Is Bob Barr An Ex-Drug Warrior?

When Bob Barr joined the Libertarian Party, everyone wanted to know if he'd changed his mind on the drug issues that helped make his name in Congress. He has. According to the Politico, Barr has signed up with the Marijuana Policy Project.

“I, over the years, have taken a very strong stand on drug issues, but in light of the tremendous growth of government power since 9/11, it has forced me and other conservatives to go back and take a renewed look at how big and powerful we want the government to be in people’s lives,” Barr said.

Aaron Houston, the project’s government relations director, said Barr brings a “great deal of credibility, particularly among people on the Republican side of the aisle.”

“He certainly would not have been the first person I would have expected to sign off to us, but I’m very pleased that he has,” Houston said. “I’m very pleased that he has come around, and I hope he serves as an example to his former colleagues.”

Ironically, Barr said he will help lead the fight to give District residents a say on whether to allow medical marijuana — the very thing the “Barr Amendment” denied them in 1998. He will lobby for the rights of states to set their own medical marijuana policy without federal interference.

I interviewed Barr when he joined the LP; Jesse Walker interviewed him in 2003, pre-change of heart.

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  • ||

    So, how is this more credible a flip-flop than Romney's and Giuliani's on gun control, and Hillary's on the Iraq war?

  • ||

    Simple: Barr IMO isn't running for Pres.

  • ||

    "Ironically, Barr said he will help lead the fight to give District residents a say on whether to allow medical marijuana - the very thing the "Barr Amendment" denied them in 1998."

    Ahh, yes...the Libertarian Party - The Party of Principle!

  • ||

    Well well well. Isn't this an interesting development. Color me skeptical. I still don't see any contrition. But he's showing me something, the MPP goes beyond Med MJ. This is principled rhetoric.

    I am decidedly less hostile towards Bob Barr. I'm still looking for him to return to the GOP when the time comes. If he takes his new found principals with him, it might be a good thing for liberty in this country.

  • ||

    You are all being duped by this guy. What a gig take one side till you crap out then suddenly see the error of your ways to regain a foot in another party. Got the hell home dude you have screwed everyone enough call it a career and move on.

    Want to know what everything the government does seems logically insane. Because we keep sending the same people back no matter what they are singing to get there in hopes they will effect change. Not a chance in hell that will happen with the same folks.

    Flip floppers is putting it lightly these current crops of politicians are more like fucking slinkies. End over end where will it stop.

  • ||

    I care about results, not ideology. The guy isn't asking anything from me, so I see no reason to berate him on flip flopping if he will actually try to lobby to change the laws. He has nothing to gain by doing this except possibly some goodwill from libertarians and we all know how valuable that really is...

  • ||

    Wow.

    Color me cautiously optimistic on this. I have a hard time believing that Barr is changing his tune just to make it with the "in" crowd. After all, libertarians have been on the outside looking in for the better part of four decades.

  • ||

    How can we (the supposed advocates of reason and liberty,) who devote time, money, and effort to convincing others of the correctness of our cause, slam the door on someone when he apparently changes his mind in part BECAUSE of our advocacy?

  • ||

    "So, how is this more credible a flip-flop than Romney's and Giuliani's on gun control, and Hillary's on the Iraq war?"

    Because he's not flip-flopping to stake out a position geared towards increasing his popularity. Most people in this country still think the drug war is a good thing. Overall, this is likely to make him less popular, not more.

  • ||

    it has forced me and other conservatives to go back and take a renewed look at how big and powerful we want the government to be in people's lives

    I didn't notice any of them taking this renewed look while they were in power. As usual, its only the people who are out of power who are worried about how "big and powerful" the state is getting.

  • Passim||

    One reason it's not a flipflop is that he is admitting his previous position was wrong. Flip-floppers try to massage the message so that it looks like they're really consistent.

    This reminds me of the conversion of Wallace from segregationist to civil rights advocate. There is still doubt whether he was truly sincere, or whether he simply changed to stay in office. Ultimately, it is his subsequent acts that matter, so who cares what he truly believes in his heart. He's a politician, so clearly he doesn't have a heart or soul anyway.

  • ||

    Deciding to support medical marijuana doesn't necessarily make someone an ex-drug warrior, it only changes the degree of his fanaticism.

  • Passim||

    R C Dean,

    How right you are! "I've changed my mind" is far more impressive when it's said by someone in office.

  • Passim||

    Of course, any drug warrior who converts still takes second place to Bill Buckley. I believe he came out in favor of total legalization in 1972, wasn't it?

  • VM||

    Servus Passim!

