Rand Paul

Rand Paul Should Answer These Drug War Questions When He Speaks at Howard University This Week

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On Wednesday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) will speak at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Topics: GOP outreach to minority voters, as well as mandatory minimums, the war on drugs, and the precarious health of the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments.

Considering that Paul represents the second-to-last state to ratify the 13th Amendment, that Howard was founded in 1867 to educate freedmen, and that the war on drugs has–according to Michelle Alexander–resulted in "[m]ore African American men in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850," the event promises to be genuinely historic. And it'll be historic even if Paul repeats only what he's already said; things like, "Our prisons are full of nonviolent criminals" and "Mandatory minimums have had a disproportionate effect on the African-American community." 

But if the only thing Paul does on Wednesday is make a case for reforming federal mandatory minimums, he'll have set a precedent for modern GOP senators while barely moving the ball forward. This is because (as I wrote last month) the U.S. Senate is probably the last place in America where it's considered revolutionary to say, "Hey, maybe we should not cage nonviolent drug offenders for the rest of their natural lives." 

To be somewhat more frank: Paul has done an admirable job of saying what penalties he finds to be egregious, but he's yet to say what penalties he thinks are fitting for drug users. He'll need some pushing. Howard students and faculty can do that. Here are some suggestions. 

1.) During an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Paul answered a question about being "lenient" on drugs by saying, "The main thing I've said is not to legalize them, but not to incarcerate people for extended period of times. There are people in jail for 37, 50, 45 years for nonviolent crimes. And that's a huge mistake. "

A good follow-up would be, If 37 years is too long, what's the right amount of time for a nonviolent, low-level drug offender to spend behind bars? And if Paul doesn't support legalization, how does he feel about decriminalization? Or, repealing federal prohibition, which would allow states to determine their own drug policies? 

2.) During that same Fox appearance, Paul said, "Look, the last two presidents could conceivably have been put in jail for their drug use. And I really think look what would have happened: It would have ruined their lives. They got lucky, but a lot of poor kids, particularly in the inner city, don't get lucky, they don't have good attorneys and they go to jail for these things and I think it's a big mistake." 

Does Paul believe that jail is the only bad thing that can result from a drug arrest? Does he think, for instance, that President Obama would still be president if he had a booking photo floating around? Or if instead of serving time, he'd simply been unable to sit for the bar due to a felony cocaine conviction? 

3.) Last November, Paul told ABC, "I think for example we should tell young people, 'I'm not in favor of you smoking pot, but if you get caught smoking pot, I don't want to put you in jail for 20 years.'"

Considering that a) no one does 20 years in jail for smoking pot (dealing is another story), and b) that the consequences of a drug offense aren't limited to incarceration, this quote provides another opportunity to ask Paul not only what punishments he opposes, but what punishments he thinks are appropriate. It might also be good if someone asks him about drugs other than, say, marijuana, which D.C. residents will soon be able to buy legally in a shop five minutes from Paul's office.

Oh, hey! That might be a good thing to ask about as well! 

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28 responses to “Rand Paul Should Answer These Drug War Questions When He Speaks at Howard University This Week

  1. “Considering that a) no one does 20 years in jail for smoking pot (dealing is another story),”

    No, sometimes the punishment is you get beaten and tazed, even shot on the side of the road based upon ‘reasonable suspiscion’ of quota hungry cops. Or in Texas a trooper swabs out your orifices with the same glove she just used on your passenger’s crack.

    1. Or they bust in your door and shoot your dog and terrorize your kids in a faulty warrant meant for another address;

      Paul should say that the “War” on pot smokers has cost lives and wreaked injustice on thousands of Americans, with no end in sight. Without reform we face more surveillance and erosion of civil rights.

    2. Fair point, Tim.

      1. If only I could spell.

    3. Or you are a screw up who just can’t cope with the extra state scrutiny that goes with being on probation. So you fail test after test. So not 20 years all at once but eventually.

    4. That’s punishment for contempt of cop, which is a different offense entirely.

    5. well, you don’t have to be caught dealing. Just in possession of enough that they can pin you with intent to deal. Or possessing a gun. There are apparently many legal maneuvers to escalate a charge

  2. What in the fuck does the ratification date of the 13th Amendment have to do with anything in today’s world? FOAD Riggs.

    1. I think what he meant to say was “Hurr-durr! Stoopid souferners!”, but didn’t have enough punch.

      I got it. Rand Paul is not the Chosen One. But he’s a cut above the idiots who infest Washington D.C., so I’ll back him until he’s fallen to the Dark Side.

    2. It’s weird, i don’t remember this much fuss when that guy who considers it his divine right to blow up brown people spoke at Howard.

  3. Obama’s home state never ratified the 13th amendment. So there.

    1. Illinois was the first state to ratify the 13th amendment, so you must mean either Hawaii or Kenya.

      1. Or the Vineyard.

  4. Was this posted 9 minutes before the links specifically to avoid a long comment thread? Well done, Riggs.

  5. Those qre indeed some valid questions.

    http://www.SurfPrivately.tk

  6. 1. A good follow-up would be, If 37 years is too long, what’s the right amount of time for a nonviolent, low-level drug offender to spend behind bars?

