If Barr Has Come Around, the Sponsors Are in for a Rude Surprise

For those of us who were wondering whether Bob Barr has moved even a little bit in a libertarian direction on drug policy now that he's a Libertarian leader, this upcoming event pretty much answers that question:

The Donald & Paula Smith Family Foundation

Presents a debate:

Medical Marijuana:
Should the sick be able to smoke?

Featuring
Bob Barr
Former Congressman
21st Century Liberties Chair for Freedom and Privacy at the American Conservative Union

V.

Ethan Nadelmann
Executive Director, Drug Policy Alliance

Moderator
James E. Fleming
Professor at Fordham Law, author of Securing Constitutional Democracy

Co-Sponsors: Fordham Law Federalist Society & American Constitution Society


Eleven states have legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes. This has been largely accomplished by voter initiative but the issue is getting politicians’ attention. In Gonzales v. Raich the Supreme Court majority sided against California and medical marijuana but said "these respondents may one day be heard in the halls of Congress." The new Democratic majority may be more receptive to their calls. What is the medicinal efficacy of marijuana? Was Raich the last gasp of the Rehnquist Court’s "federalism revolution?" What is the connection between this and broader drug legalization? What has been the experience in these eleven legalized states?

Thursday, January 18th, 2007
6:30 P.M. Prompt
(Free and open to the public - Reception to follow)

Fordham Law School
140 W 62nd Street, McNally Hall
(Corner of 62th Street and Columbus Avenue)

If Barr, who supports the Defense of Marriage Act on federalist grounds, can't take a federalist position on the question of whether Grandma should be allowed to have a few plants on her window sill to relieve her post-chemotherapy nausea, what kind of libertarian (or constitutionalist) is he? I suppose it's possible that Barr will disappoint his sponsors by agreeing with Ethan Nadelmann, but things are not looking good.

[Thanks to Jonathan Rick for the link.]

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  • Jennifer||

    But he still wants to cut taxes, right? According to many libertarians, that's the only human right that matters: a low tax rate. What profiteth a man if he stayeth out of jail yet payeth tax?

  • ||

    Bob Barr--in his heart, you know he's Right.

  • ||

    This ought to be interesting...

  • ||

    Thoreau, maybe. But I think Barr will get his clock cleaned. Unless the ED of the DPA is dumb as dip.

  • ||

    Wasn't Raich in fact the death rattle of the "federalism revolution"? And isn't the War on Some Drugs THE signature libertarian issue? I guess we know how seriously he takes the "Freedom and Privacy" of the chair that he holds.

  • ||

    sage-

    It will be interesting what he has to say if questioned about his recent LP affiliation and how he reconciles things.

    It will be interesting to see what sort of arguments he makes, since the types of arguments one makes for a position can be just as telling as the positions one takes.

    And it will be interesting to see how all sorts of people in and out of the LP react.

  • Jennifer||

    When I said "he still wants to cut taxes," I of course made an exception for the tax money used to pay DEA salaries, and operate the drug-user prisons. The government NEEDS that money.

  • ||

    Barr is also anti-Patriot Act. Both libertarian advocacy and the lack thereof are where you find them.

    (BTW, a white Christmas is guaranteed here in the Denver area cuz we're having a monstrous blizzard!)

  • ||

    maybe the LP really did give up on the WoD. Oh well, I never planned to give them money anyway.

  • Jennifer||

    Barr is also anti-Patriot Act. Both libertarian advocacy and the lack thereof are where you find them.

    Yeah, and Bin Laden shares with me the belief that the US should stop propping up the Saudi royal family. Nonetheless, it would be cataclysmically stupid for me to ally myself with him on the grounds that hey, at least we have THIS in common!

    There are two libertarian reasons to oppose the drug war: it's a huge waste of money, and hugely antithetical to freedom. Barr fails on both counts. So why is anybody surprised to find him making the stance that sick people should be imprisoned if they use the wrong medicine?

