Our Drugs War (3 parts)

Documentary series examining the global story of drugs, from Afghanistan’s poppy fields to the streets of New York and the estates of Edinburgh.

01 Everyone’s At It

One in six British citizens have used class-A drugs. Focusing on Scotland – named by the UN as Europe’s drug capital – the first episode shows the stark contrast between Edinburgh’s rich city centre and its underprivileged estates, where up to 60-70% of the residents can be drug users. Film-maker Angus Macqueen visits one such estate with two volunteers for drugs charity Crew.

They show him how the drug trade operates on a day-to-day basis in front of – and often with the participation of – children, some as young as eight. While all social classes use drugs equally, 70% of addicts have left school by the age of 16 and 85% are unemployed. The police fail to control supply – in Scotland seizing just one per cent of the heroin consumed – criminals make money, and demand only increases.

02 The Life & Death Of A Dealer

Award-winning filmmaker Angus Macqueen looks at the social cost of America’s war on drugs through the life of 28-year-old Thomas Winston: a small-time drug dealer struggling to stay out of prison and away from the lure of easy money that illegal drugs offer. Thomas is first seen campaigning against the ‘Rockefeller’ drugs laws in New York State, where sale or possession of small amounts of drugs are given a mandatory sentence equivalent to second degree murder, and have long been seen to be both discriminatory and draconian.

The film tracks Thomas’s moving story over a number of months, as he interacts with the legal system and as his probation officer and lawyer attempt to help him; but gradually he is drawn back to his old life. By the end of the film, Thomas has been stabbed to death. Thomas’s story illustrates the failure of America’s zero tolerance drug laws, which don’t stop supply or address addiction, but rather consign whole groups of society to a tragic cycle, undermining the very fabric of whole communities.

03 Birth Of A Narco State

Birth of a Narco-State shows how the war on drugs is actually fuelling the long-term civil war in Afghanistan, possibly creating what he calls a ‘Narco-Theocracy’: a toxic mixture of drugs money and religious extremism. Meanwhile, western demand for heroin generates huge profits that finance both sides in the civil war, corrupting the very government that British soldiers are fighting to protect.

This film gets under the skin of the drug trade in Afghanistan, from the deserts of the Afghanistan-Iran border to the smuggling centre of Herat and the courts in Kabul, engaging with those working to establish some sort of order in the face of overwhelming odds; all the time questioning whether it is our drug laws or our drug demand that is causing the problems in the first place.

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