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Drug War Chronicle Book Review: "Andean Cocaine: The Making of a Global Drug," by Paul Gootenberg (2008, University of North Carolina Press, 442 pp, $24.95 PB)

Phillip S. Smith, Writer/Editor

Regardless of what you may think about cocaine -- party favor or demon drug -- one thing is clear: Cocaine is big business. These days, the illicit cocaine industry generates dozens of billions of dollars in profits annually and, in addition to the millions of peasant families earning a living growing coca, employs hundreds of thousands of people in its Andean homeland and across Latin America, and hundreds of thousands more in trafficking and distribution networks across the globe.

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There is a flip-side: The cocaine industry has also resulted in the creation of an anti-cocaine enterprise, also global in scope, but centered in the United States. It, too, employs tens of thousands of people -- from UN anti-drug bureaucrats to DEA agents to prison guards hired to watch over America's imprisoned street-level crack dealers -- and generates billions of dollars of governmental spending.

It wasn't always this way, and, with "Andean Cocaine," commodity historian Paul Gootenberg of SUNY Stony Brook has made a magnificent contribution in explaining how in just under a century and a half cocaine went from unknown (discovered in 1860) to licit global commodity (1880s-1920s), to illicit but dormant commodity (1920s-1950s) to the multi-billion dollar illicit commodity of today.

In a work the author himself describes as "glocal," Gootenberg used previously untapped archival sources, primarily from Peru and the US, to combine finely-detailed analysis of key personages and events in the evolution of the trade in its Peruvian hearth with a global narrative of "commodity chains," a sociological concept that ties together all elements in a commodity, from local producers and processors to national and international distribution networks and, ultimately, consumers.

The "commodity chain" concept works remarkably well in illuminating the murky story that is modern cocaine. How else do you explain the connection between a Peruvian peasant in the remote Upper Huallaga and a street-corner crack peddler in the Bronx or between entrepreneurial Colombian cocaine traffickers, weak governments in West Africa, and coke-sniffing bankers in the city of London?

Still, Gootenburg is a historian, and his story ends -- not begins -- with the arrival of the modern illicit cocaine trade. He applies the commodity chain concept to cocaine from the beginning, the 1860 isolation of the cocaine alkaloid by a Francophile Peruvian pharmacist, who, Gootenburg notes, worked within an international milieu of late 19th Century European scientific thought and exchange.

Within a few short years, cocaine had become a medical miracle (the first step on the now all-too-familiar path of currently demonized drugs) and a nascent international trade in cocaine sulphate (basically what we now refer to as cocaine paste), primarily to German and Dutch pharmaceutical houses. At the same time, just before the dawn of the 20th Century, the dangers of cocaine were becoming apparent, and moves to restrict its use got underway.

The key player in last century's cocaine panic was the United States -- ironically, the world's number one consumer of cocaine's precursor, coca. US patent medicines of the ear featured numerous coca-based tonics and concoctions, the granddaddy of them all being Coca-Cola, whose monopoly on legal (if denatured) coca leaf imports played a shadowy role in US coca and cocaine policies well into the 1950s. But some of those patent medicines also contained cocaine, and more was leaking out of medicinal markets. By the first decade of the last century, cocaine was under attack in the US.

Cocaine was banned in the US before World War I, and by the 1920s, blues singers were singing sad songs about its absence. With use levels dropping close to absolute zero, cocaine use was largely a non-issue for the US for the next 50 years. But, Gootenburg strongly suggests that the US obsession with stifling cocaine production and use sowed the seeds of the drug's stupendous expansion in the decades since the 1970s.

A particularly fascinating section revolves around the social construction of the "illicit" cocaine trade in Peru during World War II. At that point, cocaine was still a legal and treasured, if slightly over-the-hill, commodity in Peru. But some of cocaine's most lucrative customers were in Germany and Japan, the Axis foes of the US and its Latin American allies. Peruvian producers, desperate to retain their markets, sold to their traditional clientele regardless of US wishes, becoming the first "illicit" Peruvian cocaine traffickers and paving the way for the reemergence of cocaine as a black market commodity.

For someone like me, who has more than a passing familiarity with the Andean coca and cocaine trades, "Andean Cocaine" is especially fruitful for deepening my historical understanding. Peruvian family surnames prominent in coca and/or cocaine decades ago -- Durand, Malpartida, Soberon -- continue to play prominent roles in Peruvian coca politics today.

There is much, much more to this book -- suffice it to say it could be the basis of a post-graduate seminar or two -- but one lasting lesson Gootenburg seems to draw from his research is the futility, if not downright counterproductiveness, of the efforts to suppress cocaine and the cocaine trade. From the original "illicit" cocaine sales during World War II, which generated nascent trafficking networks to the crop eradications in the 1970s and 1980s in Peru and Bolivia, which turned Colombia, where indigenous coca production was almost nonexistent, into the world's leading coca and cocaine producer, every effort to stifle the trade has perversely only strengthened it. Perhaps someday we will learn a lesson here.

"Andean Cocaine" is an academic work written by an historian. It's not light reading, and, by the author's own admission, it concentrates on the Peruvian producer end of the commodity chain, not the US -- and increasingly, global -- consumer end of the chain. Nonetheless, it is a sterling contribution to the literature of cocaine, and should be required reading for anyone seeking to understand cocaine in context.

Drug War Chronicle Book Review: "Cool Madness: The Trial of Dr. Mollie Fry and Dale Schafer," by Vanessa Nelson (2008, MMA Publishing, 353 pp., $19.95 pb.)

[Order "Cool Madness" by making a donation to StoptheDrugWar.org and specificying "Cool Madness" as your requested membership premium.]

UC Berkeley-trained journalist Vanessa Nelson has found a niche for herself reporting on medical marijuana prosecutions in California. One can only hope it will not be a lasting niche; that the events of which she is reporting will soon be the stuff of history, a quaint reminder of what is was like to live in the bad old days.

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But as the recent DEA raid on a San Francisco dispensary suggests, the era of mindless persecution by the federal government of medical marijuana patients and providers is not over yet -- despite the nice words coming from Attorney General Holder. Other California medical marijuana providers are currently serving prison terms, some are waiting to be sentenced, and some are in the midst of appeals. All of them are facing (or already enduring) harsh federal sentencing laws for the crime of trying to help their fellow sufferers.

