Rand Paul on Drugs
Republican Kentucky Senator
PAUL: I think one of the great problems, and what American people don't like about politics, is hypocrisy. People have one standard for others and not for them--for themselves. The people going to jail for this are poor people, often African-Americans and often Hispanics, and yet the rich kids who use drugs aren't. I personally think that this is a crime for which the only victim is the individual, and I think that America has to take a different attitude. I would like to see more rehabilitation and less incarceration. I'm a fan of the drug courts which try to direct you back towards work and less time in jail.
CHRISTIE: N.J. says if you are non-violent, non-dealing drug user, you don't go to jail for your first offense. You go to mandatory treatment.
PAUL: I don't think that the federal government should override the states. I believe in the 10th Amendment and I really will say that the states are left to themselves. Understand what they're saying: Gov. Christie would go into Colorado, and if you're breaking any federal law on marijuana, even though the state law allows it, he would put you in jail. If a young mother is trying to give her child cannabis oil for medical marijuana for seizure treatment, he would put her in jail. I would let Colorado do what the Tenth Amendment says. We were never intended to have crime dealing at the federal level. Crime was supposed to be left to the states. Colorado has made their decision. And I don't want the federal government interfering.
Paul said conservatives need to reach beyond traditional audiences like gun-rights defenders to anyone who has been mistreated by Big Government, including "businesses mistreated by Big Government regulations" and "poor people mistreated by Big Government and over-criminalization."
PAUL: One of the things I have talked to the president about is criminal justice reform. This means extending back the right to vote for people who made youthful nonviolent mistakes, expunging their records, trying to make it easier for them to find employment. I think put somebody in jail for 10 years for possession of marijuana or sale of marijuana is ridiculous. Some people are in jail for life. So, I have called the president, and I have told him, I agree with commuting some of these sentences, lessening some of these sentences, treating it more as a health issue. So, I think people's opinions on criminal justice for nonviolent drug crimes has changed. That is something we could do together.
In February, Paul pressed Republicans in the Kentucky Senate to pass a bill that would restore voting rights to some convicted felons. It ultimately failed.
Paul plans to talk about those issues in a speech Friday at the National Urban League's annual conference in Cincinnati. He said his ideas have been well received in minority communities because "people are ready for something to happen."
PAUL: Three out of four people in prison are black or brown for nonviolent drug use. However, when you do surveys, white kids are doing drugs at an equal rate, and they are a much bigger part of the population. So, why are the prisons full of black and brown kids? It is easier to arrest them. It is easier to convict them. They don't get as good of attorneys. And, frankly, they live in the city more than in the suburbs, and so the police are patrolling the city more. But it is unfair. The war on drugs has had a racial outcome, unintentionally, but it has a racial outcome. And I want to try to fix it.
Q: And your bill does change some drug laws in order to try to even out the punishment for similar drugs?
PAUL: The main thing I've said is not to legalize them but not to incarcerate people for extended periods of time. With Senator Leahy, we have a bill on mandatory minimums. There are people in jail for 50 years for nonviolent crimes. And that's a huge mistake. Our prisons are full of nonviolent criminals. I don't want to encourage people to do it. Marijuana takes away your incentive to work. I don't want to promote that but I also don't want to put people in jail who make the mistake. There are a lot of young people who do this and then later on, they get married and they quit; I don't want to put them in jail and ruin their lives. The last two presidents could conceivably have been put in jail for their drug use, and it would have ruined their lives. They got lucky, but a lot of poor kids, particularly in the inner city, don't get lucky.
PAUL: As a physician and a father, I've always been concerned about drug abuse. And that was actually a misquote; what I actually said was I don't think people are concerned about where the funding comes from. They want the problem tackled. There's always a debate between how much is federal and how much is state. All I said is that like mos problems, I think the more local control, the better. The more the decisions are made by sheriffs and local communities, the better chance we have of fixing the problem.
Q: What about Operate UNITE, a federal program which has spent $16 million over th last two years to fight drug abuse in the state of Kentucky? Would you shut that down?
PAUL: No, but what I would say is here's the problem. [Conway] wants to talk about drugs all the time. Under his watch the meth labs have doubled in the state.
Paul was asked whether public sentiment might change his mind about supporting federal fundin for drug programs, such as Operation UNITE. That program, paid for with federal funds, coordinates law enforcement agencies for undercover drug busts and provides resources for treatment mostly in Eastern Kentucky. He said a candidate should stick to his positions.
Paul has said he favors handling the issue locally rather than sending tax dollars to Washington that come back in the form of Operation UNITE or other programs. Earlier this week, he held a press conference at the Wingshadow Lodge, a facility aimed at helping men recover from addition. The facility is part of the faith-based Teen Challenge program.
