American Drug War, a critically acclaimed documentary by filmmaker Kevin Booth, is a comprehensive look at the United States’ decades-long war on drugs. The film takes an in-depth look at all aspects of the issue, from users and dealers to law enforcement officials and politicians. It also examines how poverty and other socioeconomic factors have contributed to the cycle of drug addiction.
Booth and his crew take viewers undercover into some of the most notorious drug hotbeds outside of Los Angeles, capturing candid conversations between addicts and police officers. In one powerful vignette, Booth films a conversation between an officer and an addict who is high enough to be using directly in front of the police station; throughout their dialogue the man explains his preference for crack over meth as if he were talking about soft drinks. These scenes offer an up-close perspective on what life is like on the streets for those caught in this dangerous cycle.
The documentary raises questions about why so much time and money are being spent on criminalizing recreational drugs instead of focusing on recovery and addiction support programs. Booth interviews Judge James P. Gray of California’s Orange County Superior Court, who points out that while we are far from a “drug-free America,” criminalization alone will never get us there. He puts forth a compelling argument for creating support systems that help people avoid entering into or escaping from this cycle of addiction.
The film also highlights Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s controversial S.M.A.R.T Tents program in Arizona’s Maricopa County, which houses convicted inmates – approximately half of whom are there on drug charges – in large tent cities set up specifically for this purpose. Weaving together stories from both sides of the debate, American Drug War gives viewers a nuanced understanding of the history and impact of this issue in our society today – making it essential viewing for anyone looking to gain an informed perspective on this complex subject matter.