Maybe it’s because of the mind-expanding, harm reductionist cartoon spectacle The Midnight Gospel and the goofy The Goop Lab With Gwyneth Paltrow which really veers into pseudo-science, but Netflix’s latest drug show The Business Of Drugs plays it straight—a little too straight. Across six episodes (“Cocaine,” “Synthetics,” “Heroin,” “Meth,” “Cannabis,” and “Heroin”) The Business Of Drugs explores the manufacturing, sale, and purchase of drugs with an eye towards considering the (mostly) underground economy as well, an economy. Putting a face to manufacturers and dealers is nice and asking questions about drugs thereby debunking certain myths is also refreshing. But under the veneer of Vice-style reporting, is also a show that is fairly conservative about drugs and often veers into the kind of moralizing and scaremongering you’d think we would leave behind in 2020.
For one, it is hosted by Amaryllis Fox, a writer, commentator and um, ex-C.I.A. , an organization often known for antediluvian attitudes towards drugs and even, meddling with the illegal business of drugs in order to destabilize rival nation-states (read Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion). For example, the “Cannabis” episode begins with Fox invoking the fraught “gateway drug” argument. Fox narrates, “Weed, pot, herb, whatever you want to call it, marijuana has been the world’s gateway drug since 2700 B.C.” It then goes on to explore the legal cannabis industry, while only touching on racial disparity, and argues for legalization with an unsurprisingly pro-business though fairly simpleminded approach to regulation.
Why are we spending time ragging on a Netflix show like this? Well, the amount of even remotely sophisticated drug content out there is minimal and The Business Of Drugs had a lot of potential (and you should still watch this show, you’ll learn something) so you should know what you’re watching and be skeptical.