US Drug War Is "Total Disaster," Says Oliver Stone

By McCarton Ackerman 09/21/12

After undertaking extensive research for his new film, Savages, the director has doubled down on his anti-drug war stance.

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"It will never, never be won." Photo via

Director Oliver Stone's opinions on the US drug war pack as much of a punch as some of his work. His latest movie, Savages, hits theaters today and is based on Don Winslow's best-selling novel—the story of two Southern California youngsters who run a lucrative business raising some of the best marijuana ever developed until a Mexican drug cartel moves in. Stone produced the movie and co-wrote the screenplay, making some major changes from the book. And although he was always opposed to the US approach to drugs, his work on Savages only reinforced his position. “It’s a total disaster,” he says. “President Nixon called it the War on Drugs in 1969 and it has completely backfired. There are more people using drugs in high school today than ever before, so we haven’t solved the problem through prohibition. There’s a huge amount of money at stake and there’s no way the drug war can end because too many people are benefiting. It will never, never be won."

Stone enlisted the help of retired drug enforcement agents, drug growers and "some very interesting high-level people with a lot of money in Mexico" while preparing to write the script. He even made one of his actors, Aaron Johnson, meet real-life ex-cartel members to get a crash course in the politics of the marijuana industry. "It was in my interest that they meet real people involved in the industry and feel them out, because actors relate to people better than they do to words on a page,” says Stone. Of course, as a marijuana user for almost the whole of his adult life, Stone also has a well-researched opinion on where the best pot in the world can be found. “The best weed in the world is here in California,” he declares. “I’ve been doing it for 40 years as you know, and there’s better stuff here than in Afghanistan, Vietnam, Jamaica, South Sudan—and I’ve been to all those places. The Facebook generation, if that’s what you call them, are very smart kids and they make good stuff.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.