The case of Dr. Mollie Fry and her husband, attorney Dale Schafer, is among the most outrageous. A physician residing in the Sierra Nevada foothills town of Cool (thus the title) who came to embrace the therapeutic benefits of cannabis after a bout with breast cancer, Dr. Fry became an enthusiastic advocate of the herb, recommending it for patients, and, with the help of her husband, encouraging them to grow their own (and even selling them starter kits), and trying -- not very successfully -- to grow it themselves.

Fry and Schafer had consulted with local law enforcement and thought they were safe from prosecution, but they were naïve and mistaken, as started to become evident on September 26, 2001, when their home and offices were raided by aggressive DEA agents, and a whopping 34 marijuana plants seized. [Ed: This is what federal law enforcement had time to spend on, barely two weeks after major terrorist attacks on two US cities.]

Then, as is often the case with DEA medical marijuana raids, nothing happened, as if the bust had disappeared into limbo. That is, nothing happened until the US Supreme Court came down on the side of the federal government in the Raich case in 2005. Within a matter of days, Fry and Schafer found themselves indicted and arrested on federal marijuana manufacture and distribution charges.

Oddly enough, the 34 plants seized had somehow morphed into more than 100 plants in the government's case. That makes an important difference -- the difference between a short sentence, or even probation, and a mandatory minimum sentence of at least five years. And that's what Assistant US Attorney Anne Pings was determined to get when Fry and Schafer finally went to trial on August 1, 2007.

Nelson provides a blow-by-blow account of the proceedings, from the defense's selection of famed defense attorney Tony Serra and his less flamboyant but equally dogged co-counsel Laurence Lichter to the bail hearing after they were convicted. In so doing, she has crafted a gripping narrative tale more akin to a page-turning novel than a dry and dusty trial transcript.

Not only is the narrative gripping, it is also infuriating for anyone sympathetic to the medical marijuana movement or who holds to the notion that trials are about justice. With Serra and Lichter forbidden to even mention medical marijuana, as is typically the case in those federal medical marijuana trials, that the prosecution would win convictions was almost a foregone conclusion to anyone other than those medical marijuana supporters so blinded by the righteousness of their cause that they couldn't see the approaching freight train. That didn't stop the defense duo from repeatedly trying to introduce the topic, leading to rapid-fire prosecution objections, repeated sidebars, and courtroom fire-works. Still, the jury that heard the case got only the faintest hints of what it was really all about.

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Fry, Schafer and family at August 2007 demonstration (courtesy indybay.org)
There were some real villains in this little drama, and some buffoons. (While Nelson was clearly sympathetic to the defendants, the following characterizations are mine, not hers.) Prosecutor Pings spared no tactic, no innuendo, no insinuation in trying to convince the jury that Fry and Schafer were money-hungry dope dealers, even going so far as to tell the jury they advertised their services on a rock radio station! Nor was she in the least reluctant to intimidate and threaten former employees facing their own legal problems into turning state's evidence and portraying the couple as mercenary marijuana peddlers. Actions like those may make Pings an effective prosecutor, but they also paint her as a terrible human being, willing to do whatever it takes to send some harmless people to prison.

Another villain worth noting was a Sergeant Ashworth of the El Dorado County Sheriff's Department. At Fry and Schafer's request, Ashworth visited their properties repeatedly, enjoying their hospitality and assuring them they were acting within the law. But by the summer of 2001, when he got done sipping coffee with Dr. Fry he was reporting to the DEA. Even worse, Ashworth actively encouraged the couple to grow another crop that year, getting the prosecution to the magic 100 plant number. This kind of sleazy, backstabbing behavior deserves a response. In this case, it seems the appropriate response would be to vote his boss out of office and send Ashworth out to patrol the dog pound.

As for the buffoons, the sobriquet was earned by the DEA agents on the case, from the supervisor who seemed exceedingly clueless about the things he was testifying about to the DEA undercover agent who infiltrated medical marijuana meetings where no pot was smoked and worried that he was getting a contact high just from being there. In an even more unbelievable, but revealing, example of DEA buffoonery, Nelson relates the story of two agents at the trial who, upon heading to the court house parking lot to get in their car to go to lunch, saw a member of the medical marijuana community attending the trial walk toward that very same parking lot (!) and assumed they were being stalked. The spooked agents fled the scene on foot and called their supervisors for back-up, only to be laughed at and told to go back and get their vehicle.

The DEA guys may be idiots and the prosecutor may be a nasty person, but behind them was the full power of the federal government. Nelson's account is a very disturbing window into just how these villains and bozos managed to wield that power. Again, this should be a wake-up call for those who think federal medical marijuana prosecutions have anything to do with justice.

[Order "Cool Madness" by making a donation to StoptheDrugWar.org and specificying "Cool Madness" as your requested membership premium.]

Drug War Chronicle Book Review: "Dope Menace: The Sensational World of Drug Paperbacks, 1900-1975," by Stephen J. Gertz (2008, Feral House Press, 219 pp., $24.95 PB)

For anyone with an interest in drugs, kitsch, and popular culture, "Dope Menace" is going to be a real pleasure -- and probably something of an education. Lavishly illustrated with more than a hundred pulp paperback book covers, many of them gloriously lurid, their cover text tawdry and sensational, the book offers a delicious, delirious excursion to the far shores of post-World War II pop culture, a place where the sordid mixed with the forbidden, and sexual anxiety -- or was it curiosity? -- permeated almost everything.

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"Love Addict" screamed the title of one pulp paperback. "She came offering her body... for a shot of heroin!" The cover enticed, showing an attractive woman lifting her black dress high enough to reveal the pale flesh of her thigh above the top of her black stockings as she prepares to inject herself with the needle she holds in one hand while a man smoking a cigarette reclines on a bed watching. "A novel of today's Sex-Ravished, Dope-Hungry Girls."

Gertz knows his pulp. A respected authority on antiquarian books, he also contributed to "Sin-A-Rama," an award-winning visual history of sleaze paperbacks from the 1960s. And he puts his knowledge on fine display here, not only with his lovely selection of cover art -- more on which later -- but also with a downright scholarly text that takes up about half of the book's first 60 pages.

Gertz's exposition is as revelatory as his collection of cover art is alluring. His text provides a capsule history of the golden era of pulp paperback publishing in the 1950s and 1960s -- some 243 million of those 25-cent pocket-sized paperbacks sold in 1952 alone -- when, long before the dawn of the Internet, the mass pulp market was a key means of informing (or misinforming) the great unwashed curious about things where cultural knowledge had been lost (drugs since the advent of drug prohibition) or suppressed (sex since forever).

