Rand Paul Blocks Synthetic Drug Bans

The Drug War Chronicle reports that Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has placed a "hold" on bills aimed at banning fake pot, pseudo-speed, and the synthetc psychedelic 2C-E. In a recent interview with the Bowling Green, Kentucky, Daily News, Paul said the hold, which requires 60 votes to override, was motivated partly by "disproportionate" federal penalties that leave too little sentencing discretion for judges. "The main reason we are opposing this is someone could be kept in prison for 20 years," he said. Another reason, Rand spokeswoman Moira Bagley told The Lexington Herald-Leader, is that the senator believes "enforcement of most drug laws can and should be local and state issues." Bagley "said another of Paul's concerns—which others have echoed—is that the proposed legislation could hinder efforts to do beneficial research on the chemicals." The Herald-Leader says "Paul does not anticipate lifting his hold," which "has been in place for at least three months."

The Drug Enforcement Administration already has imposed "emergency" bans on chemicals used in ersatz marijuana (a.k.a. K2 or spice) and imitation speed (a.k.a. "bath salts"). Two of the bills Paul is blocking—S.B. 605 (the Dangerous Synthetic Drug Control Act of 2011), introduced by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), and S.B. 409 (the Combating Dangerous Stimulants Act of 2011), introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)—broaden these bans. Grassley's bill, for example, applies to "any material, compound, mixture, or preparation which contains any quantity of cannabimimetic agents," unless that chemical is specifically exempted or listed elsewhere in the Controlled Substances Act. The third bill—S.B. 839 (the Combating Designer Drugs Act of 2011), introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)—bans 2,5-dimethoxy-4-ethylphenethylamine (2C-E) and eight related synthetic psychedelics.

On the Senate floor last week, Klobuchar urged Paul (without naming him) to lift his hold:

There have been reports from states around the country of people acting violently while under the influence of these drugs, leading to deaths or injuries to themselves and others.

While taking these drugs people can experience elevated heart rates and blood pressure, hallucinations, seizures and extreme agitation. They are incredibly dangerous....

This all hit home in my state with the tragic death of a 19 year old man, Trevor Robinson, in Blaine, Minnesota, who overdosed on a synthetic hallucinogen known as 2C-E last year. 

And another young man is thought to have shot himself in Minnesota later in the year while under the influence of synthetic drugs....

I understand that the Senator who is holding these bills is genuine and philosophical in his opposition, and he deserves to be heard on his objections. 

My suggestion is that we come to an agreement so that we can have a period of debate on these bills.  He can take the floor and speak to this issue for as long as he would like, but then let’s have a vote. We can't wait any longer.... 

Before we lose more kids, before these drugs spread any further, let’s pass these bills....

Let's have a debate, let’s hear what the objections are, and then let’s pass these bills.  I really think we can save lives. While there is still time to catch up, let’s do everything we can do to address this problem.

In its entry on 2C-E, Erowid notes a total of three fatal overdose reports: the case Klobuchar mentions, plus two deaths in Oklahoma involving a substance "thought now to have been mislabeled bromo-dragonfly." By comparison, alcohol poisoning causes hundreds of deaths a year in the U.S. and contributes to more than 1,000. So by all means, let's have a debate about the merits of banning every psychoactive substance that happens to catch a pharmaphobic legislator's attention. Let's talk about the unjust, utterly arbitrary distinctions drawn by our drug laws, which send people to prison for years or decades because they manufactured or supplied intoxicants that scare people like Amy Klobuchar. But let's have an actual debate, not a headlong, no-time-to-lose rush to panic-palliating prohibition.

More on K2/spice and bath salts here and here.

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  • Sevo||

    "There have been reports from states around the country of people acting violently while under the influence of these drugs, leading to deaths or injuries to themselves and others."

    I'm sure. At least one or two of them. Maybe.
    And we're pretty sure they were caused by these things, since they have to be bad, right?

