How to Make Money Selling Drugs (Cinedigm/Tribeca Film, NR)

howtomakemoney 75As long as it stays in infomercial mode, How to Make Money Selling Drugs is both entertaining and informative—it’s quite specific about how the drug trade works, and features everyone from Russell Simmons to Freeway Rick Ross (the guy who invented crack) to an array of lawyers, policemen, and others whose living depends in whole or in part on the drug trade.

 

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Friends, has today’s economy left you behind? Do you find yourself unemployed or falling behind on the rent? Would you like to make a six-figure starting salary, with no money down? How about $1000 an hour? It’s easy, as Matthew Cooke and a varied cast of characters detail in the new documentary How to Make Money Selling Drugs—as long as you don’t mind risks like being shot at (by both the police and your business rivals) or going to prison for a lengthy sentence. You might also have to shoot some people yourself, and hire some thugs to protect you, and some of your neighbors might accidentally get caught in the crossfire, but nothing comes easy in this modern world.

Of course, Cooke is not really intent on teaching people how to be drug dealers—instead, he’s cleverly adopting the infomercial format to make some points about how lucrative the drug trade can seem, particularly to those with few options, and how much damage has been done, particularly in the African-American community, by draconian laws and law enforcement strategies that seem blind to two obvious truths—people want drugs because they make you feel good (also because some of them are addictive, creating an enviable base of repeat customers), and people get involved in the drug trade because it’s a way to make money, particularly for people with few or no other good options.

There’s not a lot of new information in How to Make Money Selling Drugs, but it’s cleverly packaged and the film moves quickly and uses a variety of means—well-presented interviews with an entertaining and informative cast of characters, archival footage, snappy graphics, and even clips from The Wire, The Godfather, and The French Connection—to make its points. The film concentrates on marijuana and cocaine, but the basic principles apply to any number of drugs, as well as other illegal products and activities—if people want it, you can make money selling it, and if it’s illegal you can make even more money. As a side benefit, being a drug dealer can bring you friends and status, and who doesn’t want those things?

As long as it stays in infomercial mode, How to Make Money Selling Drugs is both entertaining and informative—it’s quite specific about how the drug trade works, and features everyone from Russell Simmons to Freeway Rick Ross (the guy who invented crack) to an array of lawyers, policemen, and others whose living depends in whole or in part on the drug trade. It also makes strong points without breaking a sweat—for instance, that more white people use cocaine, but four times as many African-Americans get arrested for it—and as 50 Cent and others explain, it’s police procedures and discriminatory drug laws that are the cause of this discrepancy, not coincidence or some law of nature.

About an hour in, the film becomes more conventional, and more heavy-handed, illustrating how the war on drugs has become self-sustaining—it’s not winnable, but it’s eminently fundable, as one interviewee puts it—and how the focus on making arrests and seizing property in drug raids has corrupted police departments, the corrections system, and the political process without making a dent in drug use. It would also be stronger without the segment on abuse of prescription drugs and alcohol near the end of the film. But for all that, How to Make Money Selling Drugs is still worth watching through to the end, particularly if the subject is new to you.

Extras on the DVD include an interview with Russell Simmons (5 min.) and a director’s commentary with Matthew Cooke. | Sarah Boslaugh

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