In the 1950s, hard back books were sold at bookstores. But, available at countless newsstands, grocery and drug stores, anywhere an enterprising publisher or wholesaler could squeeze in a display rack, the pulps radically democratized knowledge about drugs, albeit vicariously, and sometimes, thanks to hack writers who knew nothing of which they wrote, with ridiculously ludicrous misinformation.

Like the Internet, the pulps can be seen as a transgressive medium for their time, one that allowed the spread of knowledge outside officially sanctioned avenues. And like the Internet, the emergence of the pulps in general, and dope and sex pulps in particular, excited the wrath of moral crusaders. Gertz opens the book with a 1952 quote from Congressman Ezekiel Gathings (D-Arkansas), who complained that the pulps appealed to "adults with low ethical standard" and were "a media for the dissemination of appeals to sensuality, immorality, filth, perversion, and degeneracy."

But that didn't stop publishers from cranking out dozens, perhaps hundreds, of dope pulp titles a year for decades. And the publishers, of course, were responding to an apparently insatiable demand for the tawdry tomes with lurid covers, hopefully featuring beautiful women in various states of drug-crazed undress.

Gertz's text is a grand tour of the dope pulp phenomenon, reaching back to early forebears like the drug "confessionals" of Fitz Hugh Ludlow and Alastair Crowley and the racist anti-opium novels of more than a century ago before plunging headlong into the morass of sin and sensuality of mid-century mass market America. We go from such figures as Willliam Burroughs, whose dope memoir "Junkie" got the classic dope pulp treatment, to those nameless hacks (Gertz names them and their pen names, but I won't) whose prose was sometimes so awful and misbegotten that you have to laugh out loud. And you get a detailed treatment of some of the more esteemed illustrators as well.

But it's the cover art that really sells this book. How can you resist such kitsch as: "Reefer Club. A glimpse into the lives of our lost generation," superimposed over a cover montage showing images of passed out women with smoke drifting over them. "The girl was a slave of marijuana -- Yet was she wholly bad?"

If you lay "Dope Menace" on your coffee table, you're going to end up with amused friends and a well-thumbed volume. And you're going to learn something in between the laughs.

I have to say a word about Feral House, the publisher of "Dope Menace." I first became aware of them sometime back in the early 1990s, when Feral House head Adam Parfrey published "Apocalypse Culture," a truly mind-bending compendium of pieces from the far fringes of the American wasteland. Since then, Parfrey and company have continued cranking out the weirdness. If titles like "Mexican Pulp Art," "Voluptuous Panic: The Erotic World of Weimar Berlin," "Death Scenes: A Homicide Detective's Scrapbook," "Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground," or "Porn and Pong: How Grand Theft Auto, Tomb Raider and Other Sexy Games Changed Our Culture" sound like they might appeal to you -- or for that matter if you're looking for a serious memoir like Anthony Papa's "15 to Life" (available from DRCNet as a premium) -- check out the Feral House catalog. This short list is just a taste.

Drug War Chronicle Book Review: "Cop in the Hood: My Year Policing Baltimore's Eastern District," by Peter Moskos (2008, Princeton University Press, 245 pp., $24.95 HB)

Immortalized by the hit HBO series "The Wire," Baltimore's Eastern District is one tough neighborhood in one of the country's toughest towns. With some 45,000 residents, almost entirely black, it generates 20,000 arrests a year, the vast majority of them drug-related. It's a tough, gritty neighborhood with widespread poverty, open-air drug markets, a healthy heroin (or "hair-on" in Eastern District-speak) habit, and all the attendant problems associated with those ills.

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For a bit more than a year, the Eastern District was Peter Moskos' beat. The Harvard educated sociologist (now on the faculty of City University of New York's John Jay College of Criminal Justice) with an interest in police socialization joined the Baltimore Police Department to become a "participant-observer" on the sociology of policing in that department, enabling him to achieve a degree of intimacy with his fellow officers rarely achieved by outside academics.

For Moskos, and for his readers, his sojourn on the mean streets has paid off handsomely. Moskos got a book deal (and presumably a dissertation) out of his experiences, and we readers get a real treat. The uniformed Moskos -- he served exclusively as a beat officer -- was able to win the trust and fellowship of his colleagues, and in so doing, he was able to open a window on what it is like to be a police officer in the drug war.

I would imagine that most Drug War Chronicle readers -- LEAP members excluded -- have little knowledge of or empathy for the men in blue. The cops, after all, are the front line in the drug war. And, as Moskos reports, drawing on extensive notes, the drug dealers and users of the Eastern District are relatively easy pickings for police officers looking to generate arrest statistics.

"In high drug areas, there is no shortage of drug offenders to arrest," he writes. "The decision to arrest or not arrest becomes more a matter of personal choice and police officer discretion than of any formalized police response toward crime or public safety."

Not only do police routinely arrest suspect Eastern District residents -- for loitering, if nothing else -- they almost universal despise them and their drug habits. Moskos really shines at getting his comrades to speak openly and honestly about their attitudes, and in that sense, "Cop in the Hood" is as revelatory as it is sometimes disturbing. Such attitudes may be deplorable, but they are also understandable. When all you see is the worst of humanity, it's easy to get alienated. As one officer put it, "You don't get 911 calls to tell you how well things are going."

But not all beat officers are eager to arrest drug offenders. As Moskos details, the cops get frustrated by the revolving-door that sees drug offenders sent to county jail on arrest only to be spit out a few hours later or to have drug dealing charges reduced to simple possession because prisons are packed and prosecutors overworked. (Moskos observes that the drug war would grind to a halt if drug offenders uniformly demanded jury trials. Now, there's a reason to unionize drug users!)

Police officers don't want to be social workers, Moskos reports, and they are not interested in the root causes of drug use and attendant social ills. What they are interested in is doing their job with a minimum of hassle (from the streets or their superiors), returning home safely each night, and retiring with a nice pension. That means that for many officers, high drug arrest numbers early in their careers will drop off over time as they confront a combination of a sense of futility, overtime, and paperwork. As one officer put it:

You'll get out there thinking you can make a difference. Then you get frustrated: a dealer caught with less than 25 pieces will be considered personal use... Or you go to court and they take his word over yours. You're a cop and you're saying you saw something!... After it happens to you, you don't care. It's your job to bring him there [to court]. What happens after that is their problem. You can't take this job personal. Drugs were here before you were, and they'll be here long after you're gone. Don't think you can change that. I don't want you leaving here thinking everybody living in this neighborhood is bad, does drugs. Many cops start beating people, thinking they deserve it.