  • ||

    No need to do any kind of scientific inquiry to determine if these things are actually dangerous. We have reports. And that is good enough.

  • Top Men||

    Don't forget us!

  • LOL||

    Let's have a 5 minute debate about this, then lets pass the bill. No chance any of you Senators support illegal drugs that kill children, right?

  • Mr Whipple||

    I think Sasha and Ann Shulgin have researched these compounds, thoroughly in their books PIHKAL and TIHKAL.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Shulgin

  • yy||

    My neighbor just met a bisexual man on ---datebi*cOMit’s where for men and women looking
    for bisexual and bi-curious individuals to meet in a friendly and comfortable environment.
    It’s a nice place for the people who have the same sexual orientation.

  • np||

    S.B. 605 (the Dangerous Synthetic Drug Control Act of 2011), introduced by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and S.B. 409 (the Combating Dangerous Stimulants Act of 2011), introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)—broaden these bans.

    See, statism can bring people together too!

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Yep.

    With any bill that rushes to block liberty, you can be sure that it's a bipartisan affair.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    This all hit home in my state with the tragic death of a 19 year old man, Trevor Robinson, in Blaine, Minnesota, who overdosed on a synthetic hallucinogen known as 2C-E last year.

    Well then, maybe you should have named it Trevor's Law. No one could possibly be against a law that would have prevented a death (and might actually bring that someone back to life, we won't know until we pass it).

  • Loki||

    Also, if the state of Minnesota wants to ban these synthetic drugs because one or two people may have died after taking them, why can't they do that themselves? Why does the federal government need to act? Federalism, how does it work?

    Rhetorical questions, I already know the answers.

  • ||

    But children will drive over the border and buy it from those heathen Indians in North Dakota.

    Why do you hate children so much?

  • Loki||

    Why do you hate children so much?

    Because they're loud annoying obnoxious little fucks. Oh wait, that was a rhetorical question... nevermind

  • ||

    +1

  • ||

    Maybe someone should remind her that Trever would probably still be alive if marijuana was legal.

  • Invisible Finger||

    Aren't all drugs synthetic?

  • Loki||

    Not really. Opiates come from poppies, narcotics are typically derived from the coca plant, and of course marijuana. What exactly one has to do to turn poppie seeds into, say high grade morphine or heroin I have no idea, so there's probably some synthetic chemicals involved, but I don't really know what.

    And of course, drug dealers are known to "cut" drugs with God only knows what.

  • Hill||

    narcotics are typically derived from the coca plant

    What is this I don't even

  • strat||

    I'd have more confidence in the U.S. Government's ability to regulate this stuff if they'd stop calling stimulants like cocaine "narcotics." Words have meaning. It doesn't take a molecular biologist to look at the root of a word.

  • SIV||

    You need to start reading Microgram.

  • Carmen Senz||

    If you don't like drugs then don't use them.

  • anon||

    people can experience elevated heart rates and blood pressure, hallucinations, seizures and extreme agitation. They are incredibly dangerous....

    Again, just like reading the news.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    "This all hit home in my state with the tragic death of a 19 year old man"

    Does she get to the part where the Minnesota legislature tried to ban the drug but Congress wouldn't let them?

    No, the states are purely decorative, and any (allegedly) serious issue must be dealt with in Congress.

  • Respo||

    He can't be a "man" if he doesn't have the legal right to buy alcohol. He's still infantilized.

  • American exceptionalism||

    I didn't know we had so many chemical engineers in the Senate. Certainly they can't be assigning their names to bills other people have written for them.

  • ||

    Rand spokeswoman Moira Bagley told The Lexington Herald-Leader, is that the senator believes "enforcement of most drug laws can and should be local and state issues."

    We have seen the wholesale destruction of communities which is a direct result of people crossing county lines to purchase teh Demon Rum.

    How many more must die?

    How many?