  • ||

    Is there a coherent, well thought out position against medical marijuana? Seriously, I would be interested to hear one. Mostly I just hear about the rampaging hordes of cancer patients that are going to terrorize our neighborhoods looking for their next fix.

  • ||

    Most of the comments on this and other blogs have been about whether Bob Barr has changed his position on the drug prohibition. The answer is NO.

    However, for me, the more important, follow-up question is whether the Libertarian Party has changed its position on "Party of Principle". And I think the answer is a definite YES. It has been fawning over celebrity for a long time. Now it has started whoring itself for it.

    It's one thing to let someone who is not a purist join the party, it's another to give him an official position, and hold him out as a representative of what the party is, when he is actually hostile to one of the party's flagship issues.

    I have given them money in the past. No more. They don't know whether they want to be alienating firebrands (Badnarik 2004) or sycophantic compromisers with the likes of Barr.

  • Warren||

    If Barr, who supports the Defense of Marriage Act on federalist grounds, can't take a federalist position on the question of whether Grandma should be allowed to have a few plants on her window sill to relieve her post-chemotherapy nausea, what kind of libertarian (or constitutionalist) is he?

    A self-serving, hypocritical, low-life snake-in-the-grass that deserves to have his severed head hoisted on a pike.

  • creech||

    Can't we just wait to see what Barr says? Plenty of time to condemn him if he comes out against granny smoking pot to keep her chemo-nausea under control.

  • Duckman||

    The main argument against medical marijuana that I have seen is that people who are not really sick will be able to obtain prescriptions for it from unscrupulous doctors willing to consider any (or no) ailment valid for a prescription. Thus, it amounts to "semi-legalization."

  • ||

    Duckman | December 20, 2006, 5:44pm | #
    The main argument against medical marijuana that I have seen is that people who are not really sick will be able to obtain prescriptions for it from unscrupulous doctors willing to consider any (or no) ailment valid for a prescription. Thus, it amounts to "semi-legalization."


    That same argument could be used against any drug that has "off label" uses. Or do you think that Rush Limbaugh's Oxycodone kerfuffle was not of the same caliber as MMJ?

  • Jennifer||

    Can't we just wait to see what Barr says? Plenty of time to condemn him if he comes out against granny smoking pot to keep her chemo-nausea under control.

    And instead of assuming Rush Limbaugh will bitch about liberals on his show tomorrow, let's just wait to see what he says. Maybe he'll actually say "Bill Clinton was the best president ever, and we should amend the Constitution to allow gay marriage."

    I'm not delusional--I'm open-minded.

  • ||

    I hate to sound like some wild-eyed conspiracy kook, but there's part of me you thinks that this "conversion" is all apart of some elaborate and ham-handed GOP attempt co-opt the LP, thus ending the spoiler effect.

    I know, Occam's Razor and all that, but the thought of hard-core righty like Bob Barr becoming a high-ranking Libertarian is like Karl Marx getting a seat at the NYSE: Unreal.

  • ||

    I love the "punish everyone for the crimes of a few" attitude our government has with OUR drug war.
    It is the same intellectually lazy reasoning used in the United States Navy.
    For example if one squid on liberty call from the boat fucks up, every squid gets fucked.
    And an aircraft carrier has 5500 potential fuck ups.
    This attitude is one of the reasons I left the nav even after 11 complete years of service.

    How can I too separate from this government?

    FTN - FT G

  • ||

    I am very surprised that any self-described libertarian would not at least be in favor of legalized MEDICAL marijuana.

  • ||

    Well, if he's known to have in the past changed his mind about some things, maybe he'll in the future change his mind about other things.

    People should keep debating him until he does.

    I like the idea of trying to educate politicians, instead of just groaning about them. Of course you don't see me going out and doing anything about it, except the occasional letter.

  • ||

    People have been posting the link to this debate for several days now, It's been in the comments since the first Barr story...

  • ||

    Now, would some of the LP folks (you know, the ones who are "all around" us) like to address this?