While Moskos by no means sugarcoats the behavior or attitudes of his coworkers, his reporting will undoubtedly help readers attain some understanding of how they got that way. "Cops in the Hood" is also useful for understanding the bureaucratic grinder facing police officers in large urban departments, where they are caught between pressures from above for more arrests, from Internal Affairs to do it by the book, from the neighborhoods to clean out the riff-raff and from the same neighborhoods to respect the civil rights of residents.

Moskos brings the added advantage of not writing like an academic. "Cops in the Hood" is engaging, even riveting, and makes its points straightforwardly. Yes, Moskos references policing theory, but he does so in ways that make it provocative instead of off-putting.

He also includes a well-researched and -written chapter on the evils of prohibition -- it's subtitled "Al Capone's Revenge" -- but in this case, it's hardly necessary. Like a good student listening to his English composition instructor, Moskos has shown us and he really doesn't need to tell us. Still, it is a strong chapter.

Moskos writes about his experience as a beat officer. That's a different animal from the largely self-selected group of police cowboys who end up in drug squads and SWAT teams. I have less sympathy for them, but that's another book, not this one.

People interested in the nitty-gritty of street-level drug law enforcement need to read this book. Criminal justice students and anyone thinking about becoming a police officer need to read this book, too. And the politicians who pass the laws police have to enforce (or not), need to read this book as well, although they probably won't.

Drug War Chronicle Video Review: "Prince of Pot: The US v. Marc Emery," Directed by Nick Wilson (2008, Journeyman Pictures)

Let me say right up front that Marc Emery sometimes pays me money to write articles for his magazine, Cannabis Culture, so I am not a completely disinterested observer. That said, "Prince of Pot" director Nick Wilson has done a superb job of explaining who Emery is, where he came from, and what he is all about -- and in tying Emery's trajectory to the larger issues of marijuana prohibition, the drug war in general, and Canadian acquiescence to US-style prohibitionist drug policies.

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Marc Emery (courtesy Cannabis Culture magazine)
I assume that anyone reading these words already knows who Marc Emery is: Canada's most vocal advocate of marijuana legalization, founder of the BC Marijuana Party, publisher of Cannabis Culture magazine, operator of POT-TV, and former proprietor of the Marc Emery Seed Company. Emery made lots of money with his seed company, and plowed much of it back into the marijuana legalization movement, not only in Canada, but also bankrolling activists in the US Marijuana Party south of the border and putting some loonies (Canadian nickname for their one-dollar coin) into various Global Marijuana Marches. For Emery, the seed company was merely a means to an end, a method of raising money to subvert marijuana prohibition, or, as he nicely put it, to overgrow the government.

But all that came to a crashing halt three years ago, when Emery and two of his employees, Michelle Rainey and Greg Williams, were indicted by a federal grand jury in Seattle on marijuana trafficking charges for his seed sales. Now, the Vancouver 3, as they have come to be known, face up to life in prison in the US if and when they are extradited.

The documentary, which is available from Journeyman Productions, opens with some vintage Emery, addressing the crowd at a pro-legalization, anti-extradition rally in Vancouver, the headquarters of his operation. "The DEA says I am responsible for 1.1 million pounds of pot," he said to cheers from the crowd. "I would be happy to believe that. That's the problem -- the DEA and I agree on the facts."

"Prince of Pot" follows Emery's career from his beginnings as an Ontario bookstore owner who loathed stoners, but came to embrace their cause as he fought the Canadian government's censorship of "drug-related" magazines like High Times. Early on, Emery displayed the same qualities that propelled his meteoric rise to the heights of the pot legalization movement: a libertarian sensibility, "an ego that takes up 40% of his body weight," as one observer put it, an aggressive, abrasive personality, a penchant for the publicity stunt, and a mouth that never stops working.

The documentary also shows that Emery's exhibitionism isn't limited to the sphere of the political. Early on, viewers are treated to a shot of Emery's backside as he gets out of bed, and another scene shows him naked on a Vancouver nude beach being anointed with cannabis oil by his young wife Jodie in an experiment to see whether it could have an impact on "any cancerous or pre-cancerous cells." (No word on how that turned out.)

But if Marc Emery's ass is on the screen, it's also on the line, and this is where "Prince of Pot" really shines. The documentary makers interviewed the unrepentant US attorney in Seattle who indicted him and a Seattle DEA agent who justified the bust, and confronted DEA head Karen Tandy at a 2006 international DEA conference in Montreal.

"Prince of Pot" hones in with precision accuracy on Tandy's post-bust press release where she bragged about how Emery's arrest was "a blow to the legalization movement." That press release may be Emery's best long-shot chance at avoiding extradition because it provides evidence that his prosecution was politically motivated.

All of the feds, of course, deny that was the case, but, in tracing Emery's career, his succession of trivial arrests by Canadian authorities, and growing US frustration with Canada's seeming indifference to his activities, the documentarians make a strong case that Marc Emery was busted not because he sold seeds, but because he was a burr under the saddle of Washington.

The documentary also features a strong cast of Canadian supporters, including former Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell ("The drug czar is an idiot"), Vancouver East MP Libby Davies, Toronto attorney Alan Young, Ottawa attorney and criminal justice professor Eugene Oscapella ("Why should we emulate the failed drug policies of the United States?"). Vancouver activist David Malmo-Levine, shown smoking a foot-long joint at one point, makes a compelling observation, too: "They want to send him to prison for life," he exclaims, recounting the DEA's argument about the harm Emery has caused by promoting marijuana production. "What harm? Show me the bodies," he demands. "There has to be at least one body if they want to send him away for life. There has to be at least one person who suffered more than bronchitis."

Washington state marijuana defense attorney Douglas Hiatt's brief appearance is also powerful and worth noting. Visibly angry at the injustice of the marijuana laws, Hiatt lashes out at prosecutors and the DEA. "If the DEA wants to talk about destroying families," he growls, "they can talk to me about the families they've destroyed for trying to use medical marijuana. The only thing I see ruining people's lives is the government's policies," Hiatt spits out. His righteous wrath is refreshing.

At one point in the documentary, film-maker Wilson says that for him, "It's not about seeds, it's about sovereignty." From the Canadian perspective, he's right, of course, but it's really about marijuana prohibition, and Wilson does a wonderful job of sketching its history and ugly current reality.

