Blog Post

Remembering Mike Gray, Drug Policy Pioneer

Marsha Rosenbaum

Mike Gray, who passed this week, was a prolific writer, producing screenplays, books, and documentaries.

Right from the beginning of our movement, Mike was a major player in drug policy reform. His 1998 book, Drug Crazy: How We Got into this Mess and How We Can Get Out, which was among the first to parallel alcohol and drug prohibition, was both historical and solution-oriented. The book was a brilliant work of journalism that instantly became a mainstay in drug policy libraries all over the world.
In the early days of the Lindesmith Center (which later became the Drug Policy Alliance), the highly accessible writing that characterized Drug Crazy provided an invaluable resource for our focus on public education. To this day, the history outlined in this “classic” is required reading for newcomers in search the origins of America’s misguided drug policy.
Mike spoke passionately at conferences, forums, and fit right in at meetings of organizations such as the Elks Club, where he looked as if he could be a member. He was straightforward and succinct, and knew how to connect with and educate both conventional and unconventional audiences. Perhaps that’s because Mike was a “man’s man” who could be gruff and humorous in the same sentence, and used terms like “doll” without sounding chauvinistic. He was part of a (literally) dying breed of smart guys who came of age in the 1950’s and managed to grow with the changing times.
For his colleagues in the reform movement, Mike was generous. He was willing to help with others’ projects, interested in the latest developments, and always enthusiastic.
For me, Mike was more than a colleague. He was a friend. I feel so lucky to have had Mike Gray as an ally in our mutual struggle and will miss very much this humble, good-natured activist-scholar, who greeted me warmly with “Hello Doll, what’s new?”
Marsha Rosenbaum is director emerita of the San Francisco office of the Drug Policy Alliance.