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Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It: A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs 1st Edition

4.8 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1566398602
ISBN-10: 1566398606
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As provocative and topical as the film Traffic, here's a scathing jeremiad against the war on drugs, notable both for the author's position and for the sustained anger of its argument. Following his career as a federal prosecutor and a trial judge, Gray, now a California Superior Court justice, is struck by the revelation that the so-called war on drugs was "wasting unimaginable amounts of our tax dollars, increasing crime and despair and severely and unnecessarily harming people's lives... the worst of all worlds." He effectively documents a growing coalition of often conservative lawyers, legislators and justices who view the drug war's impotent dream of national abstinence as folly and its shadow effects (from imprisonment of nonviolent offenders to diversion of law enforcement resources) as dangers to liberty. Gray writes with the courage of his convictions, bluntly addressing the most controversial elements of the drug war. For example, he asserts that politicians offer slavish loyalty to the drug war because it is "fundable," not because it is winnable. Similarly, Gray details how drug prosecutions have both whittled away at constitutional protections and corrupted many police agencies. He even takes the radical step of humanizing drug users. Without assuming a libertarian stance, he establishes that the risks to an individual who is determined to use drugs are dwarfed by the harm caused to the community by overaggressive policing and the criminal economy. Gray's crisp prose is mercifully short on legalese, and his book has the structural clarity of an accessible legal text. This quality, and the sensible passion of Gray's conclusions, will make this a crucial reference for those politicians, voters, activists and law enforcement agencies seeking to reform established policy.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


"As provocative and topical as the film Traffic, here's a scathing jeremiad against the war on drugs, notable both for the author's position and for the sustained anger of its argument." - Publishers Weekly (starred review) "However harmful the ingestion of drugs are to their users, the attempt to prohibit drugs has made matters far worse, threatening our basic rights to life, liberty and property. That is Judge Gray's thesis in this important book and he cites overwhelming evidence to support it. His proposals to improve the situation do not go as far as I would like, but they are all feasible and in the right direction. If adopted, they would produce a major improvement." - Milton Friedman "The war on drugs cannot be a war on discussion of this problem. We can fight drug use and abuse and still explore viable options. Judge Gray illuminates options and in the process will promote necessary discussion of them." - George P. Shultz "It's all here! A stinging indictment of today's drug strategies and a rallying cry around new strategies for tomorrow." - Gary E. Johnson, Governor of New Mexico "It has been said that in public policy development we must distinguish between ideas that sound good and good ideas that are sound. In this book, Judge Gray provides sound ideas for a more effective national drug control policy. He recognizes that the War on Drugs needs new thinking for this new century." - Kurt L. Schmoke, Former Mayor of the City of Baltimore "Judge Gray's thorough and scholarly work, based as it is on his personal experience, should help considerably to improve our impossible drug laws. [His] book drives a stake through the heart of the failed War on Drugs and gives us options to hope for in the battles to come" - Walter Cronkite "...as engrossing and highly readable as its title is obvious. An encyclopedia of facts and figures underscoring our failed policies, together with a visionary path out of this mess. Gray's book catalogs the scandalous waste of resources that we continue to throw at the criminalization of a problem that a strong majority of Californians now understand is fundamentally a social and public health issue. Gray also makes good on his guarantee set forth in the Introduction: No one who reads the book will favor a continuation of our present drug policy, unless that person has a vested interest in the continuation of the policy. ...Gray's fine contribution to the subject provide[s] [an] important addition to the growing library of works that make the irrefutably strong case for the decriminalization of drugs. [The book] will hopefully become required reading for all policy-makers." - Christopher Mears, Orange County Metro "Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It is even better than I had expected. No aspect of the drug war is ignored, no argument in favor of handling drugs through the legal system is spared attention, and few drug warriors emerge unscathed." - Commentary "James P. Gray, a California Superior Court judge and a former Republican congressional candidate, has written perhaps the most convincing indictment ever that the war on drugs can never be won. ...Gray's careful, sobering book provides grounds for taking a fresh look at our national drug policies." - Philadelphia Inquirer "...an impassioned plea to reconsider the War on Drugs before it does more harm to our society and our legal system." - Charles K. Bultman, California Lawyer

