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An unchanging 1.3% addiction rate. A $1.5 trillion price tag. Stories from the front lines of a war we cannot win but will not end.

(Did you know there is another video down below? Check it out.)

This is the story of how a challenge to personal freedom has evolved into the most corrosive force in American society, the dramatic costs it has wrought and how a few courageous actors have shown us a new way forward.

An unwinnable war has failed.

As it enters its fifth decade, that the American War on Drugs has failed is no longer in question. The addiction rate at the outset of Nixon's all-out offensive – 1.3% – has remained the same despite spending more than $1.5 trillion since 1971. More striking than the financial costs have been the broad societal implications: an erosion of our civil liberties; a withered ability to police violent crime; and an outright dismissal of many of the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution.

Even more outrageous have been the personal costs associated with this failed policy: an inability to treat drugs as the health issue it is; a lost opportunity to research effective treatment for abusers; and an outright denial of effective medicine for patients. 

Through the personal narratives of those who have fought the War on Drugs, those who have become its collateral damage, and those who have benefited from it, we will reveal the origins of this conflict and it's unrelenting corrosion of many of our country's core principles.

Why this film? Why now?

As the 2012 election nears, eight states have ballot initiatives related to easing restrictions on, or outright legalizing, marijuana. But to listen to our two anointed candidates debate, our failed drug control regime is so effective as to not warrant a single mention. Worse, Mitt Romney has said he would completely eliminate medical marijuana, using the discredited "gateway theory" as his rationale. In 2008, Obama campaigned on a promise to not interfere with states' rights with regard to medical marijuana, but that too has turned out to be a lie. With the ballot initiatives, an amazing film like The House I LIve In premiering last Friday, and this film illuminating the stories of those most affected by our failed approach, we can create a wave of momentum to bring this issue to the mainstream.

We want to bring to life an honest portrayal of this policy's beginnings and its consequences, both deliberate and unintentional, and we're going to do it with an eye-opening kick ass film that will shock and awe audiences all over the world.

But we need your help.

We need only $87,000 to hit our initial goal... That's about 2,000 DVDs, 500 Blu Rays, and 1,000 Digital Downloads, and that doesn't even get into the cool stuff like the limited edition art prints and T-shirts (images will be uploaded soon). This is doable, and you can help us make this a highly anticipated documentary.

We need somewhere in the range of 3,000-4,000 supporters. We need all the shares and likes on Facebook we can get. We need the word to spread throughout the Twitterverse.

And it begins with you.

Back this project; get your friends and family to back it; share it with others; do it all again. We have less than one month to make this happen.

This is an amount that will allow us to get through principal photography and through editing to a solid rough cut stage. When we hit this goal, it will set the foundation for this film's eventual move into the mainstream, and it will be thanks to you. If we exceed this goal, we'll have the opportunity to upgrade the project by filming with better equipment, hiring specialized designers to help artfully elucidate important concepts, and implementing a more ambitious release strategy. Every pledge counts!

The stories we will hear in the film will illustrate the high costs placed upon our society by a hypocritical policy that has done so little.   This is a film that will leave you asking: How many more non-violent offenders must we send to our overflowing prisons? How much longer will we let the scourge of drug violence devastate our inner city communities? How long can we spend money we don't have to continue an effort that directly mirrors our attempts at alcohol prohibition? How much longer will we put police in harm's way for minimal gains? How much longer will we punish innocent citizens for pursuing their best path of medical treatment?

I'll let retired MA State Trooper Karen Hawkes tell you a little bit of her story:

An Achievable Goal. I have read many well-written books, Op-Eds and magazine articles about America's relationship to illicit drugs, but they haven't revealed this topic as I've come to know it in my research. Al Gore was literally travelling around the country giving lectures on climate change, but it wasn't until that lecture was turned into An Inconvenient Truth that the story of the dangers associated with climate change rightly became a mainstream concern. 

What's Been Done. We’ve shot a handful of interviews to lay down the foundation for this trailer; done a ton of research and laid out a plan of attack to get this film done in 12-18 months. Now we need to raise the baseline budget to finish our research, get us through principal photography and start cutting together an amazing film.