  • Loki||

    Let's have a debate, let’s hear what the objections are, and then let’s ignore all stated objections and pass these bills anyway because, fuck Rand Paul, that's why.

  • sarcasmic||

    But let's have an actual debate, not a headlong, no-time-to-lose rush to panic-palliating prohibition.

    I have often asked drug warriors for a compelling reason to keep politically incorrect chemicals illegal that is not also a compelling reason to make alcohol illegal.

    I have yet to get a response other than emotional sputtering.

    There is no compelling reason.

    Therefor there will be no debate on the subject.

    Ever.

  • ||

    Because alcohol prohibition was a terrible failure. And drug prohibition is....

    Oh never mind. Just shut up and stop smoking pot you dirty hippie.

  • DK||

    In my younger days, I would argue that society can cope with a single vice (alcohol), but to add more vices would be destructive. Thankfully, auto-lobotomy had not been outlawed.

  • robc||

    Younger you was a moron.

  • sarcasmic||

    Aren't most people morons when they are young?

  • DK||

    I prefer the term ignorant, but yeah.

  • ||

    another young man is thought to have shot himself in Minnesota later in the year while under the influence of synthetic drugs....

    WHAT THE FUCK ARE WE WAITING FOR?

  • ||

    Yes, clearly we must ban living in Minnesota, as it drives people to shoot themselves.

    Or possibly we must have more global warming, as that crappy cold weather drives people to shoot themselves.

  • LauraB||

    We're actually having a lovely winter, temps in the 30's, very little snow, so if people are shooting themselves, it must be THE DRUGS!!!

  • ||

    a lovely winter, temps in the 30's,

    Y'all are crazy.

  • P B||

    Upper 80's today in the sunny south, and no fires....yet.

  • LauraB||

    The usual winter would involve temps below zero with wind chills that cause body parts to freeze and drop off. This is down-right tropical.

  • ||

    Let's have a debate, let’s hear what the objections are, brush them aside, and then let’s pass these bills.

  • Matrix||

    Or, you know... legalize the stuff these synthetics are mimicking. The originals are possibly safer, especially in the case of marijuana. But, no... that would be too easy.

  • RoboCain||

    +9000

  • Tman||

    Can we just fast forward to the year that Rand Paul runs for president?

    Dude is dropping bombs all over the place and he's only been in office a year and a half.

  • ||

    Shooting fish in a barrel. Hunting Clay Pigeons. Whipping a masochist at a goth concert.

    With all the stupid around him, it'd be harder for him not to expose it.

  • Ice Nine||

    What is a "hold"? That is, how does one senator manage to indefinitely block the progress of a bill in the Senate?

  • ||

    It is part of the Senate Rules. A single Senator can anonymously keep a bill from being brought to the floor pretty much indefinitely.

  • ||

    Its sort of pre-filibuster. Actual filibustering (which can be done by a single Senator and only ended by 60 votes) is a lot of work, and (more charitably) could tie up the Senate when it should be doing other things (like passing a fucking budget), so they have streamlined the process.

  • Ice Nine||

    Yeah, given the fact that there is almost always at least one senator who objects to a particular motion or bill, how the hell does anything get done in the senate in view of this hold business?

  • robc||

    Which part of 60 votes dont you understand?

    And a surprising amount of time, opponents let a bill go to vote without putting a hold on it. Professional courtesy.

  • Ice Nine||

    I understand all 60. What part of the cumbersomeness of having to get 60 votes to override anything one guy doesn't like and obstructs any time he wants don't you understand?

  • ||

    How is that cumbersome, especially when it comes to totally optional things like this instead of mandatory issues like passing a budget (which don't require 60)?

    I don't get it.

  • ||

    Do you also find the process to amend the Constitution too cumbersome? Or the process to override a presidential veto, since it again is not a simple majority?

  • ||

    If it took an amendment to pass alcohol Prohibition, then certainly asking for 60 to Prohibit these things isn't that cumbersome.