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Temple University Press; 1st edition (May 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566398606
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566398602
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,241,618 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bryan Carey VINE VOICE on November 5, 2003
Format: Paperback
Judge James Gray has served in several capacities, including prosecutor, defense attorney, and judge as well as his recent career move as an author and possible political candidate. Through his work in the legal system, he has witnessed the corruption, the injustice, and the overall insanity of the War on Drugs. He wrote this book as an educational piece and as a call to political action.
Gray presents dozens of quotes from individuals in government, in law, and in other walks of life who have observed the failures of the drug war and know that the laws against drug use are actually more harmful than the drugs themselves. Gray shows how the drug laws have been used to justify expansion of government power and erosion of civil liberties. He shows how drug laws corrupt law enforcement officials and often lead to early paroling of violent criminals in order to make room in prison cells for non- violent drug offenders. Most politicians refuse to touch this issue (with a few exceptions, like former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson) out of fear. They worry how the ignorant, misinformed public will respond so they just push the issue under the table and hope it doesn't resurface during election time.
One of the most indicting facts about the pro- drug war radicals is the fact that they usually refuse to debate anti- drug war advocates in a public forum. Death- loving extremists, like the evil former drug czar Barry McCaffrey, refuse to debate these issues. This intimidation of taking on an anti- drug war individual speaks volumes. If the pro- drug war forces really felt their message was srong, they would have no problem having a debate and, in fact, would likely welcome one.
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The war on drugs is a difficult and emotional topic. As a "law and order" type conservative, it goes against my grain to side in opposition to the law enforcement and government communities. But as I am also a closet Libertarian, I have been increasingly alarmed by the destruction of our constitutional rights and civil society that has become the legacy of the War on Drugs.
Judge Gray thoroughly sums up the views of many Americans such as myself. We are not in any way part of the drug culture (Usually one of the first accusations leveled against opponents of the war on drugs), it's just that we've come to see the insanity of our policies on this topic. Pulling every aspect of the War on Drugs together, he paints a comprehensive picture of self destructive insanity that I had never imagined- even though I was already familiar with many of the subjects he raises. Then he spells out the entire variety of other options available to us to handle this problem. They range from quite mild to very radical, and he's very frank about the advantages and pitfalls of each, as well as how "doable" they are.
Unfortunately, I'm afraid he's preaching to the choir. Only those of like mind ar liable to read this book. If I could, I'd send a copy of this book, or at least a pamphlet of the hightlights, to every adult in the United States.
The book is peppered with anecdotes and quotes from a variety of sources. One that stays with me seems to sum up the entire point of the book.
"We should save prisons for people we are afraid of, rather than those we are simply mad at."
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I am a social conservative and previously supported the War on Drugs because, well, drugs are bad.
But I read this book and became convinced that the U.S. couldn't have devised a better strategy than the War on Drugs to ENRICH drug dealers and INCREASE harms affiliated with drug abuse. If Americans had ANY IDEA how reckless and counterproductive our current drug policy is, there would be HUGE political pressure for change.
That's where "Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed" comes in. Conservative judge James P. Gray -- who presides over the Superior Court in Orange County, CA -- is certainly "in the know" about drug abuse issues. With over 20 years' experience as a judge, Gray is on the front lines of the War on Drugs. A former prosecutor and self-proclaimed "drug warrior," Gray's own efforts only persuaded him that the War on Drugs is causing much more harm than good.
(I took off one star because Gray is a decent writer, but much of his sentence construction is a little clunky.)
This book should be required reading for EVERY American voter! Judge Gray will convince you that America is only shooting itself in the foot and dragging down other countries with it. (Indeed, Gray promises in his introduction: "No one who reads this book and thinks objectively about the issues it raises will favor a continuation of our present drug policy.") This is not just rhetoric -- even with all the sweat, blood, and money we pump into the drug war, there are more drugs on our streets than ever before! We couldn't have devised a bigger failure if we tried.
Thankfully, the author does detail numerous common-sense alternatives to the two extremes of drug prohibition and drug legalization.
"Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed" demonstrates that our War on Drugs is needlessly and recklessly tearing apart lives and families. That should be enough to give liberals AND conservatives pause.
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