Jack Conway has been hammering Paul on the issue of drugs for the last two weeks as he seeks to paint Paul as out-of-touch.
Paul said he prefers local initiatives over federally based responses to combat drug trafficking. Paul has said he would cut federal funding for undercover drug investigations and drug treatment programs in Appalachia, a hotbed for marijuana growers and drug dealers selling prescription pills and methamphetamines. He told The Associated Press recently that he doesn't think drug abuse is "a real pressing issue" in the Senate race, suggesting that voters are more concerned about fiscal and social concerns.
Paul has called drug sentences of 10 to 20 years too harsh. While he has said he opposes the legalization of marijuana, even for medicinal purposes, he believes it should be up to individual states to decide the issue.
Like Palin, with whom Paul now stands atop the Tea Party cake, he is opposed to all government bailouts and earmarks, and President Obama's "socialist" health care law. He favors a constitutional amendment banning abortion, even in cases of rape and incest.
But in a libertarian twist, he also favors legalizing medical marijuana.
Rep. PAUL: Nine States allow industrial hemp production or research in accord with State laws. However, Federal law is standing in the way of farmers in these States growing what may be a very profitable crop. Because of current Federal law, all hemp included in products sold in the US must be imported instead of being grown by American farmers. Since 1970, the federal Controlled Substances Act's inclusion of industrial hemp in the "schedule one" definition of marijuana has prohibited American farmers from growing industrial hemp despite the fact that industrial hemp has such a low content of THC (the psychoactive chemical in the related marijuana plant) that nobody can be psychologically affected by consuming hemp.
The US is the only industrialized nation that prohibits industrial hemp cultivation. Industrial hemp is a crop that was grown legally throughout the US for most of our Nation's history. In fact, during World War II, the Federal Government actively encouraged American farmers to grow industrial hemp to help the war effort. It is unfortunate that the Federal Government has stood in the way of American farmers competing in the global industrial hemp market. Indeed, the founders of our Nation, some of whom grew hemp, would surely find that federal restrictions on farmers growing a safe and profitable crop on their own land are inconsistent with the constitutional guarantee of a limited Government.
Congressional Summary:Amends the Controlled Substances Act to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of "marihuana." Defines "industrial hemp" to mean the plant Cannabis sativa and any part of such plant, whether growing or not, with a THC concentration of not more than 0.3%.
Argument in favor (Sen. Ron Wyden):
Members of Congress hear a lot about how dumb regulations are hurting economic growth and job creation. The current ban on growing industrial hemp is hurting job creation in rural America and increasing our trade deficit. This bill will end this ridiculous regulation. Right now, the US is importing over $10 million in hemp products--a crop that US farmers could be profitably growing right here at home, if not for government rules prohibiting it. Now, even though hemp and marijuana come from the same species of plant, there are major differences between them. The Chihuahua and St. Bernard come from the same species, too, but no one is going to confuse them.
Argument in opposition (Drug Enforcement Agency):
Argument in opposition (DrugWatch.org 10/30/2013):
OnTheIssues.org interprets the 2016 NORML scores as follows:
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Law's mission is to move public opinion sufficiently to achieve the repeal of marijuana prohibition so that the responsible use of cannabis by adults is no longer subject to penalty.
NORML is a nonprofit, public-interest lobby that for more than 30 years has provided a voice for those Americans who oppose marijuana prohibition. We represent the interests of the tens of millions of Americans who smoke marijuana responsibly and believe the recreational and medicinal use of marijuana should no longer be a crime.
NORML supports the removal of all criminal penalties for the private possession & responsible use of marijuana by adults, including the cultivation for personal use, and the casual nonprofit transfers of small amounts. This model is called "decriminalization."
NORML additionally supports the development of a legally controlled market for marijuana, where consumers could purchase it from a safe, legal and regulated source. This model is referred to as "legalization."
NORML believes that marijuana smoking is not for kids and should only be used responsibly by adults. As with alcohol consumption, it must never be an excuse for misconduct or other bad behavior. Driving or operating heavy equipment while impaired from marijuana should be prohibited.
NORML strongly supports the right of patients to use marijuana as a medicine when their physician recommends it to relieve pain and suffering.
Lastly, NORML supports the right of farmers to commercially cultivate hemp for industrial purposes, such as food and fiber production.
Congressional Summary:This bill provides a safe harbor for depository institutions providing financial services to a marijuana-related legitimate business insofar as it prohibits a federal banking regulator from:
Argument in Favor: [Cato Institute, March 31, 2016]: Marijuana is now legal under the laws of [several] states, but not under federal law. And this creates huge headaches for marijuana businesses:
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