  • ||

    LOL. If there was any doubt left that the LP has completely sold out, starting with the gutting of the platform, then appointing Bob Barr (one of the most rabid of drug warriors) to a leadership position surely puts that doubt to bed.

  • ||

    Akira MacKenzie's take has been mine, too. I was immediately suspicious. Perhaps this is the initial pickup line used by the Repubs in the attempt of getting laid in'08 by the American electorate.

  • ||

    I hate to sound like some wild-eyed conspiracy kook, but there's part of me you thinks that this "conversion" is all apart of some elaborate and ham-handed GOP attempt co-opt the LP, thus ending the spoiler effect.

    Could be. Teams Red and Blue have thrown money at their opposition's most similar minor part in order to chip away votes; eliminating that vulnerability probably makes sense.

  • Gene Berkman||

    A lot of people think the LP has sold out because one new, admittedly prominent member, takes some really bad positions.

    The Republican Party and the Democrat Party are both full of people who take bad positions.

    I think the quality of Libertarian candidates and Libertarian Party leaders will improve as the party gets more support, and I think it has to be done at a local level. I hope the Georgia LP leaders are working on Mr Barr, but I spend my time promoting the Libertarian Party in California.

  • thoreau||

    See, here's the thing:

    It's not that he deviates from the party line on an issue, even a big issue. In fact, medical pot is the ultimate incremental issue. One drug, one narrow class of users, one state at a time. It doesn't get any more modest or incremental than that. And this isn't some pie-in-the-sky issue, it's one where libertarians and their allies have won at the ballot box. In fact, they even took down a major party candidate with that issue...

    Moreover, the biggest setback for medical pot was Raich, a legal decision that involves tortured use of the commerce clause to justify federal pre-emption of state laws. That's the very thing that libertarian-leaning conservatives are supposed to be against.

    Moreover, Barr isn't simply against the party line on this. He's actively promoting the wrong side.

    So, people have said that the LP needs to be more pragmatic.

    People have said that the LP needs to set realistic goals that they can achieve.

    People have said that the LP needs to reach out to libertarian-leaning conservatives.

    People have said that the LP needs to tolerate a certain amount of disagreement.

    And no the newest member of the LNC decides to publicly crusade against an incremental and winnable reform, going against the sort of stance that his side was supposed to bring to the table.

    OK...

  • ||

    I'm pretty much left with hoping that the LP goes down in flames as quickly and quietly as possible. I think the last ten years have shown just how useless and even counter-productive it is when it comes to promoting libertarianism, or even just liberty in general.

    I'm increasingly keen on the idea that's been bubbling around almost that long - an AARP-like group that promotes libertarian education while non-partisanly lobbying a short list of the most critical issues at any given time.

  • ||

    Its my understanding that Barr was appointed to the Libertarian National Committee when a vacancy opened up because LNC positions are voted on by members at state and national conventions when they occur. If by 2008 he still wants to throw Joe cancer patient in prison he will be voted out if he hasn't resigned by then anyways.

    The LP managed to survive Justin Raimondo, it can survive Bob Barr.

  • ||

    The LP is a joke these days.....but is anyone surprised?

    The bottom line is that it's impossible to advocate liberty AND the drug war at the same time. Impossible.

    Seriously.

    Anyone who thinks he's going to "change", is like a woman who thinks her asshole boyfriend will change.

    Besides, would you trust anyone who would change so easily on such a fundamental issue? Someone who, a couple of years down the line, would stop and say, "Hey...you know, I guess drugs SHOULD be legal...my bad!".

    I say we stop talking about this now.

  • Franklin Harris||

    The LP is hell bent either on selling out (by bringing in people like Barr) or siding with blue-skinned, tax-protesting cranks. It would do small-l libertarianism a big favor by abolishing itself.