    At least Barr isn't an EX LION TAMER!!!!!

    (with Hat and everything!)

  • ||

    My only slight problem with Barr is that he was so polarizing and public, he may taint libertarianism to the casual observer. As a general rule, however, I'll take anybody that comes to our camp.

    Demonizing flip-flopping is counter productive, in my opinion. Flip-flopping is exactly what we are asking the majority of people to do on a variety of subjects. It is a tough wire to walk to ask someone to switch their view to yours, then call them an insincere flip-flopper the minute they do it.

    Come one, come all, even with past transgressions.


    Cab
    Pastor of the Church of Libertarian Day Saints

  • ||

    He was always hardliner in the Drug War, but Barr has actually been very consistent and "right" on many civil liberties issues in the past (privacy issues in general - warrantless wiretaps, Patriot Act, habeas corpus, etc.).

    He was the least odious of the Clinton impeachment "managers."

    I'm thinking that the lack of constituents and having to play tough drug warrior on Meet The Press may be allowing him to see the error of his ways.

    Or he could be just another craven Flippy McFlipFlopper.

  • Tron||

    Why is anyone complaining about this? Don't we want politicians to change their stance on the drug war? I bet everyone who posted believed at one time that drugs should be illegal.

  • ||

    " Flip-flopping is exactly what we are asking the majority of people to do on a variety of subjects."

    I agree with Cab. If you have confidence in your arguments, you shouldn't be surprised if the other guy changes his position. And you definitely should not abuse him for seeing the light. Of course, it would be silly not to keep an eye on him.

  • Passim||

    Tron,

    You're right. I'll admit that I used to think that we should have even tougher drug laws. I even fell for the crack baby scare.

    Mea culpa. Mea culpa maxima.

    Nowadays, I have to say that, if I were dictator-for-life of the world, and God Himself commanded me to outlaw one and only one drug, I would have to choose alcohol. I came around to the legalization camp when I realized that I believe alcohol should be legal, but I also believe it is even more dangerous than cocaine, pot, MDMA, even heroin.

  • ||

    I've got a question for you all. I was discussing decriminalization with a conservative friend and he brought up a point I hadn't much considered. Most currently illegal drugs would be problematic from the product safety angle. Who would manufacture and distribute meth or pcp given the potential liabilities? And what if no one would? Probably a continued black market, along with it's violently protected markets. I understand there are clear benefits to not incarcerating users and peddlers, but what would the formerly illicit drug market look like? Thoughts?

  • ||

    Who would manufacture and distribute meth or pcp given the potential liabilities?

    They still make cigarettes.

  • I. Self. Divine.||

    I honestly don't think that there would be any more product liability than with say alcohol. In all honesty, alcohol is far more dangerous tahn any of these drugs, in particular because a lot of what makes a drug dangerous comes form it beinf manufactured orcut in someone's basement.

  • I. Self. Divine.||

    Uhhhhh...ignore the above spelling/grammar mistakes. Decaf is a bad idea...

  • ||

    Its not abuse for seeing the light its the timing. If he is genuinely changed in his line of thought great but I have to take anything any politician says past or present.

    Of course we want people to finally see things the way we do to empower change. My point is that I don't think we do that by signing up the enemy to the cause after he has lost his meaning to have his cause to begin with. If it has taken these politicians that long to think critically about the changes and are only now flipping sides that just tells me they are short sighted morons for not having done it long ago on their own.

    Really how hard is it to justify the drug war versus leaving people alone. You can't be for personal rights and less intrusive government and be a drug warrior sorry.

    Out of all the people still legally in this country why must we recycle washed up politicians simply because they changed their minds. If we based everything on changed minds of politicians we would still have the same clusterfuck of issues we do now. Nothing would change one bit.

    If a drill is working but the drill bit is not cutting you don't replace the drill you replace the drill bit. While some bits may be able to be reworked for more use most are best off tossed away.

  • ||

    They still make cigarettes.

    I'm skeptical that if cigarettes were a previously unmanufactured product anyone would be rushing to make them. That is, knowing that they kill folks. And the tobacco company's legal troubles are hardly trivial.

    I honestly don't think that there would be any more product liability than with say alcohol.

    I think you would see something similar to the kinds of litigation with alcohol; bars sued for alcohol related smashups and so forth. Of course commensurate with the effects of abuse. Imagine how the communities trying to keep fortified wine out of their neighborhoods would react to potential meth sales.

    Anyway, I look at lawsuits surrounding FDA approved drugs and wonder how juries would react to a drug with no redeeming value. You know; Merck preying on the poor addict, selling a product they know to be ultimately lethal.

