Rand Paul

Is Rand Paul's Drug Policy Libertarian?

No, but he leans further in that direction than any other Republican senator or major-party presidential candidate.

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CPAC

The Hill reports that Rand Paul is "the first top-tier presidential candidate from either party to make marijuana reform a major campaign issue." Yet both Jedd Legum at Think Progress and Joan Walsh at Salon cite the Kentucky senator's position on marijuana as evidence that "Rand Paul Is Not A Libertarian," as the headine over Legum's piece puts it. What's up with that?

The apparent contradiction stems from Paul's reluctance to endorse marijuana legalization, a policy he nevertheless thinks states (and the District of Columbia) should be free to pursue. "I think there should be a certain amount of discretion for both states and territories and the District," Paul told reporters last November. "I'm not for having the federal government get involved. I really haven't taken a stand on…the actual legalization…but I'm against the federal government telling them they can't."

Consistent with his federalist position, Paul is a lead sponsor of the CARERS Act, which would amend the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) so that the federal ban on marijuana does not apply to people who grow, distribute, or use the drug for medical purposes in compliance with state law. A similar approach to states that legalize cannabis for recreational use—as reflected in the Respect State Marijuana Laws Act, introduced by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) in 2013—would effectively repeal the national ban, limiting the federal government's role to assisting states that decide to continue prohibiting pot.

Defederalization is a peristent theme in Paul's discussions of drug policy, going back at least 15 years. In a 2000 appearance on the public affairs show Kentucky Tonight, for instance, Paul, at the time chairman of Kentucky Taxpayers United, had this exchange with a caller:

Caller:  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.

Paul: 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.

As I noted last October, it's not clear exactly which part(s) of the caller's proposal Paul agreed with. When HBO talk show host Bill Maher asked Paul about that 2000 exchange last November, here is how the senator responded:

Maher: You said in 2000, "The war on drugs is an abysmal failure and a waste of money." Are you still on that page?

Paul: I'm absolutely there, and I'll do everything to end the war on drugs….The war on drugs has become the most racially disparate outcome that you have in the entire country. Our prisons are full of black and brown kids. Three-fourths of the people in prison are black or brown, and white kids are using drugs, Bill, as you know…at the same rate as these other kids. But kids who have less means, less money, kids who are in areas where police are patrolling…Police are given monetary incentives to make arrests, monetary incentives for their own departments. So I want to end the war on drugs because it's wrong for everybody, but particularly because poor people are caught up in this, and their lives are ruined by it. 

It is still not entirely clear what Paul means by ending the war on drugs. But the disparities that worry him cannot be fully addressed as long as the government continues to arrest people for supplying arbitrarily proscribed intoxicants (although they can be mitigated by the sentencing reforms he supports). Similarly, when Paul rebuked Jeb Bush for continuing to support the arrest of cannabis users even while admitting his own youthful pot smoking, the implicit message was that consumption should not be treated as a crime, which raises the question of why production should be. "This is a guy who now admits he smoked marijuana but he wants to put people in jail who do," Paul said. "He was even opposed to medical marijuana."

In short, Paul is shy about explicitly advocating drug legalization, possibly because he worries about the response from social conservatives. But he leans further in that direction than any other Republican senator or major-party presidential candidate.

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58 responses to “Is Rand Paul's Drug Policy Libertarian?

  1. The war on drugs has become the most racially disparate outcome that you have in the entire country.

    It will be interesting to see if he gets any traction with minority voters with this rhetoric.

    1. They would have to listen to him first, so no.

    2. Ask people what’s more likely: President Rand Paul bringing back segregated lunch counters across America or a Paul presidency actually passing the drug and criminal justice reform he’s worked on in the Senate?

      The race hucksters aren’t going to be able to make the charges of racism and dog whistling stick if he’s crusading for justice for minorities.

      1. We all know what “federalization” is a code word for. Or at least those who realize that we haven’t had a federal government since 1865 know.

        1. Yeah, the refusal to enforce Federal laws like the Fugitive Slave Act:

          The General Government, as the common agent, passed laws to carry into effect these stipulations of the States. For many years these laws were executed. But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution. The States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, have enacted laws which either nullify the Acts of Congress or render useless any attempt to execute them. In many of these States the fugitive is discharged from service or labor claimed, and in none of them has the State Government complied with the stipulation made in the Constitution.

          1. The States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, have enacted laws which either nullify the Acts of Congress or render useless any attempt to execute them.

            I’d be interested in learning more about how these states managed to nullify acts of Congress. Seriously, I would.

            1. I honestly don’t know, but there is that whole consent of the governed thing. It seems like most people have forgotten just what that actually means.

      2. It will happen no matter who gets in office.

        We are talking about objective facts.

        I’m not going to support someone that liked Rosenbaum’s material just because I think drugs should be legal.

