Why Our Drug Laws

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 Judge, 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.


“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

“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, Hoover Institution

“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, Distinguished Fellow, Hoover Institution and author of the Turmoil and Triumph: My Years as Secretary of State

“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

“This book is a powerful indictment of our failed war on drugs. Jim Gray not only communicates the devastation wrought by a war he witnessed from the frontlines as a trial judge and federal prosecutor, but he displays in these pages the moral courage it takes to cry out that the emperor wears no clothes.”
Arianna Huffington, syndicated columnist and author of How to Overthrow the Government

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