  • ||

    "Got the hell home dude you have screwed everyone enough call it a career and move on."

    I'm sort of with Dee on this one. Former active and enthusiastic drug warriors should actually have to work a lot harder to re-earn rsepect and undo the damage they've done--something like washing prisoners' feet or something, then shilling every day for decriminalization at the least. This should be close to a full-time job. You shouldn't just be able to say mea culpa and be done with it.

  • I. Self. Divine.||

    With the exception of crack and ecstasy, are there any drugs that aren't being manufactured by Big Pharm already?

  • ||

    I'll admit that I used to think that we should have even tougher drug laws.

    Me too; my politics back when I was in high school could definitely have been described as statist. Aside from the various, um, opportunities presented by college, I'm not entirely sure what changed this. . .

    In any case, the extent of my libertarianism is mostly due to a hatred of *bad* government, not always *big* government (disclaimer: the NIH pays my salary). And by that metric, the War on Drugs fails so spectacularly that it's a testament to the uselessness of our political system and those who drive it that we didn't legalize everything years ago. Granted, I've always lived in pretty liberal areas, but I don't think I've met anyone who thinks prohibition works. You'd expect the Republicans to recognize this too, but their ostensible small-government principles usually take second seat to their love of enforcing their vision of social order by any means necessary.

  • ||

    he may taint libertarianism to the casual observer

    I believe that ship has sailed.

  • ||

    Who would manufacture and distribute meth or pcp given the potential liabilities?

    I suppose laws could be written to shield them from liability from something other than tainted/faulty production?

    As it stands now, can my family sue Jim Beam if I drink too much of it and get alcohol poisoning and die?
    Can I sue Johnny Walker if I drink too much and get into an accident and kill people???

    Why would legally produced and distributed drugs be any different? Unless you use them in a manner that is excessive or not the way they were intended to be used I don't see how the manufacturers would have more liability than alcohol producers

  • ||

    With the exception of crack and ecstasy, are there any drugs that aren't being manufactured by Big Pharm already?

    Most other designer drugs, and pot, of course (synthetic THC pills are not the same, as legions of cancer patients can testify). I'm not sure about PCP. To be fair to Big Pharma, most of the really hard stuff is only used in extreme and/or very specialized cases, under very strict control (i.e. can only be administered by doctors).

    The big exception, of course, is the stimulants used to treat ADHD, which are Schedule II substances that require special prescriptions that an appalling number of children get. (You can even get meth, under the trade name Desoxyn, although that seems to be a last-resort medication.) Having taken Ritalin for about six months last year, I'm not sure I'd want to see it sold OTC; a couple of near-psychotic episodes after it wore off convinced me that it's a really evil (albeit very useful) drug. And I was taking it the recommended way, not snorting it or smoking it the way people do with meth.

    Frankly, I'm not sure there's any good solution to the problem of hard drugs - throwing people in jail simply happens to be the worst. I favor legalizing everything, regulating manufacture and distribution, and using drug tax revenues to pay for the inevitable addiction cases. Some amount of government intervention is going to be inevitable, so we ought to constrain it to *not* fucking up our lives.

  • ||

    Sounds good to me. Now if he'll drop the Team Red anti-gay schtick, he can probably pass as a libertarian.

    Then we're just down to arguing whether he's actually accomplishing anything. ;)

  • ||

    Former active and enthusiastic drug warriors should actually have to work a lot harder to re-earn rsepect and undo the damage they've done...You shouldn't just be able to say mea culpa and be done with it.

    I agree. However, the mea culpa is a big first step. I'll be watching Bob closely. But I'll allow myself a little hope and optimism. I think this is big. Even if Barr is a fair whether friend, and sells out when the winds change, it will be good for us for him to be seen as building his base on libertarian principles, to have libertarianism seen as pure, honest, and popular, before it was betrayed by a corrupt self-serving conservative.

    Whatever happens from here, I can't help but seeing this day as a good one for our cause.

  • ||

    To answer the question of who would manufacture the drugs...

    ..the people that are already making them. The point isn't that suddenly once drugs are legalized, or atleast decriminalized that some large corporation will step in and save us all from ourselves, the point is to reduce the ludicrous war of government on its own citizens. Violent drug addicts can be focused on by police at that point and thrown in jail not for drug use, but lack of control. Pot smokers sitting at home watching TV eating poptarts will no longer have to fear for their freedom doing something that impacts no one. At that point, people will see the profit in making safer alternatives to current "hard" drugs (coca leaves are good stimulants that are not deliterious if not refined and concentrated). No, there will never be an argument that certain hallucinagens serve a useful purpose, but the point is throwing people in jail for using them with no other reasons is just stupid and wasteful of the minimum police force we have.