  2. Joan Walsh Rhyming slogans don’t say “libertarian” to me; Paul’s tweet seemed weirdly authoritarian

    Because progressives never, ever, chant slogans in unison….

    1. Wow. The left must be fucking terrified of libertarian appeal.

      1. They’re terrified of Paul because he seems to actually have principles, unlike anyone they put forth. The TEAM BLUE trendsetters know that the TEAM BLUE offerings are shit, but going against the standard TEAM RED offering doesn’t expose that since their offerings are shit too. But not in this case.

        I expect full brick-shitting shortly.

        1. If it’s Rand vs Hillary, the Hypocrisy and amazing feats of logic twisting from the so called liberals is going to be golden, watching them defend Hillary’s war mongering and drug warrior shit against Rand’s more liberal like positions on both of those issues.

          Yep, major proggie pants shitting is guaranteed.

          1. Ending prohibition is not liberal…Rand is not liberal at all..What you think is “social liberals” is actually just a kind of “social conservatism-” a Darwinian sort that assumes the proponents in the structurally advantageous position.

  3. Obviously Paul is tacking to the right to win over the base, which is exactly what ALL presidential candidates do in primary elections. Duh.

    1. Well not all, only those that want to win…

  4. When I want to know what’s libertarian, I ask Joan Walsh.

    And how long until she is criticizing all libertarians for something that Paul says or does?

    1. The fact that she’s trying to pretend he’s not “really” a libertarian, instead of saying “look how terrible libertarians are!” must mean that libertarianism has crossed some sort of threshold of mainstream acceptability though.

      1. There definitely has been some kind of zeitgeist threshold reached of acceptability.
        As we libertarians have long known, we consider public libertarians to be hyper-moral and adherent to fundamental principles of liberty, transparency and non-hypocrisy, and not to play to an over-arching political collective at the expense of those things.

        A very telling moment in showing what the higher-echelon pundits of public opinion believe the public’s view of libertarians is, is when former NSA Chief actually publically declared he was a libertarian. Of course he apparently doesn’t know what that is exactly, but the fact that he was willing to pose himself as one is very telling.
        http://www.mediaite.com/tv/no-…..n-at-cpac/
        Granted that was at a CPAC conference, but now we also have Joan Walsh pandering up to her readers, and actually saying in essence that Rand Paul is not reaching the high ideals that ‘everyone knows’ that libertarianism demands.
        By that rendition of criticism, she is saying and recognizing that the general public’s view of libertarianism is favorable.

  5. It will be a lot more libertarian after he gets the nomination. Even more so after he wins the election.

    1. The day that Hildebeast has to concede to Rand will be a glorious day for America, but a horrible day for my liver.

      1. Yeah, I’ll hopefully pass out in a glorious state of exuberance before my liver goes belly up.

      2. I’m not sure which part of this comment disgusts me more, the naive opitmism that assumes Rand Paul would easily win the presidency, or the naive optimism that he must be the second coming of Ayn, and is decieving everyone EXCEPT US when he panders.

        There is no justice in the universe, so there are only two possible outcomes: either Paul will lose the nomination with a barely double digit percentage, coming in behind a Mike Huckabee type who siphons off most of the Tea Party, or he wins, only to turn out to really be the second coming of FDR.

        It will still be a horrible day for your liver, but you’ll be drinking because you were foolish enough to get your hopes up again.

        1. No one is naively optimistic that Rand will win, that I know of.

          But you are apparently naive making statements like this:

          there are only two possible outcomes: either Paul will lose the nomination with a barely double digit percentage, coming in behind a Mike Huckabee type who siphons off most of the Tea Party, or he wins, only to turn out to really be the second coming of FDR.

          No one said that the only possible outcome is that Rand wins, even the nomination.

          You’re the only making statements like that.

          I’ll be here to call you on it if you’re wrong.

          1. When SD concern trolls, he concern trolls HARD.

            1. If your trollboner lasts more than 4 hours . . .

  6. I didn’t see the original video that was taken down by youtube. Apparently that WMG song was used at the announcement event while entering and exiting the stage in the video. Anyways, he uploaded an edited version, presumably with those portions cut: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dh_oPzlM-Yg

    1. (Seriously, it seems like nearly every Republican Candidate runs into a minor controversy where they use some intro music during the campaign and the right holder flips out over it. As silly as it is, you think they’d be on top of getting clearances before hand by now)

  7. “Rand Paul is not a radical candidate. He is conservative to the bone”
    Jeb Lund

    http://www.theguardian.com/com…..-the-bone?

    1. Gonna pass on the Guardian’s bullshit. What is interesting here is that the left appears to be going into ‘denial’ phase very quickly. They can’t deal with a different kind of republican, so they pretend he isn’t one.

