalink
Judge Jim Gray (not verified)

What a great and even noble man!  Mike Gray, who is no relation to me, but nevertheless I always called him my brother, was one of the genuine leaders of positive reform, including drug policy and the death penalty.  And given his great talents and earned connections, he was one of our most effective.

Mike, my brother, we benefited enormously because you were with us, and you will always be so in our hearts!

Thu, 05/02/2013 - 1:30pm Permalink

in 2005, Mike approached us about putting together a LEAP video since so many of the members would be at the DPA conference in Long Beach. We quickly put together several engagements around LA and worked out taping times in and around the busy DPA conference schedule. The result was one of the best videos of the reform movement and which has been distributed to tens of thousands and seen by many thousands more, all thanks to the brilliant work done by Mike. No matter where or when I ever saw Mike, he would reach out to me and briskly shake my hand, focus in on my face and listen intently to anything I had to say. I was never his equal but he always made me feel like I was. What a giant.  


Thu, 05/02/2013 - 11:42pm Permalink

Those who are the best among us shape our worlds in ways that are both profound and pivotal. They make us better people. For me, Mike was a great listener, empathetic and non-judgmental. In listening, he seemed to understand, and in understanding, I came away wiser than before we spoke. I will miss my colleague, my mentor and my friend. Thank you, Mike (mg), for, well, everything. mj

Mon, 05/06/2013 - 12:45am Permalink
Joe Miller (not verified)

Thank you for your valiant fight against the so called "war on drugs".  We're going to miss you Mike.

Mon, 05/06/2013 - 3:56am Permalink

Mike Gray was a true visionary and one who understood much of what needs to be done to bring an end to the debacle we call the "war on drugs."

Had some of the ideas and philosophies Mike supported actually been implemented, we could easily be looking at a world that had returned to embracing the rapidly eroding concepts of sanity and individual liberty in this country.

Rest easy Mike. Many of us are still fighting the good fight to carry on your gallant and impressive efforts.


Mark Greer


Fri, 05/10/2013 - 5:21pm Permalink

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