The War On Drugs will never be won. It’s a battle that simply cannot be sustained without dealing with the root cause of what drives so many to this business. With many people across the globe crippled by inequality and the growing economic gulf between the rich and poor, the business of drugs has never been so appealing. As we start to see the legalization of drugs like cannabis, The Business of Drugs is a 6-part documentary looking at the production, distribution and economic impact of the drug trade.
From Colombia’s cocaine to those working the front-lines of the dangerous Heroin routes in Kenya, there’s a globally encompassing effort to include those at the heart of each trade. Unfortunately this effort doesn’t extend to the tone and style of the series which remains geared primarily for Americans.
The documentary certainly doesn’t get off to a great start, comparing the War On Drugs to that of terrorism before another questionable comparison to video game and cocaine prices staying the same. It’s worth mentioning that this analogy is completely skewed given video games now include DLC, microtransactions, gambling mechanics and more that’s seen it become one of the most profitable industries in the world.
Eventually the series does settle down into a more consistent rhythm though and with the narration of former CIA analyst Amaryllis Fox, each episode tackles a different drug. Throughout the episodes The Business Of Drugs includes a combination of face to face interviews with suited experts and those working the front lines in the fields or the ports. This does help give a little more depth and understanding to what’s happening and in some episodes we also jump back through time and see the history of what drove this to become so profitable to begin with.
There’s plenty of expository text, maps and diagrams presented too but all of these are presented with US dollars and how America is tackling this issue, rather than individual countries. It’s a little disappointing too given there’s a golden opportunity here to include characters like Philippine’s President Rodrigo Duterte. For those unaware, this man rose to infamy over his promises to kill anyone associated with the drug trade. Even the cannabis episode fails to expand out beyond Los Angeles to look at places like Jamaica and The Netherlands where legalization has been a mainstay for many years now.
If you’re an American, The Business On Drugs may be worth a watch. There’s some politically charged material here that’s topical and the constant diagrams and comparisons to industries within the US certainly help make sense of what’s happening. For those outside North America or looking for something with a bit more substance, The Business On Drugs is a disappointingly shallow experience, one that lacks the same globally encompassing viewpoint something like Ross Kemp: Extreme World has in abundance. While there are some positives to be found here, The Business Of Drugs pales by comparison to others in this genre.