  • MNG||

    They thought it "took an amendment" but under current caselaw it would not, so that's a pretty poor argument.

    Besides, Ice Nine is talking about whether it is a good idea to allow this, not whether it is Constitutional. It's possible the Constitution and what it allows might not be the end all and be all of that kind of question.

  • ||

    That is not true MNG. The Constitution, if properly read, only gives us rainbows, puppies and ponies. If it allows something that is a terrible idea, you are just not reading it correctly. ;-)

  • ||

    They thought it "took an amendment" but under current caselaw it would not, so that's a pretty poor argument.


    Besides, Ice Nine is talking about whether it is a good idea to allow this, not whether it is Constitutional. It's possible the Constitution and what it allows might not be the end all and be all of that kind of question.

    That's exactly my point, MNG. I'm not arguing about whether the Constitution allows it. I'm saying that it was possible to go through the Amendment process to affect alcohol, so clearly if this were really important they could get the much lower bar of 60 votes.

    It seems to me that you're the one assuming that what the Constitution allows is the be all and end all of the question.

  • ||

    I'm not arguing about whether or not the Constitution mandates it. I'm saying that we have clearly met the much, much higher bar for Constitutional Amendments on serious issues. Therefore, a 60 vote bar really isn't that high.

    From a practical standpoint, a 60 vote bar is perfectly reasonable on nonessential items. It's the best way to preserve civil liberties, and it's hardly cumbersome.

  • CrackertyAssCracker||

    They thought it "took an amendment" but somehow the meaning of the constitution has changed even though the words didn't.

    That is a good argument for busting out the tar and feathers.

  • robc||

    Cumbersome is a feature, not a bug.

    I personally would prefer things like this to require 90 votes.

    If you are going to send someone to prison for it, it damn well better be obviously worth it to almost everyone.

  • ||

    Yes. As a practical matter, 60 votes to add a new federal felony really isn't too "cumbersome."

  • Ice Nine||

    Jesus you guys, you've had enough caffeine this morning. I simply asked why this one guy obstructing anything he doesn't like "hold" thing isn't used every day in the Senate, since it is apparently as easy as that. Then I was told about the 60 vote thing, which I already knew. Then I stated that this seems like something that could clog up the proceedings of the Senate pretty easily (making me even more surprised by its existence). Then I started getting lessons on the Constitution. Let's just pretend I didn't ask.

  • robc||

    Then I started getting lessons on the Constitution.

    You arent new around here, what the fuck did you expect?

  • ||

    We told you the answer, the answer is that the rule doesn't get used all the time because of professional courtesy.

    Sure, if Rand keeps insisting on actually insisting upon his rights in the Senate's Standing Rules (such as insisting on time for debate, forcing votes, etc.), then the Senate may change the rules.

  • protefeed||

    I personally would prefer things like this to require 90 votes.

    I would prefer that EVERYTHING Congress does requires 90% approval in both chambers.

    That would get us to a more limited federal government in a hurry.

  • np||

    ^ Yes. And I would add requiring all laws to be tested for Constitutional muster by the Supreme Court first (as opposed to being passed, then requiring standing, going up the chain through appeals)

  • robc||

    I would prefer that EVERYTHING Congress does requires 90% approval in both chambers.

    True.

    If you are gonna steal my money to pay for it, it ought to be damn important.

    Of, as PJ O'Rourke put it: "Would you kill your Grandmother to pave I-95?"

  • robc||

    Opps...its mother not grandmother.

  • CrackertyAssCracker||

    I would prefer that EVERYTHING Congress does requires 90% approval in both chambers.

    I'd prefer that we add an exception for the flat out repeal of any existing law. 25% of either house should be sufficient for that.

  • robc||

    Im fine with majority for repeal. But 25% wouldnt be a problem.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Eventually they get leaned on and release the hold. It's a pretty good way to gum up the works for a while, though.

