Public Enemy Number One Image

It’s only taken us fifty years to realize that the war on drugs hasn’t worked. Robert Rippberger’s documentary Public Enemy Number One provides the best and most concise history of the “war,” and its effects…not only in the United States but particularly in the African-American community. It not only addresses U.S. drug ineffective policy but also how the powers-at-be lumped marijuana in the same category as hardcore drugs.

Featured in the documentary are notable experts in drug war history and policy, including NORML founder Keith Stroup, Ethan Nadelmann, Jack Cole, Neill Franklin, Kevin Sabet, Smoke and Mirrors author Dan Baum, three former Drug Czars, and of course, the film’s producer Ice-T.

“…he organizes a drug task force. The results told him that the problem was not as serious he hoped…”

Public Enemy Number One begins with President Nixon as he organizes a drug task force. The results told him that the problem was not as serious he hoped and immediately disregards its findings (particularly about marijuana). Now the war has begun.

Reagan would double down and declare marijuana as dangerous as harder drugs, like cocaine. Reagan resolved to bolster the police with increased funding to hit traffickers hard as well as institute forfeiture laws. The police would use seized funds for “new toys” and begin planting drugs on known dealers…it just gets worse from here. Ironically, Nancy would come up with her infamous “Just Say No” campaign, which most on both sides of the aisle realized was the most effective deterrent to drugs.

Public Enemy Number One (2020)

Directed and Written: Robert Rippberger

Starring: Keith Stroup, Ethan Nadelmann, Jack Cole, Neill Franklin, Ice-T, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

Public Enemy Number One Image

"…Young lives were ruined in the black community…"

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