  • ||

    You can't be for personal rights and less intrusive government and be a drug warrior sorry.

    You shouldn't just be able to say mea culpa and be done with it.

    I'd like to offer a rebuttal.

    People can be for and against things for a wide variety of reasons. Logical coherence across all of our opinions in not required in the human brain. Blessedly so.

    Also, the things we think are "correct" or "right" do not have the same level of importance or urgency to us.

    Civil liberties are very important to me, but I'm a lukewarm 2nd Amendment backer. It doesn't matter as much to me and I don't freak out if I see some local restrictions that I don't deem terribly onerous. Is that intellectually dishonest or inconsistent? Probably yes. Is that still my immediate and "natural" reaction? Yes.

    Everyone has self-contradictory opinions. Yet cognitive dissidence is super uncomfortable for many (if not all) of us. We cope very well by not seeing the contradictions. Blindspots - we all have them. We all carve out exceptions to our internal rules of conduct everyday usually without the conscious brain being aware of it all or it's barely aware of it.

    People can be pro-life and pro-death penalty. People can be for anti-warrantless wiretaps and a drug warrior. They just haven't made the conscious connection between the opinions yet and seriously, thoughtfully re-evaluted both opinions.

    Maybe Barr had his eyes opened to the drug war issues that had never occured to him in the past when he self-identified as a Republican. Maybe he's reconsidered and changed his opinion. Good on him! But it is not necessary to have him do daily mea culpae to the media over his change of heart.

  • ||

    To answer the question of who would manufacture the drugs...the people that are already making them.

    Right, but the drug companies are protected by the whole prescription thing. If a drug company makes a drug that kills people when taken as directed, then they are usually held accountable. And this doesn't even touch the PR angle. How is P&G or Merck going to look selling purely recreational narcotics to addicts? Poor.

    As for the analogy to tobacco and alcohol; look at the amount of money the booze industry spends on "drink responsibly" type advertising. They are afraid of product liability suits, even if you think they are dubious. And tobacco, well, where do you think the money for those "Truth" ads came from? Big Tobacco is going out of it's way to look as if they are "doing something". Take a look at the content of the introductory web page of any tobacco company. Powder drugs are far worse than booze and tobacco. Anyone manufacturing purely recreational cocaine or meth is going to be ass deep in these problems.

    Just indulge me; what would the market look like if no one was willing to take the chance?

  • ||

    de stijl,
    I supposed you've had a look at the other thread...the name William Hurwitz should then ring a loud bell.

    I think it's easy in our prison state to shrug off exactly how far off the deep end we've gone with locking up anyone and everyone even tangentially involved with drugs. These people (recovering drug warriors) need to be made extremely uncomfortable with the cruel and unusual punishment they've worked to perpetuate.

    Ooops, my bad, is not enough.

    The War on Drugs is a barbaric travesty with victims that should be looked at with the same pity that, I don't know, the teenager that's had his hand chopped off for petty theft in Saudi Arabia. At the risk of going totally Godwin, I'd like these aspiring fascists to be reminded daily and made to squirm for ever being drug warriors.

    Like the health dangers of cigarettes, the cat's been out of the bag on the failure of the War on Drugs for too long to claim ignorance. In the name of William Hurwitz and that poor wheelchair-bound prisoner in Florida who wanted to ease his pain with painkillers (his name escapes me) eff' Bob Barr in the heart.

  • ||

    I'm not laying my hate on the guy, since he seems sincere enough, but I have to ask: Is he gearing up for a run as Ron Paul's VP?

  • ||

    How can we ... slam the door on someone when he apparently changes his mind in part BECAUSE of our advocacy?

    As St Thomas Aquinas said, a thousand questions does not equal a single doubt. Questioning, rather than doubting, is in order here.

  • ||

    I'm not laying my hate on the guy, since he seems sincere enough, but I have to ask: Is he gearing up for a run as Ron Paul's VP?

    I'm a Ron Paul supporter, and that's still the best laugh I've had all day. Thanks!

    Seriously, rather than getting Internet pissy about this, why don't we applaud him and encourage to take an even stronger stand on the issue. He's one of the very few prominent actual politicians to take this position in recent history.

  • ||

    As St Thomas Aquinas said, a thousand questions does not equal a single doubt. Questioning, rather than doubting, is in order here.


