If there’s one thing pot growers can come together on, it’s the needless villainy that the War On (some) Drugs has wrought. Pot growers take as simply axiomatic that the War On Drugs is racist, wasteful, ruinous, and hypocritical (as we all use some drugs).
Eugene Jarecki’s The House I Live In, therefore, covers little new ground for our community. Fortunately, this does not equate to a filmmaker preaching to the converted, as there is much in this excellent documentary to recommend it even to those of us who are already in the tank against the War. Yes, the film assembles a superlative array of experts whom are interviewed about their research and experience with the War On Drugs, it covers the chilling statistics most of us already know (the US is the world’s number one jailer with 2.3 M inmates, the War is prosecuted on blacks to a hugely disproportionate degree, etc.), and it offers a personal window onto several War casualties (a young black man being sentenced by a reluctant judge to 20 years for his third bust, a man incarcerated for life for three ounces of meth, and the terrible destruction this does to the victims’ families and communities), but what really makes it work is the compassion Jarecki brings to the subject.
This is not bleeding-heart sappiness, but a world-hardened empathy–for the victims, the victims’ families, and even the police, judges and a hard-case warden who all see the needless damage done by a system of which they are a part.
The film’s gut-wrenching ending, delivered by a historian from America’s heartland, echos the ideas espoused by the recently deceased Thomas Szasz: Drug users are scapegoats. And they are being systematically stripped of their legal and human rights. Because that’s what people do.