  • ||

    Libertarians obviously have lower standards than H&R'ers, but it got me thinking about anarchist standards.
    I like to think we are the Mt. Everest of freedom-loving and peace-loving. Then I'm forced to admit that most folks who call themselves anarchists are just some version of Communist.

    Still, believing one own's one's body--Isn't it funny stated that way? Redundant and people still don't get it.--ought to be fundamental to any Philosphy 101 graduate.

  • Jennifer||

    Often, when a person is dying but not yet dead, the muscles of the anus and rectum will go completely slack and any fecal matter inside the soon-to-be-corpse will make its way out to freedom. I suspect Barr's appointment was the pants-shitting phase of the Libertarian Party's death throes.

    (Now that is a metaphor.)

  • ||

    Jennifer,

    That might be the most disturbing, yet accurate, metaphor I have ever seen. Nicely done.

  • ||

    Please Miss Jennifer, Now teach us about similies.

    (cue music: Van Halen/David Lee Roth: Hot For Teacher)

  • Jennifer||

    NoStar, a simile is basically a metaphor that uses "like" or "as." (Mnemonic device: there is an "l" in "simile" and also in "like.") And "appoint Bob Barr" is a marvelous euphemism to describe the process of expelling solid waste from the body, as follows: "I just ate two pounds of cabbage and refried beans. Now please give me a match so I can light it after I appoint Bob Barr."

  • ||

    Omigod, that's my old Con Law professor.

    The more I look into it, the more Barr is a bad thing for libertarians. He isn't a libertarian at all, he's just looking for a party with less competition.

    I still think the LP's refusal to compromise on anything is why it ends up with whackos, but Barr.....fugg'him.

  • ElGaboGringo||

    I have the right to stick a vacuum up my vagina and suck out a fetus but can't smoke a joint in my own living room???

  • ||

    thoreau PhD:

    Barr isn't simply against the party line on this. He's actively promoting the wrong side.

    Absolutely. But he's more pro-liberty on a number of other civil liberties issues, including Patriot, than most members of both the GOP and Dem parties. I think that he also voted for less overall government spending than even most Republicans who held office with him in congress, let alone the big spending Dems who held office when he did. (BTW, Bush is an unabashed big spender)

    Jennifer:

    Nonetheless, it would be cataclysmically stupid for me to ally myself with (Barr) on the grounds that hey, at least we have THIS in common!

    And I think that it would be cataclysmically stupid for me not to ally myself with him on the issues where he's pro-liberty.

  • ||

    By the same reasoning, it would be cataclysmically stupid for me not to ally myself with Sen. Russ Feingold on Patriot cuz he's so obnoxious on a host of other issues.

  • Jennifer||

    By the same reasoning, it would be cataclysmically stupid for me not to ally myself with Sen. Russ Feingold on Patriot cuz he's so obnoxious on a host of other issues.

    We're not talking about a mere alliance, where a Democrat and a Republican and a Green say "Okay, we all agree on this one particular issue so let's work together toward it." We're talking about the party itself giving an important position to someone who holds basic stances antithetical to what the party supposedly stands for. If, for example, a Communist who wants to abolish private property also wants to abolish the Patriot Act, then by all means work with him to abolish the Patriot Act. But for fuck's sake, don't give said Communist a position in the LP.

    Christ. I thought the LP was pathetic enough when it was merely associated with lunatics like Smurf Jones. Nope, I was wrong.

  • Derrick||

    Ten bucks says this debate never happens. Barr will cancel, citing a scheduling conflict or something.

  • ||

    Pot has become a culture-war issue for many (not all) conservatives. Liberals and aging hippies smoke it, therefore using it must be illegal.

  • ||

    Barr is just like so many people who have libertarian or libertarian-like ideas in some areas, and maybe find themselves (at least in their own minds) identifying with libertarians, and so self-identify as "libertarian." Many times, when probed, these self-identified libertarians are not.

    Whether this is good or bad, overall, is hard to tell. It's good to have allies on individual issues, but not ones that undermine the libertarian philosophy.

