I also had to sample a lot of wares — all in the name of science, of course.
Talk about how the drug war in the U.S. evolved.
The driving force behind marijuana being banned in the 1930s had to do with one man: Harry Anslinger, the first commissioner of a federal narcotics bureau under Hoover and a few presidents afterward. This was just after Prohibition ended — the alcohol prohibition — so Anslinger and his bunch of narcs had nothing left to do. So rather than sit around with their dicks in their hands waiting to get redundant, they went out and created new jobs through a lot of fearmongering. They basically said smoking weed would make you kill your whole family. And there was racism — you had a lot of black jazz musicians who were smoking “reefer,” and you also had Mexicans who were smoking “marijuana” — that’s partly why in America they say marijuana instead of cannabis, because it sounds more Mexican.
Which also means, interestingly, there was a period in twenties America when smoking weed was legal, but you weren’t allowed to get a beer. Harry was a racist and he’d treat white people with an addiction different to black people. He died in the seventies but his spirit lived on. We saw the pattern again in the eighties with the so-called crack epidemic — this picture of “crackheads” showing up to steal things every night, “crack mothers” and their babies, etc.
These were real problems but the way it got spun by the media and Ronald Reagan led to militarized police and mass incarceration on a scale never seen before. In no other developed country do police shoot so many unarmed civilians, and no other country in the world locks up so many of its own citizens. The cure was worse than the disease.
What do you want people to come away with after reading your book?
Well, some people say quitting cigarettes is even harder than coming off heroin, yet we say using one of these is evil and scummy and the other’s just a bad habit. Why? Is it really because heroin makes you go out and steal things and get infected with AIDS, or is it just the way our society treats drug addicts? Why’s it okay to go out, get drunk, and have a fight on Saturday night, but if you wanna stay home and smoke a joint, the guy you got it from has to go to prison?
We’ve been so programmed for decades. I want readers to think about whether there can be another way. But in writing Dopeworld, I didn’t want to make it preachy, or all facts, facts, facts. I wanted it to be a little bit funny, a little shocking or out there. You don’t always wanna read a PhD thesis, you wanna be entertained! So hopefully I’ve done that.
What’s next for you?
Move to an island in the Bahamas, get some strippers and beer, and party like it’s 1969! No, what I’m hoping to do is to make Dopeworld a sort of franchise. So we’ve got a Dutch edition coming up with an exclusive chapter about the gangster world of Amsterdam — “Gangsterdam,” we’re calling it. I’m hoping to sell the rights to more countries and write exclusive chapters for these places. For example: Hamas versus the opioid addiction problem on the Gaza Strip, for Arab-Hebrew editions. I’ve also got another idea for a book I’ve been working on called How to Break Out of Jail, with different prison-break stories from around the world.
Seth Ferranti is a former federal prisoner whose writings have been featured on VICE, Don Diva, and Gorilla Convict. He’s author of the crime series Street Legends, the comic series Crime Comix, and writer/producer of “White Boy” on Starz. … You can find Dopeworld at Amazon to expand your knowledge.