The history of the federal drug policy in the United States is depicted in this riveting documentary that features interviews with various political people and others who were involved or affected by it.

In 1971, President Richard Nixon has announced that a federal policy has been put in place to wage war on drugs. The ramifications of the drug policy, as seen through interviews with former drug czars, have taken effect where a former Vietnam War soldier was given a 15-year sentence after being caught with only an ounce of marijuana. In addition, a state trooper reveals he was infiltrating “friendship groups” in an effort to bust them for drug possession.

As the guard of the White House changes, the various drug laws have taken different forms and the world of drugs would become a major part of pop culture through magazines such as “High Times” and the Cheech n’ Chong movies. The film also depicts the “Just Say No” campaign from 1980s’ First Lady Nancy Reagan and the shocking death of NBA draft round pick Len Bias in 1986. Clinton’s 3 Strikes rule is also depicted as well as the effects of the drug policy today.

For its 70-minute running time, this is a pretty interesting and viable look at the changes involving the federal drug policy from its beginnings in 1971 to today. Director Robert Rippberger does an excellent job in not having to rely on making this film too long, but with the combination of interviews and clips, a perfect straightforward and to the point history on the policy and its effects in past, present, and future.

From former drug czars of past Presidents to author Keith Schuchard and actor/musician Ice-T (who also serves as an executive producer on the film), the film makes good use of classic clips that highlight the original policy, which seems to be excessive compared to today. Some highlights include a hilarious clip from Up in Smoke, and the use of drugs in pop culture through various means, and Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No”, which is revealed to have come from a contest that a school came up with the campaign. Now, if only they had footage from Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue, which focuses on drug addiction as well. That would have been even better.

Public Enemy Number One is a straightforward timeline flick about the federal drug policy and it’s pretty quick and to the point. Some great facts, archival footage, and interviews may want one to check this out.


An Aletheia Films and King of Quality production in association with Natural 9 Entertainment. Director: Robert Rippberger. Producers: Robert Rippberger and Chris Chiari. Cinematography: Robert Rippberger. Editing: Gabriel Cullen.

Cast: Ice-T, Anne Eden Evins, Perry Tarrant, Thomas Gleaton, Gerry Goldstein, Keith Schuchard, Sean McAllister, Kevin Sabet, Dan Veits, Ethan Nadelmann, Jack A. Cole, Winston de la Haye, Robert DuPont.