What's In Place for Success. I've worked with some of the best cinematographers in the documentary game, people like Bob Richman (My Architect, An Inconvenient Truth, The September Issue) and Wolfgang Held (American Teen, Racing Dreams, The Lottery), and I will be enlisting their skills for this film. I've signed up a great editor, Richard Allen, who has cut everything from broadcast commercials to documentaries to reality TV, including the current reigning cable ratings champion. Richard is not only my editor; he has signed on to be an associate producer to add his creativity and storytelling prowess to this project from the beginning.

I have access to individuals with harrowing stories that will illustrate just how out of control the War on Drugs has become from former law enforcement professionals who have come to realize the impossibility of the task at hand to bystanders caught up in the game of cat and mouse between drug traffickers and law enforcement.

But most of all, I have 40 years of amazing material to pull from. Material that will leave you in disbelief, wondering "Is this America? Can we really call it the land of the free?"

Who Am I? I moved to New York to become a filmmaker after college, taking whatever odd jobs that popped up, learning the full process in and out. I animated the opening credits of an Indian cooking show that didn't get picked up. I PA'ed illegal roof shoots on a spec job, lugging 150 pound ballasts up 3 flights of stairs because the elevator didn't go to the roof. I laid more dolly track than I care to remember. All the while, I had dreams of being the next Scorsese or Spielberg.

That was until one fateful Craigslist ad took me to a job working in post-production on a documentary. It was then that I truly came to appreciate the art of documentary filmmaking. The best films take the raw material of real life and craft a moving, cinematic experience with a resulting power rarely achieved by fiction films. It was one of those rare times where, in the moment, I could feel the path of my life shift.

A few years later I had the experience and knowledge to produce and direct my first independent feature documentary, U.N. Me, a scathing indictment of moral failure within the United Nations. Today I'm here trying to secure the independence I enjoyed in producing U.N. Me to tackle a new topic steeped in moral failure of its own: the War on Drugs.

An unchanging 1.3% addiction rate, an excessive $1.5 trillion price tag, and no end in sight. With your help, I can make this film happen.

Thank You!

Matt Groff
@mgroff

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Some More Drug War Facts

  • In a time when government budgets are slashed, we spend nearly $50 billion on drug related programs every year.
  • The federal government claims marijuana (Schedule I) is more dangerous than cocaine (Schedule II) because, according to the federal government, marijuana has no perceived medicinal value.
  • The federal government has patented the medical use of marijuana.
  • The federal government, despite Obama's 2008 campaign promises to the contrary, continues to go after medical marijuana patients and dispensaries, despite states deeming them legal.
  • Nearly 800,000 Americans will be arrested this year for merely possessing marijuna, a drug that nearly 50% of our population has tried at least once in their lifetime.
  • We have only 5% of the world's population, but 25% of the world's prisoners, more than countries like Saudi Arabia, China
  • Even in a bad year, traffickers still successfully move 95% of their drugs across our borders.
  • Drugs are more available than ever, at a higher purity and lower cost.
  • We have made more than 41 million arrests over the life of the drug war.

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

As with any documentary that deals with history, the greatest challenge comes from creating a cinematic experience through the combination of found footage, other visual materials, recreations and interviews. We've already completed a lot of key research, but the more backing we receive, the more in-depth our research can go.

If our funding is successful, there is no risk of the film not being completed. (OK, if I meet my untimely demise, the project will probably not be completed.)

FAQ

  • A successful campaign isn't built on money alone. We need anyone who comes across the project and likes what we're trying to accomplish here to plug the project to their friends, families and any other social connections they think are acceptable. Word of mouth is a very important for a crowd-funded film such as this.

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  • The House I Live In is a fantastic film. It is a powerful documentary that elucidates the history and contemporary nature of the drug war through interviews with those who have participated in the drug game and those in the criminal justice system. If this film has any flaws (a big if), it is that it only addresses the United States and does not discuss the toll prohibition has taken on our neighbors to the south, nor does it discuss the efforts undertaken elsewhere around the world that have proven successful.

    My film, on the other hand, will illustrate the history, effects and solutions to the drug war through the personal narratives that dot this landscape, with a distinct focus on how it has affected different areas around the world and how others have come to realize a better way of doing things.

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