Cocaine Cowboys tells the story of the drug trade during the 1970s and 80s in the largest and most popular smuggling port in the United States- Miami. Interviewing both law enforcement officers as well as prominent smugglers, the film shows the overbearing amount of cocaine being imported from Columbia during this time, when cocaine was being transformed from a drug of the elite to a social drug not dissimilar to alcohol or marijuana. As one smuggler explained, the drug was everywhere in Miami- from kilograms floating in the ocean to it being used in every club. Its use and spread seems reminiscent to the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s, when an overwhelming amount of consumers flooded the market and left law enforcement in a useless struggle in a battle they could not win.
Yet, as time went on inner-struggles began forming inside the cocaine business. Cuban trade was slowly diminishing and U.S. wholesalers were beginning to focus on the sophisticated production occurring in Columbia. This created a war between Cubans and Colombians in Miami, and would lead to the bloodbath that ensued over the following years. Miami changed drastically due to cocaine- its infrastructure was built off its continued success as an important commodity. Youngers describes a relationship between Florida and Columbia in which cocaine provided a financial lubricant which offered a multitude of jobs. In Miami, cocaine not only offered work for those directly involved in drug trade, but the money that was being made was benefiting construction companies and entertainment industries as well.
As the cocaine trade transformed from a relatively peaceful business to one of everyday murders, a new phase occurred with the involvement of the federal government. U.S. officials like Oliver North have been found to hold intimate information regarding the transportation and sale of cocaine, letting it occur due to ties and business relations he held with major traders. Did the CIA Sell Cocaine in the 1980′s? shows the governments allowance of the continuance of drug trade. In addition, it acquired money under the Reagan administration to fund pro-U.S. governments or movements in Latin America. The absurdity that this was occurring under an administration that promulgated the complete eradication of all drugs in the United States proves the immense amount of power and money that can be associated with cocaine distribution and sales. Cocaine Cowboys shows the spread of cocaine throughout the United States to a population obsessed with its effect and the glamor associated with it; it was, in the 1980s, a powerful product that permeated all of society- illegal smugglers, everyday consumers, and the federal government.