It's frightening to consider that most of the politicians and bureaucrats responsible for establishing illegal drug policy in America will have never read Jill Jonnes' book. Hep-Cats, Narcs, and Pipe Dreams should be mandatory reading for all such people, not necessarily because of the conclusions she reaches--there tends to be dispute in these--but because of the incredible wealth of historical information she has packed in it.
One surprise for the average reader of Hep-Cats is the rich history of illicit drug use in America. Drug use connotes Timothy Leary and the turbulent sixties, or the more recent crack cocaine epidemic. But in reality, numerous waves of drug abuse-illegal and otherwise--have swept the country, each with their own unique origins, consequences, and solutions. One of the benefits of studying history, is the opportunity to learn from past mistakes and avoid repeating them. It appears that America has been repeating its errors in using and controlling drugs for centuries. We're a liberal, open-minded society of fun-loving risk-takers. We delude ourselves into believing the latest and greatest drug has no consequences, or that we're at least of strong enough character to master it. The inevitable result is the vicious cycle of addiction (or dependency), crime, finger pointing, and policy experimentation.
Does the answer lie in prevention, treatment, education, law enforcement, stricter sentencing, or all of the above? We don't always agree, but Hep-Cats provides a thorough and accurate background, a wonderful educational foundation on which policymakers could base decisions and hopefully control arguably the single largest contributor to crime in America: drug abuse. But this is no textbook. Meticulously researched, thoughtfully constructed, and very well-written, Hep-Cats is an entertaining read for all. -Christopher Bonn Jonnes, author of Wake Up Dead.