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Maximizing Harm: Losers and Winners in the Drug War by Stephen Young

as seen in Trip #6

Stephen Young
Maximizing Harm: Losers and Winners in the Drug War, 2000

After spending enough time identifying yourself as a member of the “psychedelic community” at large, you begin to take for granted the fact that the war on drugs is an awful monstrosity. You get used to the numbing barrage of horror stories that seem to pour through news outlets on a regular basis. You nod cynically and get on with your life, moderately secure in the notion that they likely will never catch you specifically, that you specifically will likely never have your house seized or your loved ones gunned down in cold blood, that you specifically will never rot in prison for preposterous amounts of time for having the audacity to enjoy yourself in the privacy of your own home.

Stephen Young’s excellent Maximizing Harm: Losers and Winners in the Drug War is like a big bucket of ice cold water dumped on your naked, sleeping body. It’s a slim work, but that’s because it is impressively concise in the way it catalogues the many abuses perpetrated by the United States government against its own citizenry. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve likely heard most of these facts before (and if you haven’t, literally the last third of the book is references), but having them assembled in such a vicious portrait provides the book with its impact. There’s an undercurrent of self-righteousness in the book’s organization and presentation, but so what? The government has resorted to lying, stealing, cheating, and murdering in order to get its way in this war, and Young refuses to let them get away with it. He provides no particular sense of hope beyond a few meager examples, but that’s not his fault; the situation remains dismal, and is not likely to improve any time soon. Still, if you’ve been looking for ammunition to use against your ignorant, conservative, pig-headed family or coworkers, this book is it.

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