At the end, the documentary speculates about a possible deal for Emery to serve a shorter prison term in the US. That didn't happen. Neither did a proposed deal that would have seen charges dropped against Rainey and Williams and Emery serving a few years in a Canadian prison. Now, it's back to fighting extradition, and given that the decision to extradite is ultimately a political one made by the Justice Minister and given that the Canadian federal government is in bed with the US on drug policy, extradition remains the most likely outcome.

In a touching scene, Emery and his wife argue over whether he will serve his cause by martyring himself, something he seems determined to do. I have personally counseled him otherwise. I suggested that he become the marijuana movement's Osama bin Laden. No, not that he blow up DEA headquarters, but that he escape to a hidden cave complex somewhere in the Canadian Rockies and bedevil his enemies with communiques from his hidden sanctuary. I, for one, would rather see Marc Emery figuratively flipping the bird to the US government than disappearing, like so many others have, into the American gulag.

Check out this documentary. It's a good one. It'll give you goose bumps at some points, make you want to cry at some, and make you want to cheer at others.

Chronicle Book Review: "On Speed: The Many Lives of Amphetamine," by Nicolas Rasmussen (2008, New York University Press, 352 pp, $29.95 HB)

Phillip S. Smith, Writer/Editor

Almost everybody knows about methamphetamine, that demon drug, that pharmacological equivalent of plutonium, stereotypically favored by toothless, uneducated white guys tweaking in trailer parks out in the sticks. Many fewer people are aware of Desoxyn, which is widely prescribed to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). And even fewer are aware that Desoxyn is nothing other than pharmaceutical grade methamphetamine legally prescribed by doctors across the land.

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How can the same substance be both demon drug and miracle cure? Science historian Nicolas Rasmussen of the University of New South Wales in Sydney provides some answers to that question -- and much more -- in "On Speed." What Rasmussen is really interested in is the interaction between the pharmaceutical industry, the medical profession, and broader social forces afoot in Western culture, and amphetamines make a fascinating, if surprising, vehicle for his meditations.

As Rasmussen tells us, amphetamine was first tested on a human on June 3, 1929, when Los Angeles chemist Gordon Alles injected himself with his new concoction. As Rasmussen's reproduction of Alles' testing notes put it early in the experience, "Feeling of well-being." Later, he reported "a rather sleepless night" where his "mind seemed to race from one subject to another." Still, Alles reported feeling fairly well the next morning.

Pharmaceutical companies had a new product. Now, they had to figure out something to use it for. First off the mark was the Benzedrine inhaler, marketed for relief of nasal congestion. But by the 1940s, amphetamine tablets by the millions were being used by soldiers on all sides of World War II as energy- and morale-enhancers. Within a few more years, amphetamines were being widely prescribed for an ever-increasing array of "diseases," including obesity and neurotic depression. By the late 1960s some 5 million Americans were gobbling down amphetamines under a doctor's supervision, and another 2 or 3 million were using them as "thrill pills" outside the bounds of medical practice.

While Rasmussen provides lots of detail on the marketing strategies of various pharmaceutical companies, the needs of doctors to deal with patients complaining of low grade depression, malaise, lack of energy, and obesity, and the increasing clamor of Americans for pills that would make them feel more energetic, gregarious, and productive -- oh, what All-American desires! -- what is most fascinating for students of American drug policy is the way his narrative lays the blame for the creation of subsequent amphetamine abuse problems squarely at the feet of market-hungry pill makers, pill-pushing doctors, and, of course, the American military, which exposed millions of GIs to the pleasures -- and dangers -- of speed. But at some point, he argues, the "push" from drug companies and doctors was complemented by a "pull" from consumers who developed a liking for the drug and its stimulant effects.

As Rasmussen notes, a thrill-seeking speed subculture emerged almost immediately, beginning with University of Minnesota students in the 1930s who were given Benzedrine inhalers in clinical trials, decided they liked them, and took them home to party and study with. By the late 1940s, some of those millions of GIs exposed to amphetamines during the war had continued using speed and were bringing awareness of it to the general population. By the 1950s, Beat writers like Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs were enshrining it in a nascent counterculture, and by the 1960s, as legal amphetamine production reached record highs, speed abuse was identified as a serious problem, not only by doctors, researchers, law enforcement, and fear-mongering politicians, but also by the counterculture itself.

At the beginning of the 1970s, the federal government intervened, severely crimping the speed supply and -- voilà! -- the illicit speed industry took off. As Rasmussen puts it: "Naturally, once the national supply of pharmaceutical amphetamine was sharply cut by federal action after 1971, demand for home-made speed grew, driving down quality and strengthening the position of the motorcycle gangs. Making a popular drug illegal, without reducing demand, only spurred the development of organized crime to supply consumers -- with inferior and often dangerous products. It was the same with alcohol in the days of Prohibition."

In other words, meet the progenitors of today's meth lab cookers, thanks to prohibitionist actions. And although I don't recall Rasmussen mentioning it, the restrictions on legal amphetamine production came shortly before the reemergence of cocaine as a popular recreational drug in the late 1970s and 1980s. Ironically, amphetamine's trajectory from miracle cure to demon drug mirrored cocaine's earlier but similar trajectory. For some, amphetamines had replaced cocaine; now, perhaps, cocaine was replacing amphetamine.

These days, methamphetamine is a demon drug, but its close relatives in the amphetamine family, amphetamine-type stimulants differing from meth by only the addition or subtraction of an atom or two from the basic amphetamine molecule, are once again wildly popular at the doctor's office and on the street. The roughly 2.5 billion tablets of amphetamine-type stimulants such as Ritalin (for ADD and ADHD), Preludin (obesity), and Redux (ditto) now being prescribed annually is the same amount of speed being produced medically as at the height of the "amphetamine epidemic" of the 1960s. Ten million Americans are gobbling speed as you read these words, more than did so at the height of the "epidemic."

With widespread use of amphetamine-type stimulants, we can expect an increase in unhappy side effects, Rasmussen predicts, ranging from dependence to amphetamine psychosis, as well as the subsequent development of a market for "downers." In the past heroin and barbiturates played that role; now, he suggests, prescription pain pills will fill the need.

What is needed is not only more law enforcement to deal with the illegal meth trade, but harm reduction measures for amphetamine users and means to reduce demand, Rasmussen concludes. And more control over the pharmaceutical industry, including stronger restrictions on marketing and promotion, as well as tighter controls on the role of pharmaceutical companies in doing medical research for marketing purposes.

