This sharp, well-paced film about the state of the US drug war could be titled The Wire: The Documentary. Which makes sense, as David Simon, a former reporter who became a key writer for The Wire, has a heavy presence in the film. Like the iconic television series, The House I Live In takes a broad look at how our drug laws—used as political and rhetorical leverage by Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton—have fucked up American lives and American neighborhoods. It convincingly demonstrates that while drugs can be destructive, the war on drugs multiplies their destructiveness by orders of magnitude. As one longtime cop who’s spent a career patrolling tough drugs-and-prostitution neighborhoods puts it, almost everyone touched by the drug trade thinks the current system of criminalization is a failure. The House I Live In proves his point by talking to judges, street-corner dealers, cops, convicts, prison officials (one of whom says he’s such a law-and-order guy, he’d take one police car over 10 soup kitchens), and others. They come from radically different perspectives, but all agree on one thing: The war on drugs hasn’t just failed to make any dent in drug use, it is actively making America worse. No matter what you think about drug policy—and especially if you don’t think about it at all—go see The House I Live In. recommended

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