Published Jun 27, 2013Looking back at the anti-drug campaigns of the '80s, I chuckle as I recall teen heartthrobs interrupting cartoons with a stern message, comparing the human brain to an egg, later fried in a pan to signify being on crack. We've all been taught that drugs are bad and that the government and law enforcement agencies have our best interests in mind.
Presented as a highly stylized instructional film about how to get into the world of drug sales and reap the profits, Matthew Cooke's documentary, How To make Money Selling Drugs, is much more than the title implies.
Cooke's narration begins the film by asking viewers if they are interested in a rewarding job that doesn't require experience or education. From there, we are presented with the steps in how to succeed in drug dealing. From the ground level of simple street dealing right up the food chain through bulk distribution and to the top level drug lord, each step of the way is outlined and backed up with interviews of experts that include former drug dealers and members of law enforcement.
Much of the information presented is tongue-in-cheek, with sassy narration, animation and music, yet through the comedy there's also a sense of honesty and insight into the seedy world of narcotics. It dives into the reasons why kids opt to sell drugs instead of working for minimum wage and even how the profits can sometimes outweigh the jail terms if you are caught.
The film slowly sheds the satirical façade mid-way through and shifts its focus to how drugs have been destroying society and how the current American anti-drug policies only serve to exacerbate the issue. The U.S. government continues to spend billions of dollars on a "war" against drugs that might be better served treating addiction, as well as undertaking efforts that have proven successful elsewhere in the world – Portugal's strategy being a shining example.
How To Make Money Selling Drugs is a plea for the decriminalization of drugs, albeit presented within an entertaining package. Cooke competently shifts from satire to understanding to subsequent outrage in a way that evokes thought and opinion from viewers, making an argument, and a film, that's difficult to dispute, despite the use of high profile celebrities as glib selling points. (Berkshire Axis Media)