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Demons Discrimination and Dollars: A Brief History of the Origins of American Drug Policy
by David Bearman, MD
Publisher:
Prosperity Press 
Year:
2007 
ISBN:
0-9651077-2-8 
Categories:
Book Reviews
Reviewed by David Arnson, 1/30/2010

David Bearman’s Demons Descrimination and Dollars is a treatise on how the current dysfunctional U.S. drug law policies have been shaped by various sociocultural, economic, and governmental forces throughout history. It reads very much like a series of history lessons, and is based on a course taught by the author and another teacher at University of California at Santa Barbara. Its short chapters make it an easily digestible read, however, the book is weighted down with an absolutely staggering amount of typos and grammatical errors, which, coming from a university course, is indeed perplexing.

Bearman starts with a history of mankind’s earliest usage of mind-altering substances, such as the Amanita muscaria mushroom. The rise of Christianity, and its assimilation and demonization of other religions is well detailed. There is an excellent section on the Inquisition, and how the scapegoating of witches and heathens was a surefire way of maintaining governmental control. The author goes on to convincingly argue the case that our very country was built on both the hemp and tobacco trade, substances that one could currently consider today as drugs.

There are some amazingly informative sections on how these industries of the Americas were buoyed by the slave trade (interesting fact—did you know that the Irish were treated as lower than blacks in the colonies and New World for years?!) In very conversational tones, the book elaborates on how alcohol, opium, cannabis and cocaine have gone in and out of legality in the United States. There are some very eye-opening sections on on how many of our current drug laws were clearly passed to stigmatize minorities and immigrants. The Prohibition years are also well-covered in fascinating detail. The book winds up with coverage of the U.S. Controlled Substances Act,and the many factors leading up to the total failure in rationale and effectiveness of current U.S. drug laws.

As stated before, this book is based on a college course, and is presented in an informal, basic and easy-to-read format. I highly recommend it for the vast spectrum of relevant and interesting facts on the past and present history of the United States’ relationship with controlled substances. The big problem with the book is not the facts or subject material, but the shoddy presentation in terms of punctuation, typos, etc. For example, the author repeatedly uses the misspelled term “ethnogens”. One chapter is titled “Drug Laws Wreck (sic) Havoc on the Appropriate Workings of Democracy”. I would recommend that the authors run this book through some grammatical proofreading if they want their message to be taken more seriously (and put some commas in the title, for example!). Overall an informative read for any “Erowidian”.

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