    I have to agree with this. I will stand back and listen to his rhetoric with a grain of salt, watching for his actions to match the words. If he starts touring the country with LEAP, lobbying his former colleagues to end the drug war, et cetera then I am willing to forgive. If he is simply blowing hot air, we will soon enough see.

  • ||

    I'm probably wrong, but I believe some of the more pernicious drugs would pretty much go away as a result of legalization. Drug variants like crack and meth seem largely a response to prohibition itself, and the difficulties involved in getting other, less potent or less profitable, recreational drugs. "They" say the South Americans, who have access to the coca leaf, think we Norteamericanos are crazy to use powder cocaine, much less crack.

    And I still think being in jail is worse for you than any drug you could get hold of.

  • Robert||

    He's a warrior against former drugs?

    But seriously, the liability issue is a serious one, and of course not just for drugs. And the hell of it is, to a libertarian activist, it's intractable. You could get legislation pre-empting liability, but as a libertarian I'm against such pre-emption; I think juries should be allowed to administer justice based on the facts of each individual case. I'm afraid you could not write legislation in this area which would have the net effect of increasing liberty & justice for all, because you could not anticipate all the facts. All you could do by pre-emption is to favor some at the expense of others.

    The only way to approach this is the hard & slow way thru academia, where the judges & lawyers come from. The spirit of the law is in this case more imporant than the letter, and we need a more libertarian climate in that profession.

    Meanwhile businesses that are extremely liability-prone will tend to be fly-by-night operations with no assets at risk. It means that meth mfg. would be about the way it is now, but not clandestine and probably a little bit safer, but product quality won't improve. People will make meth etc. to make a few quick bucks when they're desperate, and won't develop expertise at it. Actually it will be semi-clandestine because their suppliers will have to have plausible denial so their assets won't be at risk. It'll be like in the 1990s when I sold tryptophan in the form of crystal growing kits.

  • ||

    pinko,

    I think what you're saying is that it's not enough for Barr to have switched to anti- or neutral Drug War, but he's got now be the Ultimate Anti-Drug War Warrior to get your vote. You want him to acknowledge the awful impacts and effects of the Drug War. That's cool.

    Other people will want him to so the same thing over the effects of policies he's supported or not vehemently opposed in the past. Your Hurwitz is someone else's Hamdan. And they probably want the same mea culpa.

    He's an ex-Republican, ex-Congressman from the northern suburbs of Atlanta. Bad policy is good politics for all sorts of pols, but for a GA Rep, I'm suprised he got away with being pro-privacy as long as he did.

  • ||

    Pigwiggle,

    Someone is always willing to take a chance. Niche companies will pop up with tons of disclaimers, but they'll still sell it. Just because its not Merk or P&G doesn't mean it won't be a legitimate corporate entity.

  • ||

    Wars not make one great, hmmmm...

  • ||

    Only Nixon could go to China.

  • ||

    None of these bob Barr articles ever mention the LP.

  • ||

    Pigwiggle you obviously don't know what you speak of when it comes to prescription drugs killing people.

    I work for big pharma and people die all the time from drugs and interactions with those drugs etc. The toe nail fungus drug killed dozens, the toe nail fungus itself has never killed anyone. Make sense of that one.

    The industry considers a drug effective if during clinical studies (which they pay for) it is found that the new drug is at least 10% more effective than placebo. Then the number of people is has to treat without side effects is down near 30%. Have you not noticed all these new medical issues seemingly that have come out of no where.

    We are now to the point where we look for a drug to do A it kinda does B and C but not A at all. So we create new problems to enable us to sell B and C to treat. Plain and simple thats how it works.

  • ||

    Liabilities on drug manufacturing? Have you ever bought a searing hot coffee? It says "Caution Contents Hot" or the like. So the manufacturing straps the appropriate warning label on and they're covered. Example: "WARNING: This drug is known to be physically addictive and may cause serious health risks. Inappropriate use will result in serious injury or death. Do not operate a motor vehicle or heavy machinery for X amount of hours after use. By purchasing this product you agree to free company from any liabilities pertaining to the use of this product."

    As far as Barr, I think this greatly increases the chance of some form of medical marijuana legislation passing if he really is going to lobby on its behalf. MMJ is important because it helps to humanize MJ use and detracts greatly from Drug Warrior rhetoric which has labeled MMJ a con.

  • Nicholai Madias||

    So far Barr has supported the war on drugs. Talk is cheap, if he wants my support he will need to prove that he wants to end the war on drugs. Until Barr does make up for his past drug war crimes he should be blocked from the LP.

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