"On Speed" is a fascinating book for students of drug policy and drug use in the broader social, economic, and political context of the West, and the United States in particular. It is most helpful in aiding one to think clearly and broadly about how patterns of drug use emerge, the institutional factors behind them, and the way we respond to them. And it is a clarion call for reform of the US pharmaceutical industry, as well as a riveting social history of speed.

Chronicle Book Review: "Dying to Get High: Marijuana as Medicine," by Wendy Chapkis and Richard J. Webb (2008, NYU Press, 244 pp., $22.00 PB)

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Phillip S. Smith, Writer/Editor

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In "Dying to Get High," sociologists Wendy Chapkis and Richard Webb have written a sympathetic yet academically rigorous account of the contemporary controversies surrounding medical marijuana. They trace the use of marijuana as medicine in the US, its decline as a medicine in the early 20th Century, its removal from the pharmacopeia in 1941 (just four years after it was banned by federal law), the continuing blockage of research into its medical benefits by ideologically-driven federal authorities, and the renaissance of medical marijuana knowledge today, much of it derived from -- gasp! -- patients, not doctors or researchers.

As sociologists, Chapkis and Webb have a keen eye for the broader social, cultural, and political forces surrounding the issue of medical marijuana, from the rise of the pharmaceutical and medical establishments to the "culture war" contempt for marijuana and users among many Americans. But as much as middle America may disdain pot-smoking hippies, it seems that it is marijuana's location on the wrong side of the modern scientific and pharmaceutical discourse that most hinders its acceptance as a medicine.

Pot is a plant, not a pill. It is an herbal medication, not a chemical compound. It is a "crude plant material," not a "pure drug." All of this, Chapkis and Webb suggest, make it difficult indeed for the medical and scientific establishment to wrap its head around medical marijuana. And when scientific bias is coupled with cultural disdain and fear of widespread "abuse," that the federal government remains resistant to medical marijuana is hardly a surprise.

Chapkis and Webb deliver a resounding, well-reasoned indictment of the political and (pseudo) scientific opposition to medical marijuana, and their succinct discussion of the issues surrounding the controversy is worth the price of admission.

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But "Dying to Get High" is also an in-depth portrait of one of the country's most well-known medical marijuana collectives, the Wo/Men's Access to Medical Marijuana (WAMM) collective in Santa Cruz, California, and it is here that the authors are really breaking new ground. They go from the big-picture sociology of medical marijuana in the past century to narrowly focus on ethnography of a patient collective, describing in loving detail the inner workings, dynamics, and tensions of a group with charismatic leadership -- Mike and Valerie Corral -- more than 200 seriously ill patients, and the specter of the DEA always looming.

Their account of the emergence and permanence of WAMM is both moving and enlightening. Rooted in the fertile soil of Santa Cruz, already well-tilled by previous social movements such as feminism, gay rights, and AIDS activism, WAMM may only have been possible in a place that friendly to radical movements and that familiar with activism around issues of medical care and social justice. Chapkis and Webb chart its formation, its growth, its conflicts and problems, and the humanity of its suffering members.

They also tell the story of the 2002 DEA raid on the WAMM garden and its devastating impact on members. But that raid and its aftermath were not just a blow to the sick and dying, they were a call to arms, impelling WAMM into ever more overtly political action to protect itself and the broader movement.

More broadly, Chapkis and Webb do a great service by dissecting WAMM, looking at how it works, how it handles dysfunction, and how it provides a service far beyond mere medical marijuana to its members. WAMM is perhaps the model medical marijuana collective, and it has many lessons to offer the interested reader.

Would a WAMM-style collective work elsewhere? Chapkis and Webb emphasize the importance of the cultural and political backdrop in Santa Cruz in making WAMM possible, but I think the very emergence of WAMM as a successful collective makes the possibility of similar collectives coming into being elsewhere all the more likely. After all, even California as a whole is not as radicalized as Santa Cruz or San Francisco, but similar collectives are popping up in Santa Rosa and the San Fernando Valley, among other places.

In any case, Chapkis and Webb provide plenty to chew on, for those who want to pick up some historical knowledge and debating points, for those interested in the genesis of the contemporary marijuana movement, and for those who are pondering the viability of similarly radical approaches to health and self-organizing.

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Drug War Chronicle Book Review: "Over the Influence: The Harm Reduction Guide to Managing Drugs and Alcohol," by Patt Denning, Jeanne Little, and Adina Glickman (2004, Guilford Press, 328 pp., $16.95 PB)

Phillip S. Smith, Writer/Editor

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We usually reserve this space for books hot off the press, but in the case of "Over the Influence," we make an exception. This book is special enough for us to make it a premium for our contributors, and given that we are publishing a story this week about the rapidly rising toll from drug overdoses, we think its importance is self-evident.

Like most people interested in drug law reform, I believe that substance use is a constant in human affairs, and that -- as US history over the past few decades demonstrates -- nothing short of totalitarianism can stomp it out, and then, most likely, only temporarily. I also believe that substance use does not automatically equate to substance abuse or addiction.

Nor am I especially comfortable with the "disease model" of addiction championed by the mad scientists of NIDA, as well as too many well-meaning drug reformers and, perhaps, self-interested drug treatment providers. The concomitant to the disease model, which seeks to replace human agency with biopsychopharmacological determinism, is the Alcoholics Anonymous-based drug treatment dogma that people with problematic drug habits are addicts, the victims of a progressive, incurable disease whose only cure is lifelong abstinence.

As the authors of "Over the Influence" note, philosophical objections aside, a major, major problem with abstinence-based drug treatment is that it just doesn't work. Although abstinence-based programs account for more than nine out of ten programs in the US, that appears to be more because of inertia than results: Such programs, which define "success" as abstinence from all drugs, work only between 5% and 39% of the time, and that's for the small minority of users who actually complete them.

Instead of relying on programs and models that rely on the disease model and the insistence that the only success is staying completely straight, the authors of "Over the Influence" suggest that we apply the principles of harm reduction to drug use in our personal lives. While the notion of harm reduction in this context is controversial, it shouldn't be -- because it's only common sense.