      1. Straight Up!

    2. Whenever I see a piece from “Comment Is Free”, I’m reminded of the old adage that you get what you pay for…

  8. If Paul came out with the libertarian position of legalizing all drugs his candidacy would be over. He has chosen to focus on smaller changes that are more digestible. No candidate can bring about Libertopia, but using the same incremental tactic to roll back regulation as progressives have used to increase it could be effective.

    1. This. President Rand can defund and defang the WoD into a phony war. This is what we should be aiming for at the federal level.

      1. Uh uh.

  9. Of course if Paul had actually come out for across the board legalization both of these ass-hats would’ve screamed “crazy libertarian wants drugs to enslave and kill our children”!

    We really need a national face-punch day but I imagine the line at Salon HQ would mean half of us would never get a shot in.

  10. Jacob, you calling THAT “shy”?!

  11. He is forthwith “the tea party” candidate aka one of those “crazy” people.

  12. As a voluntaryist I cannot endorse voting. Voting is an indirect form of violence. It is delegating authority I do not have, and is therefore inherently contradictory. No one has the authority to take property (eminent domain), or money (tax) by force or threat thereof. Therefore no one has the authority to choose a surrogate to do it.

    That said, I like Rand, as a person. I don’t like any person, as a candidate. For his sake, I hope he does not get elected. He will get blamed for the coming economic crash, along with libertarianism.

    1. No one votes to choose someone except for maybe the candidates mom. Everyone votes to keep the person they hate the most out of the two out of office. It’s usually almost a coin toss.

      1. No matter which side the coin lands on the person being voted against to keep out of office is in close collaboration with the person who ends up in office.

    2. In the same boat as you Volly. The state is violence. The existance of gov’t violates the NAP, and liberty.

      That’s why statements like this are such BS.

      “I am running for president to return our country to the principles of liberty and limited government.”

      Limited ( gov’t ) slavery can not respect liberty whatsoever. If any of these politicians wanted to follow the principles of liberty, they would head a business that would be subjected to the voices and free choices of individuals through voluntary transactions free from force, theft or coercion. The only thing they would be in charge of, would be directing the company. If folks are unhappy with the products or services, they don’t do business with the company. There is no “we’re providing this service for your own good and to protect you, and if you don’t pay and resist you might wind up dead”.

      1. Vamp, and Voly. I learned a new word the other day. Agorism.

          1. Arms trafficking
            Bartering and alternative currency use
            Being or hiring illegal immigrants
            Drug trafficking
            Mutual credit
            Smuggling
            Subsistence farming
            Tax evasion

      2. I see people get coerced to buy things all the time..My concept of coercion is not homocentric however.

    3. Tell that to the history of Earth

  13. Also, I believe there is a term for what Legum and Walsh are doing. It’s called “concern trolling”.

    They are deeply, deeply concerned that libertarians are going to be hoodwinked into supporting this unlibertarian candidate. They really want what’s best for us, you see.

  14. Until the entire drug war is scrapped the nation ought to be on suicide watch.

  15. Of course he won’t come right out and say he favors marijuana legalization. He has to talk like a politician. Until he gets into office, effectively ends the war on drugs, and social conservatives see that the country won’t end up in shambles as a result, they wouldn’t vote for him if he said he was outright pro-legalization. He still has to win over the Republican base to win the primaries!

    1. He could probably say he’s for Marijuana. But the generally Libertarian position of legalizing all drugs will sound like insanity to many people. The idea of heroine being legal will not fly politically. It took me some time to think it through when I first considered it. Speaking in platitudes about the “drug war” is wise. Maybe once people see scaling it back does not turn the U.S. into a crackhouse we can make another step.

    2. What about crack legalization…like removing market restrictions which tells private enterprises who the can and who they cannot sell to and on what terms?

      MMMMM..nothing like crack rocks in the morning

  16. You know I just may vote for Rand. After 16 years of Bush, and Obama what do I have to lose ? If he turns out to be a liar I am no better off than I was before. If things get worse, they would have gotten worse under Hillary anyway. You think a Democrat, or a Republican would end the WOD ?
    The WOD is a money maker.

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  18. Paul like any other non Democratic candidate has to carefully choose his words because he knows of the relentless media attacks and analysis of every syllable he utters to come. Our system is so broken because federal office is a business and the media is an active agent in maintenance of tje status quo. To change a system you have to win. We need to give Paul latitude while running and if he wins then we can see if he remains true to hits roots

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  22. Ok people, one thing to point out, this is a Constitutional Conservative stance and by that I mean, to keep the Federal government out of the State’s business. But I digress, we have much bigger issues at hand then to worry about who is and how is not getting stoned. Like how to regain control of an out of control authorian Government that wants to control everything under and over the sun. I think Rand is the best man for that job.

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