  • robc||

    Not indefinate. 60 senators could override it.

  • protefeed||

    Technically, you don't need 60 votes to end a filibuster if only one senator is doing the filibustering. You let him or her talk until they can't physically keep it up, then vote up or down.

    It's when enough other senators join in the filibuster that 60 votes is needed to end debate.

  • Rhet Orical||

    Are you people insane? Drugs must be banned for the children.
    Just like predator drones.

  • MNG||

    The problem that Klobuchar has is she doesn't think of any possible negatives that could follow enacting a ban.

  • ||

    Well, she is a Democrat. Only the private sector can have unintended consequences.*

    (*- The downsides of war to Democrats are all viewed as intended consequences, in my experience.)

  • kinnath||

    Is there any way at all that the good citizens of Iowa could convince the good citizens of Kentucky to swap Senators?

  • robc||

    Whatcha got for McConnell?

    Paul isnt available.

  • kinnath||

    Harkin?

  • ||

    Whose Paul going to promote when it comes time to flush McConnell out?

  • Mr Whipple||

    In its entry on 2C-E, Erowid notes a total of three fatal overdose reports: the case Klobuchar mentions, plus two deaths in Oklahoma involving a substance "thought now to have been mislabeled bromo-dragonfly."

    Mislabeling these compounds in order to get around laws is more dangerous than the drugs themselves.

    There was also a case in Philly where someone had stolen a large supply of Fentonyl from a hospital and put on the street as heroin. Since Fentonyl doesn't "cure" dope sickness, people were overdosing and dying trying to get "well" on Fentonyl.

    Laws against drugs create more problems than the drugs themselves.

  • MNG||

    Rand Paul surely does a lot of commendable things. Good for him on this.

  • ||

    See MNG, you would be part of the reasonable 20% of TPM commenters here, unlike the majority (and their writers) who are desperate to smear libertarians and thus end up totally supporting the Drug War because it's better than saying something nice about Rand Paul.

  • ||

    What part of the cumbersomeness of having to get 60 votes to override anything one guy doesn't like and obstructs any time he wants don't you understand?

    What part of LEAVE US THE FUCK ALONE don't you understand?

  • Chuck You||

    Goddamnit! How can I make those political ads so pleasing to the mentality of ignorant soccer mommies if I don't get my legislation on every youth indiscretion trend that I read about in the paper. Helium, you're next!

  • protefeed||

    "My suggestion is that we come to an agreement so that we can have a period of debate on these bills. He can take the floor and speak to this issue for as long as he would like, but then let’s have a vote."

    So, the plan is to end the threat of a filibuster by having Rand do an actual filibuster?

    Good plan.

  • rst||

    Fuck Schumer.

  • ||

    Whatcha got for McConnell?

    I think pig shit is already plentiful in Iowa.

  • Dekedin||

    Sometimes I feel like the war on drugs is a war on the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. By tightly regulating precursors it makes it much more difficult to do research on both organic compounds (tryptamines and phenethylamines) and mass production (HCl, acetic anhydride, benzyl chloride, etc.) A conspiracy theorist might say the US is purposely trying to destroy our chemical industry.

  • thesuave||

    No its a war to protect their interests. They get to manufacture as much amphetamines, and extract as much cocaine from coca leaves as they need. The war is against your right to put in your body what you choose.

    Not that the gov is doing this to attack pharma. Pharma has the gov in its back pocket.

  • ||

    Pharma has the gov in its back pocket.

    Pharma and the government have an understanding, but I wouldn't say that it's always clear who is calling the shots.

    I doubt that pharma really likes the various Sudafed rules.

  • Ray Pew||

    I doubt that pharma really likes the various Sudafed rules.

    Yeah, I think the "Big Pharma pushes the War On Drugs" mantra is full of fail. Since the WOD began, several dozens of stimulants, sedatives and narcotics have disappeared from production. This doesn't even address the OTC compounds that took a hit, such as ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. These are all streams of revenue that are lost to pharmaceutical companies.