  • thoreau||

    Rick-

    I think the LP could learn a lot from Barr, and profit greatly from working with him on all sorts of issues. If they appointed him to head some committee on, say, fiscal responsibility, candidate recruitment, anti-Patriot Act strategy, or whatever else, I would applaud their pragmatism.

    But when they give a general leadership position, rather than a specialized position, to someone who is trying to actively undermine an incremental reform (the sort of thing that the LP has been chastised for eschewing) on a winnable issue (witness the ballot measures that have passed on medical pot), well, I have to scratch my head.

    Remember, we're not even talking about the overall drug issue. We're talking about a specific winnable and incremental reform, the sort of thing that many have rightly chastised the LP for abandoning in favor of absolutist positions.

  • Jennifer||

    Appointing Bob Barr in the morning is generally easier after that first cup of coffee. Though if you're a smoker, a cigarette will work, too.

  • ||

    Christ. I thought the LP was pathetic enough when it was merely associated with lunatics like Smurf Jones. Nope, I was wrong.

    The Blue Man is looking a lot better, lately - at least by comparison.

  • ||

    Eric the .5b | December 20, 2006, 6:37pm | #
    Now, would some of the LP folks (you know, the ones who are "all around" us) like to address this?

    =======================

    Snarky, snarky, half-bee. ;-)

    Frankly, having heard both Barr and Nadelmann speak on this general topic in times past (via mp3s during my commute back and forth to work -- gotta love the web!), I think Nadelmann can clean Barr's clock, and, if Barr still supports the Drug War, I hope that clock gets well and truly cleaned.

    I cannot remember a time in the past 26 years, when I have hoped to see the Libertarian Party guy lose, and lose big. But that time has come.

    I can only hope that Barr does a Marc Antony, ironically praising the end of Drug Prohibition, by way of "burying" Medical Marijuana. You have to think like a drug warrior to carry them all over to the anti-Prohibition side, after all. We'll see what we'll see. I hope somebody posts an mp3 of THIS debate; if so, I'll definitely be downloading and listening as I do the wage-slave thing.

  • ||

    I cannot remember a time in the past 26 years, when I have hoped to see the Libertarian Party guy lose, and lose big. But that time has come.

    Yep. The LP reaches its moment of crisis: The only way out of this is for Barr to do the Mar Antony thing.

  • ||

    spur | December 20, 2006, 7:43pm | #
    The LP managed to survive Justin Raimondo, it can survive Bob Barr.

    ========================================

    I agree with you. Perhaps after leaving the LP, Barr will find his niche by joining the staff of Antiwar.com, and then writing some truly powerful, persuasive essays against the War in Iraq, the War on Terror, and the USA PATRIOT Act. Justin used to assert that the LP was a dead end (this, in the 1990s), and that taking the GOP over "from the inside" was the only way to go. "Join Pat (Buchanan) and me over at the GOP to make this happen," he used to say to anyone who admitted LP membership and tried to defend that organization. Of course, not only did the "inside takeover" of the GOP NOT happen, Justin eventually joined Pat in pursuing the third-party strategy that he said was a "dead end" for the LP. In his own case, he was right. The Reform Party imploded, but the LP kept chugging along, picking up ballot access status and electing local office holders here and there around the country.

    In AntiWar.com, however, Justin seems to have found a home, and I am glad for him. He and colleagues are doing good work there, and Barr could definitely conbtribute a lot to their effort.

  • ||

    What's with the "LP sold out!" and "LP is dying and good riddance!" nonsense?!!! This is far from the first time that a non-libertarian has tried to leverage the LP's nominal influence using their own celebrity.

    Does anyone remember what happened when Ann Coulter tried to get an LP nomination for office? She got a lot of consideration and press over it and eventually the LP quietly (in that the media ignored it) declined to nominate her for the office. Barr will be rejected too, eventually, in the same way that it has happened every other time before.