Harm reduction accepts that people may do things that pose potential risks or harms to them and -- duh -- seeks to reduce those harms. Some people like to race automobiles. Abstinence says they should never race; harm reduction says they should wear helmets and protective clothing. Some people (like those darned teenagers) like to have sex without waiting for marriage. Abstinence says they should remain virgins until the holy day arrives; harm reduction says provide them with birth control and protection from disease if they're going to be sexually active.

When it comes to substance use, the advocates of abstinence are even more insistent: The only way to cure the disease is to never use any psychoactive substance (except for cigarettes and coffee, as any AA veteran knows). But Denning, Little, and Glickman, all three of whom have long experience in harm reduction and therapy under their belts, dare to suggest what has heretofore been anathema in the treatment community: There are other choices besides quitting. In fact, they take as their mantra a slogan popularized by the Chicago Recovery Alliance: Any Positive Change.

What does that mean? Say you think your cocaine use is getting out of hand. You had been snorting only on weekends, but now you find yourself doing it every day. Can you at least skip Tuesday and Thursdays? If you manage to do that, you have not only reduced the potential harm of chronic cocaine use, you have also proven to yourself that you can control your relationship with your drug of choice, that you are not a helpless victim doomed to a downward spiral of addiction and misery.

Or maybe you like to drink, but you find that your nightly bottle of wine is making you so sluggish the next day that you are not getting your work done and your job could be in jeopardy. Can you make it a half-bottle? If so, once again, you have reduced the harm of your substance use and you have demonstrated your control over your own life. And you have not given up the fruit of the vine, only moderated your use of it.

Of course, not everyone is just going to wake up one day, decide to change their substance use habits, and be successful at it. But even if one does not succeed on the first try, the very act of trying to assess and regulate one's drug use is a step in the direction of harm reduction. One of the elements that makes "Over the Influence" so useful for drug users (and those concerned about them) is that it shows readers how to think critically about their drug use, its benefits, and its potential harms. A little introspection never hurt anybody, and when it comes to potentially lethal substances like alcohol or hard drugs, a little introspection can save lives.

"Over the Influence" is absolutely essential for anyone seeking to come to grips with his or her substance use, and even more so for those friends or family members of people who are having problems with their drug use. Unlike AA-based abstinence programs, which seem to work for only a small percentage of people, applying the principles of harm reduction to substance use is likely to make a difference in the larger world of still-drug-using people.

It seems so sensible. How can this be controversial?

Drug War Chronicle Book Review: "Women Behind Bars: The Crisis of Women in the US Prison System," by Silja Talvi (2007, Seal Press, 356 pp., $15.95 PB)

Phillip S. Smith, Writer/Editor

Forty years ago, some 11,000 women were imprisoned in the United States. By 2004, that number had skyrocketed to 110,000, and if you add in the women in jails on any given day, the number of women behind bars is around 200,000 -- many, many of them on drug charges.

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While the overall US prisoner population has rapidly increased over the past few decades, the growth in the number of women behind prison far surpasses the overall rate. Yet most studies of the US prison and jail systems focus on the much larger male prisoner population. That's something investigate journalist Silja Talvi hopes to redress with "Women Behind Bars," and she has done an outstanding job of it.

Visiting numerous prisons -- not only in the US, but also, for comparative purposes, in Canada, England, and Finland -- and conducting hundreds of interviews with prisoners, guards, and advocates, as well as perusing the academic literature, Talvi has constructed a portrait of the US criminal justice system's treatment of women that is a harsh indictment of not only our prisons, but also the culture that perpetuates the resort to mass incarceration as a response to social problems.

It is not easy reading. After all, who wants to read about women prisoners being sexually harassed and raped by guards, who wants to read about prison wings full of mentally disturbed women prisoners screaming incessantly or rubbing feces on their cell walls, who wants to read about women prisoners committing suicide after being locked into cell-like "suicide prevention" rooms seemingly designed to drive them over the edge? Who wants to read about some of the weakest and already most brutalized members of our society who turn to dope or prostitution (or, too often, dope and prostitution), only to be imprisoned for their "crimes"?

It's an ugly subject, and that's part of the problem. Nobody wants to think about our world-leading prison population or the agonies we inflict upon it. In fact, our prison system is geared to shutting them up behind grey walls hidden from the public eye and, hopefully, from the public consciousness. But Silja Talvi is determined to rip the scales from our eyes and force us to look at what we have wrought.

She does so with verve, grace, and humanity. Not only does Talvi bring a keen critical intellect to bear, she also gives voice to the voiceless, standing aside at times to let the women prisoners of America speak for themselves. Their tales of suffering are heartrendingly grim, sometimes seeming as if they were coming from the seventh circle of Hell. The treatment of mentally ill women prisoners is a scandal. The use of female prisoners as sexual playthings by corrupted prison guards is another.

All too many of those stories are because of the decades-long, relentless escalation of the war on drugs. For many reading these words, the story of the imprisonment juggernaut created by the drug war legislation of the 1980s and nurtured by political inertia ever since is an already familiar tale. But Salvi tells it again, eloquently and passionately. We meet women like Amy Ralston, who suffered in prison for more than a decade because she wouldn't rat out her estranged husband , and Regina White, a black woman from South Carolina doing 12 years after crusading pro-life prosecutors charged her with manslaughter for doing cocaine while pregnant -- even though there was no evidence linking her child's death to her drug use.

Talvi offers a harsh critique of the policies and practices that generate thousands of new women prisoners on drug charges, many of them only spouses or girlfriends of the law's actual targets. All too often, Salvi notes, these women end up doing more time than the real culprits even if they had little or no involvement in any drug conspiracies. Prosecutors routinely make conscious decisions to charge them as co-conspirators and send them up the river for years or decades despite knowing that the women are small change. It is a cruelty and cynicism that makes even the hardened heart weep.

Talvi isn't a prison abolitionist; she argues that there are indeed some people who need to be behind bars, but that that number is a tiny fraction of those who actually are, especially women. But she is ready to take on the drug war, sex laws, and other freedom-sucking laws and practices: "I personally would prefer to see the decriminalization or legalization of drug use, the legalization of all forms of consensual sex (including prostitution), far more opportunities for truly therapeutic intervention, prevention- and intervention-minded counseling, real vocational education, and a regular and fair parole review," she writes.

Her book, a cry from heart, will hopefully help hasten that process. We should all hope so, for as the Russian novelist Dostoyevsky once famously noted, "A society should be judged not by how it treats its outstanding citizens, but by how it treats its criminals." As it should be, for we are all complicit in this by our silence.