    Pharma lobbies government for special priviledges. It doesn't "control" the actions of politicians.

  • strat||

    I hear you. Heaven forbid you want to make a bunch of artificial grape flavor. That anthranilic acid, well...

  • Dekedin||

    It's my right to make red dye #40 in my basement if want to.

  • Mr Whipple||

    Don't forget Phenylacetone. If phenylacetone were available, meth cooks wouldn't need to buy all that Sudafed to make meth.

  • ||

    "I understand that the Senator who is holding these bills is genuine and philosophical in his opposition, and he deserves to be heard on his objections. "

    Translation: we'll let this weirdo talk for, ohhh, another minute or so, before we can get back to straight-talking common-sense speak.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    This part of the article is interesting:

    "In addition [said Paul], there has been much discussion in the Senate regarding combatting radical Islam. Notably, Islam is currently the fastest-growing religion among prisoners in the United States. Sending people - often young people - who may already come from broken homes and difficult family situations into a brutal prison environment is potentially a breeding ground for radicalization,”

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Sorry, that was from John Thacker's link, Talking Points Memo:

    http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpoi....._islam.php

  • RyanXXX||

    I'd say that was probably a ruse to try to trick Republicans into voting against the bill. Pretty clever, actually...

    "What do you hate more, drugs or teh muslims!?!?!?"

  • ||

    Heads shall explode...

  • Dekedin||

    Yet the commentators are criticizing him for what is probably a pretty good strategy. Even the stuff libertarians and liberals agree with they disagree with. At this rate the republicans are going to be more pro-vice than the democrats. I'd never thought I'd see the day when liberals are mocking republicans who want to slow down the drug war. Because he's from Kentucky you have to be an authoritarian asshole just to disassociate from him? Between this and Harry Reid wanting a ban against prostitution, I'm not sure who the real SoCons are.

  • ||

    About 20% (last I looked) of those commenting are saying, "Hey, wait a second, aren't we against escalating the Drug War and mandatory minimums and all that?" but they're drowned out by the "we hate libertarians and college pranks (Aqua Buddha)" crowd.

    The "incarceration causes radicalization" argument is only one of a dozen reasons he's given to be against the bill, but TPM wants straws to clutch to hate.

  • ||

    Let's have a debate,

    Ok.

    let’s hear what the objections are,

    Ok.

    and then let’s pass these bills.

    Wait, what?

  • ||

    or, to repeat Loki from upthread:

    Let's have a debate, let’s hear what the objections are, and then let’s ignore all stated objections and pass these bills anyway because, fuck Rand Paul, that's why.

  • Mr Whipple||

    I thought 2C-E falls under the Analog Act. (Not that I support the Analog Act, mind you.)

  • ||

    THANK YOU RAND PAUL for halting invasive laws which undermine our freedom.

  • ||

    Amy Klobachur wants to pass the bill quickly so we can see what's in it.

    Does this sound familiar? I believe House Speaker Botox said something like this on a bill that was also about protecting "THE CHILDREN"

  • ||

    In addition to the many societal costs of prohibition, it has a long history of driving the spread of harder or more dangerous drugs.

    Marijuana to skunk, to dangerous synthetic concoctions - such as spice or bath salts.
    Poppies to morphine, to heroine, to krokodil.
    Coca to cocaine, to crack.
    Ephedra to ephedrine, to speed, to methamphetamine.
    Mushrooms to ecstasy, to 2CB/designers.

    Those responsible shall not go unpunished!

  • Matt||

    Nice article, Jacob.

    To me this is a human rights issue. We humans have a fundamental right to control our own bodies and minds.

    Some of these chemicals they are trying to ban are amazing and sacred, especially the 2Cs.

    The government would do better to just focus on policies directed toward keeping these materials out of the hands of kids.

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