    Also, there are large minorities of LP members who disagree with the platform on interpretation of LP principles. Abortion rights anyone? Who's to say that Barr doesn't have an LP principles argument against MMJ? I'd probably personally consider it tortured logic at best, but I already feel that way about the pro-life libertarian arguments.

    Lastly, the LP has been a marginal political party of almost consistent sub-critical size since shortly after its creation. There is no reason to believe that it is about to die any more than there is reason to believe that it is about to take off in popularity. Opinion markets just don't work that way. If necessary, recall to yourself just how inconsequential the Browne scandals turned out to be in terms of the LP's popularity and the similar calls of bane at that time.

  • ||

    I cannot remember a time in the past 26 years, when I have hoped to see the Libertarian Party guy lose, and lose big. But that time has come.



    "Gee, Bob, I haven't seen a libertarian take a beating like that since...."

    (insert your own punchline)

  • Jennifer||

    Does anyone remember what happened when Ann Coulter tried to get an LP nomination for office? She got a lot of consideration and press over it and eventually the LP quietly (in that the media ignored it) declined to nominate her for the office. Barr will be rejected too, eventually, in the same way that it has happened every other time before.

    Uh--did the LP give Coulter a leadership position before deciding to reject her? Otherwise, I don't think her experience quite applies here.

  • ||

    What puzzles me most about the states passing laws to legalize medical marijuana only to have the Feds come in and say it doesn't matter what the voters of the state say its against Fed law which trumps state law. They take this stance when it comes to states legalizing marijuana even for medicinal purposes.

    Yet when counties around the country want to pass local ordinances pertaining to renting property to illegal aliens and providing services for them the same Feds come in and say you can't do that its against the illegals civil liberties. Correct me if I am wrong but isn't being an illegal alien in this country a Federal crime since the Feds made the law?

    If this is so then how can they pick and choose which of their laws they care to enforce. If the majority of a states voters want to legalize something the Feds maintain is illegal it doesn't matter as the Feds continue to view it as illegal in spite of the fact the voters said it should not be. So the Feds stick to their law and say the new state law is worthless with regards to legalization since its a Federal law already.

    With this logic should they not be encouraging the counties trying to pass immigration laws locally since they would only seem to be in further agreement with the Federal laws on immigration. Not in this instance the Feds say you can't pass a law that would strengthen their own existing law.

    So you can't change the law with your vote at the state level if its contrary to Fed law. Likewise the Feds say you can not pass a law to help enforce their law either.

    Seems to me the obvious thing going on here is what we have known all along and see more of daily, the Federal Government taking it upon themselves to be the dictator at all levels of society and having no regard for what the voting public has said it wants.

    What the fuck is voting for if you can vote on an issue and win only to find out your still in the same position you were before. Voting in this fashion equates to less influence over politicians than the polls they always take to determine their actions for the day.

  • ||

    Jennifer et al,

    I was gonna issue another rejoinder but instead please see my comment in the update thread:

    http://www.reason.com/blog/show/117470.html

  • ||

    Does anyone remember what happened when Ann Coulter tried to get an LP nomination for office?

    Ann Coulter seems like far too much of an mid-East war hawk to deserve the LP nomination for any national office where foreign policy would be part of her purview.

  • ||

    """In Gonzales v. Raich the Supreme Court majority sided against California and medical marijuana """

    What most people don't know is that the conservative on the court voted to uphold Cali's medical marijuana law. It was the "liberal" side that shot it down.

    If it was to come in front of SCOTUS now, it would probably stand. The conservatives saw no federality in the case. Pot grown in the state, and given only to residents of the state, makes it a state issue, not a federal one. Commerce clause does not apply. That's why the conservatives on the bench voted to uphold it.


    Yes, the Coulter/Barr analogy is not. Barr has leadership now, Coulter did not.

  • ||

    "Commerce clause does not apply."

    Schecter chicken, man, federalism is dead, has been for a long time. It only exists nowadays for the minority party to pick up scraps and still push its agenda.

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