In fact, as I ponder this, I am reminded of another quote, this one from a freedom-loving radical in our national past. "I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just." That was Thomas Jefferson. He's probably been spinning in his grave for so long, there's nothing left by now.

Maybe, just maybe, Silja Talvi will help save us from ourselves by forcing us to help those we victimize the most. Let's hope lots of people read this book and take its lessons to heart.

(Copies of Women Behind Bars are available as part of our latest membership offer.)

Drug War Chronicle Book Review: "Drugs and Justice: Seeking a Consistent, Coherent, Comprehensive View," by Margaret Battin, et al. (2008, Oxford University Press, 279 pp., $21.95 PB)

Phillip S. Smith, Writer/Editor

This chewy, provocative, interdisciplinary collaboration by a group of academic experts at the University of Utah appears formidable at first glance, but turns out to be remarkably rewarding. In what they bill as a search for justice when it comes to drugs, the authors delve deep into the fundamental theoretical questions at the center of the debates over drugs -- What is addiction? What is harm? -- as well as the history of how we got to where we are and how we can get to a better place. Their search for justice in drug policy takes them to some very interesting places and takes the reader on a fascinating ride.

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Embracing as their starting point the Aristotelian principle that justice means "like cases are treated alike," the authors insist that if we are to develop a "consistent, coherent, and comprehensive" policy toward drugs we must begin by examining the totality of the drug universe -- pharmaceuticals, over the counter (OTC) drugs, illegal drugs, sports enhancement drugs, "common use" drugs (alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco), religious use drugs (peyote, iboga, ayahuasca), and alternative and herbal medications.

The fact that we treat cocaine one way, Ritalin another, and the herbal supplement ephedra yet another is, the authors argue, an historical artifact, the result of complex social and political processes that have little to do with a rational approach to the universe of substances that affect the mind and/or body. Part of our problem, the authors suggest, is that the very division of these substances into the various categories listed above creates enclaves, or "silos," of knowledge, one for prescription drugs, one for illegal drugs, one for OTC drugs. Regulated (to a greater or lesser degree) by different agencies and studied by differing, increasingly specialized, academic and professional disciplines, different categories of drugs become different, unknown universes for those outside the specialty.

Such effects can occur even with drug categories. Consider prescription opioid pain relievers and their users. While pain management specialists and addiction medicine specialists both study the opioids and their effects on their users, their very specializations impel one to see a patient seeking relief and the other to an addict seeking drugs.

And just what is addiction, anyway? The authors accept the consensus that addiction does indeed exist, even if it proves to be a remarkably slippery concept. The pain medicine/addiction medicine field has one definition (the AAPM/APS/ASAM Consensus Definition), the psychiatric profession has another (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual [DSM] diagnosis) -- and they don't necessarily agree. In a fascinating intellectual exercise, the authors compare the cases of two men, both professional, both successful. One is a hard-core coffee drinker who thinks about coffee all the time, relies on it to get his work done, and suffers withdrawal headaches and grogginess if he doesn't get his fix. The other has been using cocaine every weekend for the past two years without any great ill effect. Neither has done any appreciable harm to others because of his drug use.

Under the definitions of the pain docs, our coffee drinking friend is an addict; under the definitions of the DSM, he isn't. In fact, he doesn't even qualify for the less serious diagnosis of "substance abuse." Our weekend warrior cocaine user, on the other hand, does not qualify as an addict under either the consensus definition or the DSM, although he could qualify as the less serious "substance abuser."

The most widely used professional definitions of addiction can't agree about our coffee drinking friend, while they do agree that the cocaine user is not an addict. Equally strangely (or perhaps not), both definitions of addiction define the coffee drinker as having the more serious problem than the cocaine user.

Yet the coffee drinker goes about his business unimpeded, while the cocaine user faces the prospect of arrest and imprisonment. In both cases, the drug users are not harming others and only arguably harming themselves. This suggest, the authors write, that we are not treating like cases alike.

Another core conceptual problem the authors grapple with is the notion of harm. It is, after all, the notion of preventing harm -- to drug users or others or both -- that drives much of drug policy. Justice requires the application of the Millsian Harm Principle, that we are free to do as we choose absent harm to others, but teasing out just what constitutes harm is not as clear-cut as it might seem. Again, our definitions of harm are often based on our "siloed" perspectives and by foregrounding or backgrounding. With illicit drugs, harms are foregrounded and any benefits are hidden in the shadows. (I'm reminded of the scary anti-drug propaganda efforts with their lists of the dire and hideous consequences of using the substances in question. If this stuff is so terrible, why on earth is anyone using it?) The same sort of differing perspective takes place between pain docs and addiction docs; one sees an Oxycontin tablet and thinks of its value as a pain reliever; the other look at it and sees its addictive potential.

Recognizing the problems that still adhere to such key notions in drug policy as addiction and harm, as well as many other complications, the authors nonetheless attempt to posit other, more just, models of drug policy. They construct a policy continuum, with "Drug Anarchism" on one end and "Total Drug Prohibition" on the other, but those are merely ideal types, extremes, unlikely to ever be implemented. More plausible, they suggest, are three alternatives to out present shambolic (inconsistent, incoherent, non-comprehensive) set of drug policies: The Autonomist approach, the Medical Model approach, and the Centralized Superregulatory Approach. One would, absent harm to others, leave drug-taking decisions in the hands of competent adults, one would defer them to pharmacists and "drug trainers," and one would reconstitute our current differing systems of drug regulation into a single system regulated by a single bureaucratic entity, much like the Department of Homeland Security for drugs.

"Drugs and Justice" might appear a daunting jaunt through theory and philosophy, but the authors are very good at bringing things back down to earth. They present numerous case studies to illustrate the various quandaries and dilemmas facing those seeking a just drug policy. It's one thing to pontificate on the philosophy of harm; it's quite another to explore the issues around whether it is just or proper to subject a productive heroin user to a drug court where he must choose between his freedom and his drug of choice.

Throughout this work, the authors are careful to not take sides. But on the last page of the text, they make some recommendations. The most significant is this: "We must make significant changes, not just cosmetic prunings, in the way we treat drugs -- all drugs. This means scrapping many of the laws on the books and starting over."

There is a lot of meat in these pages. And for those with a serious interest in drug policy, broadly defined, it's a pretty tasty treat. This book should be read not only by all those specialists in their silos, but by policymakers seeking a better way forward. Sadly, it's more likely to be read mainly by grad students.

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