Drug War

Rand Paul in 2000: 'End That War on Drugs'



Last week I noted that Rand Paul, since being elected to the Senate, has shied away from calling for the legalization of marijuana or other drugs, although he has said that drug policy should be handled mostly by the states. As Tom Angell points out, Paul made bolder comments on the subject during a 2000 TV appearance (below), although not quite as bold as some people claim. Paul, at the time chairman of Kentucky Taxpayers United, was responding to the following suggestion from a caller to the public affairs show Kentucky Tonight:

My plan is to legalize all drugs and take the money that we spend to keep the drugs out of the country, put that into Social Security, and release all nonviolent drug offenders…take the money that we would spend in housing these inmates, put that into Social Security. Now that money is going to end the money problems with Social Security. I would like to hear you guys comment on that.

Here is how Paul responded:

I would agree with him. I think they are sort of separate issues, and obviously you can take the savings from one. But I would agree with him: The war on drugs is an abysmal failure and a waste of money. And we should better spend [the money] dealing with people, with their addiction problems, quit wasting all the money, sending the military to Bolivia to shoot farmers who are growing coca plants. That's just ridiculous. So I do agree with him there: Just end that war on drugs and make it a much more local situation, more community oriented…There's probably a lot of savings in that.

That can be read as an endorsement of legalization, but it also can be read as similar to the position Paul has taken since he became a Senate candidate: devolve drug policy to state and local governments; emphasize rehabilitation rather than punishment. It all depends on what Paul meant by "end that war on drugs." For me that means repealing drug prohibition. But recall that Barack Obama, who as a Senate candidate in 2004 called the war on drugs an "utter failure," supposedly ended it in 2009. I suspect that Rand Paul in 2000 had in mind something closer to my idea of ending the war on drugs, but I can't prove it. Still, it is probably significant that Paul, unlike Obama, did not feel a need to say legalization is a bad idea.

Because Paul's 2000 comments are open to a wide range of interpretation, Ryan Lizza's gloss in The New Yorker is rather misleading:

In 2000, when a caller to "Kentucky Tonight" asked guests what they thought of a plan to legalize all drugs, release all nonviolent drug offenders, and use the savings to fix Social Security, Paul responded, "I would agree."

I think exactly what Paul agreed with is not clear, especially when you consider how prohibitionists like Obama have appropriated the language of reform. But even if Paul never explicitly endorses legalization, it may not matter, as long as he is prepared to take a genuinely federalist approach to drug policy, which would mean that national prohibition does not apply in states that decide to go a different way.

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  1. He is a hypocritical asshole and a faux libertarian

    Federal govt imprisons millions and many due to nonviolent drug offenses to include MJ BASED ON LAWS THAT CONGRESS IS RESPONSIBLE FOR

    and he can’t even come out and verbally support legalization let alone take stronger action?

    Fuck him

    All hat, no cattle

    And clearly a fucking pussy

    1. He is a hypocritical asshole and a faux libertarian

      You really aren’t too bright are you?

    2. If Dunphy’s comment isn’t an endorsement for Rand, I don’t know what would qualify. Sure, the guy who has a job enforcing the State’s monopoly on violence knows all about Liberty.

    3. All Congress can do is repeal those laws. Congress can’t repeal the state laws, though.

  2. …devolve drug policy to state and local governments; emphasize rehabilitation rather than punishment.

    You can’t leave it up to the states and also tell them how to handle it.

  3. I bet he actually does support legalization of all drugs but doesn’t want to ruin his political career. It makes me think way less of him, if that’s the case.

    1. A guy’s gotta get elected.

      1. He’s been elected and he made stronger pro liberty comments back in the day

        He is part of the problem not part of the solution and a complete sellout

    2. I get pissed at Rand over stuff like this, but it’s all just pandering to the SoCons. Rand believes just as much in ending the war on drugs now as he did back then. He’s doing the best he can right now by saying leave it up to the states.

      I mean when it comes down to it, voting for Rand over Hillary isn’t exactly like voting for the lesser of 2 evils. It’s more like voting for an acceptably decent guy over Pol Pot.

      1. He is not doing the best he can last I checked Congress was in charge of federal drug laws and federal drug laws are wrong

        People will continue to be victimized by these unjust laws and he is a person in a position to effect change in them

  4. Way to go, ‘Jack Dunphy’ speaking TRUTH about Ferguson

    And as Mr. Dunphy points out Ofc. Wilson volunteered to testify before the grand jury and as anybody who is spent any time dealing with our justice system and who understands legal concept knows if a person volunteers to testify before the grand jury they are almost certainly innocent. From a cost-benefit analysis a guilty person has far more to lose than gain from testifying before a grand jury and unlike a trial where there is a system of checks and balances that holds back prosecutor when it comes to grand jury the entire process is run by a prosecutor. It’s his show

    I was agnostic until recently but the latest revelations I have led me to conclude that Ofc. Wilson is almost certainly innocent

    The evidence supports the idea that Ofc. Wilson acted reasonably and honorably in saving his own life from a murderous thug

    In addition to saving himself Ofc. Wilson’s actions likely saved other people from being victimized by a thug


    1. However this case comes out, the need for cops with body cameras (that operate correctly) has been made.

      1. Yup, and long ago

        Had OFC Wilson had a body camera, this would be a run o’ the mill justified shoot video and lack of public outcry

  5. Drug prohibition pre-dates the War on Drugs by decades. So calling for an end to the WoD does not imply support for drug legalization.

  6. This is what bothers me in general. It can not be reasonably argued that you believe in liberty in any meaningful way if you don’t not hold that individuals have ownership of and sovereignty over their own bodies. And if you own yourself, the state has no business whatsoever telling what you may or may not ingest. What libertarians rarely do and should do constantly is point out the inconsistency and unavoidable cognitive dissonance involved in holding non-libertarian positions (self ownership and the principles of non-aggression) while still claiming to stand for liberty. Libertarians are always, always on their back foot, defending their positions when clearly and obviously it is they who are on the side of the principles on which this country was supposed to have been founded. Why are we always on the defensive when clearly we are the “good guys” and all of those people on the left and right are the bad guys and in the wrong, if, in fact, liberty is the good and authoritarianism is the bad?

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