    What would be the point of asking? The anti-drug zealots (like Bill O’Reilly et al) already interpreted his comment as meaning he’s totally for drug legalization and the raping of white women by marijuana-crazed Mexicans.

    Does Paul believe that jail is the only bad thing that can result from a drug arrest?

    What would be the point of asking? The anti-drug zealots (like Bill O’Reilly et al) already interpreted his comment as meaning he’s totally for drug legalization and the raping of white women by marijuana-crazed Mexicans.

    this quote provides another opportunity to ask Paul not only what punishments he opposes, but what punishments he thinks are appropriate.

    What would be the point of asking? The anti-drug zealots (like Bill O’Reilly et al) already interpreted his comment as meaning he’s totally for drug legalization and the raping of white women by marijuana-crazed Mexicans.

    1. the raping of white women by marijuana-crazed Mexicans.

      You sound as if you speak from experience.

      I keed! I keed!

  7. Why do we have to *grill* one of the few guys actually trying to move the ball our way?

    He’s impure! Cast him out!

    How about we cut him some slack instead, and let him call his own plays, instead of demanding a Hail Mary today?

    “Or, repealing federal prohibition, which would allow states to determine their own drug policies? ”

    That would far and away be the best answer.

    1. Problem is from his last statement, he doesn’t support that, and he is certainly different from his father in this regards. Dunno if he was pandering to the Socons or actually believes it, but he still wants to keep drugs illegal, but apparently with less punishment.

      In the last thread I mentioned that reforming mandatory mins–which WILL fail or result in a trivial reform e.g. 20 years down to 15 years, enough to maintain a prosecutor’s plea bargaining power–won’t do much good as people would still end up in jail, just for less time, and even if they don’t, it’s the life-ruining felony that is the primary problem

    2. This is a fair article. I agree that a politician does not need to be a 100% pure libertarian who agrees with me on everything to be worthy of supporting. That said, let’s not be hypocritical like the supporters of TEAM RED and TEAM BLUE. Rand shouldn’t be given a complete pass just because he’s better than most other politicians on the issue. That doesn’t mean he should be demonized or outcasted altogether, but we should be consistent

  8. I have to give you credit for making good on your promise not to give Rand a free pass, Mr. Riggs. *thumbs up*

    Mike Riggs| 3.24.13 @ 1:37PM |#
    “The argument that it’s the prison sentence that derails you, not being criminalized in the first place, is wrong, and I am addressing it at length in a magazine feature about conservative prison reformers and the drug war. In other words, I promise I’m not giving out any free passes.”

  9. Can we distinguish between REAL criminals and non-criminals (like drug crimes). Both happen to be nonviolent in many cases, but our prisons, contrary to what RP says “Our prisons are full of nonviolent criminals” SHOULD be full of plenty of nonviolent criminals, when you are talking crimes like auto theft, burglary, etc.

    I deal with the victims of such crimes, as well as the perps, and Burglars suck. If you’ve ever been burglarized, it’s a terrible experience. Many burglary victims report it feels like being raped. That’s very common. Burglars upend their lives and take heirlooms etc. that can never be replaced and often the kids in the household have longterm aftereffects of being afraid to even be in the house, let alone sleeping their bed at night.

    I see a lot of apologism and consideration for non-violent criminals in the H&R blog and I’m sorry but Burglary and other such non-violent crimes should be taken seriously. There are plenty of non-violent crimes that should be taken a hell of a lot less seriously (like minor assaults) than stuff like Burglary or auto theft.

    Let’s not conflate “non-violent” offenders with “drug offenders”. The latter should not be in prison or jail nor should it even be the business of the state what the hell people want to put into their bloodstreams.

    1. Burglars and thieves otoh are scum and they should be dealt with harshly. I’m glad to work in a jurisdiction that has a high impact offender program where we really go after the chronic problem children and I can say personally we put away just one of these guys and our caseload of such crimes goes down IMMENSELY. It is amazing how many break-ins, burgs, auto thefts etc. just one person can do in a week.

    2. I don’t consider b and e to be a nonviolent crime.

      1. That’s cool, but it is GENERALLY considered (unless “aggravated” like when the house is occupied) in criminal classification as a nonviolent crime. Ditto auto theft.

        My simple point is that nonviolent doesn’t mean nonserious

    3. Good point.

    4. I really don’t think anybody here considers that (burglarly) a non-violent crime.

      1. No one here, perhaps, but in society at large it is a common belief. Usually you hear the tired, offensive, trope “it’s only property.” Remember this is (partially) what justified rules requiring homeowners to flee out their back doors if their home was invaded. After all (they reasoned), if you can leave, you should. You have no right to use lethal force to defend anything as trivial as property.

        In a world that considers property rights opposed to human rights, instead of connected, people are quick to dismiss other people’s loss of property as a non-violent crime.

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