America's Longest War is a Reason Foundation film about the extraordinary costs of the U.S. government's 40-year war on drugs.
Drug prohibition has failed. Drug usage rates have not declined, and illegal drugs are more available—and cheaper—than ever before. At the same time, the costs of the drug war are staggering. More than $1 trillion taxpayer dollars have been spent. More than 50,000 SWAT raids occur each year. Hundreds of thousands of non-violent drug offenders are wasting their lives away in prison at our expense. And more than 60,000 people have been murdered in Mexico over the past six years.
America's Longest War provides a brief history of drug prohibition, beginning with Nixon's declaration of war in 1971 and ending with Obama's broken promise to allow states to determine their own medical marijuana policies. It chronicles how, over the past 40 years, the drug war has escalated from a small domestic program mostly focused on treatment to the multi-billion dollar international war it is today.
There are many victims of the drug war, and America's Longest War tells some of their stories.
In 2001, Cory Maye, a black man in Mississippi, shot and killed an intruder while protecting his 18-month old daughter. The intruder turned out to be a white police officer conducting a raid, and Maye was sent to prison for murder. Maye was ultimately released in the Summer of 2011.
Jose Guerena is a retired Marine who served two tours in Iraq. In the Spring of 2011, Guerena heard people breaking into his Arizona home, told his wife and son to hide in the closet, and grabbed his military weapon. Police broke in the door and fired 71 bullets, hitting Guerena 22 times. Guerena bled to death alone, inside his home. The police found nothing incriminating inside the house.
In 1991, Robert Moss and his wife had a one-year old and a baby on the way when Moss was convicted of conspiracy to violate marijuana laws. Because of federal sentencing guidelines passed in the mid-80s, Moss was sentenced to more than 20 years in federal prison. Moss returned to his family in Seattle in the Fall of 2011.
Sandra Rodriguez is a reporter at El Diario, a newspaper in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Over the past few years, Rodriguez has been a first-hand witness to an astounding escalation in drug war related violence and the executions of two of her colleagues. Neither case has been solved, but that's no surprise. Fewer than 3% of the murders in Juarez are investigated.
In 2012, Aaron Sandusky, a medical marijuana dispensary owner in California, was found guilty of conspiracy to violate federal marijuana laws. Sandusky is now serving 10 years in federal prison.
America's Longest War features interviews with former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron, investigative reporter Radley Balko, Alice Huffman of the NAACP, Alison Holcomb of the American Civil Liberties Union, Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance, author John Gibler, El Diario de Juarez reporter Sandra Rodriguez Nieto, University of Texas at El Paso professor Tony Payan, El Paso city representative Suzie Byrd, federal public defender Guy Iversen, former cop Neill Franklin and Judge James P. Gray from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and former DEA Administrator Robert Bonner.