"...Using facts to sharpen the many points of dispute and giving advocates a
fair chance to present their views, the hour-long report winds up brimming with
the passions of elected officials, cops and drug agents, judges, academics,
young kids and teenagers, convicted marijuana offenders and family members who
have been affected by enforcement actions and policy decisions."
"...Which policies would best serve the public interest is an extraordinarily
complex question. Busted should help advance the search for
"FRONTLINE documentaries often take a point of view, but Busted
is an exception, and it feels as if the producers were pulling punches on this
one. Although it does an adequate job showing both sides of the pot debate,
the underlying question--"should marijuana be legalized?"--is scarcely
addressed here, and that's too bad.
But after the hysteria of "reefer madness" in the '50s and the "tune out, turn
on" liberalism of the '60s, Busted will help conflicted '90s viewers
cut through some of the smoke and mirrors.
"The subject tomorrow night is marijuana: how easy to grow, how profitable to
sell, how severe the punishment if you are caught growing or selling or even
just using. The producers of Busted: America's War On Marijuana take
no position on the debate over the laws that have filled prisons with people
who have committed a nonviolent crime, but they do clear the air a little."
"...Glimpsed in this many-sided report is a division in Americans' attitudes
toward marijuana, evidenced by the contrast between the law's stern approach
and the much lighter treatment in popular culture. Meanwhile the famous war on
marijuana goes on, costing the country at least $10 billion a year. Further
inquiry is invited."
"Busted: America's War on Marijuana takes a different approach to the
issue of pot. It deals only peripherally with the familiar arguments, pro and
con over legalization and decriminalization. Instead the PBS documentary
series focuses on the draconian penalties still on the books for a drug that
some states wink at, pop culture laughs at and most users eventually grow out
of. Moreover, it is a drug whose use, a government study recommended, should
be treated like a traffic offense."
"On FRONTLINE ...a doctor who's researched pot for 30 years goes on to
say that it's a "powerful drug" and possibly a societal evil.
Still, FRONTLINE seems to wonder: Is growing pot a worse crime than
"...FRONTLINE finds veteran law enforcement officers who admit to
doubts about equating marijuana with cocaine and heroin, and interviews a
federal district judge, Thelton Henderson of San Francisco, who says the
mandatory minimum sentences are "unduly harsh."
But if FRONTLINE lights up and takes a puff, it never exactly inhales.
Henderson, who wishes judges had their old latitude back, is balanced by
Senator Orrin Hatch, who harrumphs about "soft-on-crime judges" and a drug
culture that's "wrecking our country."
"The show covers areas that may come as a surprise even to those who have been
following the debate closely: it focuses not on marijuana use or the arguments
over legalizations or decriminalization, but on Americans who are serving long
jail terms because they've been growing the stuff themselves."
"...The show is even-handed to a fault, letting everyone have his say but
refusing to argue that the "war on drugs" is a failure tantamount to
"...Those who favor legalization may be disappointed in the show's approach.
[Producer] Mannes said that she was looking for a "third way" to approach the
issue between the legalizers and the drug warriors."