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Marijuana: Bob Barr to Lobby for Marijuana Policy Project

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #479)
Consequences of Prohibition
Politics & Advocacy

My, how times have changed. Less than a decade ago, former Georgia Republican Congressman Bob Barr was the bete noire of the marijuana reform movement. Now, he works for it. That's right, Bob Barr, the man who single-handedly derailed medical marijuana in Washington, DC, has been hired as a lobbyist by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).

Jim and the late Cheryl Miller, with Gary Storck and Jacki Rickert, outside Bob Barr's office (
Ironically, Barr will now lobby for the rights of states to set their own medical marijuana policies without interference from the federal government. It was his 1998 "Barr Amendment" to the annual DC appropriations vote that blocked DC officials from counting the votes in that year's medical marijuana initiative, which won with 69% of the vote.

A former prosecutor in the Atlanta suburbs, Barr was always "tough on drugs," but otherwise showed civil libertarian tendencies. After being defeated in 2002 in a campaign that featured attack ads using medical marijuana patients, Barr parted ways with the Republican Party, joining the Libertarians in 2006. He also became a lobbyist for his former arch-rival, the American Civil Liberties Union.

In an interview this week with The Politico, the former arch-drug warrior explained that times have changed. "I, over the years, have taken a very strong stand on drug issues, but in light of the tremendous growth of government power since 9/11, it has forced me and other conservatives to go back and take a renewed look at how big and powerful we want the government to be in people's lives," Barr said.

Barr brings a "great deal of credibility, particularly among people on the Republican side of the aisle," MPP government relations director Aaron Houston told The Politico. "He certainly would not have been the first person I would have expected to sign off to us, but I'm very pleased that he has," Houston said. "I'm very pleased that he has come around, and I hope he serves as an example to his former colleagues."

As a newly christened MPP lobbyist, Barr is already talking the talk. There might be "legitimate medical uses of marijuana and we ought not have this knee-jerk reaction against it, and people ought to be allowed to explore," he said.

He will also lobby to kill the Office of National Drug Control Policy's youth anti-drug media campaign, which repeated studies have shown to be ineffective. "A lot of conservatives have expressed great concern over the taxpayer money that is being wasted on this poorly run advertising campaign," said Barr, who left Congress in 2003.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

That picture was actually taken 2 years after our action at Barr's office. We were in the building lobbying, and decided to return for a group reunion pic outside. But Barr's staff saw us coming, and locked the door. We got a delivery guy to shoot the pic and as we left the building, were detained by Capitol Police for around 20 minutes while they checked ID to make sure Jim had permission to be in the Capitol. What a threat we were to take up all those police resources, 2 old guys with 2 women in wheelchairs, one, Cheryl, paralyzed from the neck down by MS! And we were outside when we were stopped! That was in 2001. In 2002, Ron Crickenberger filmed the commercial with Cheryl in late July, and soon after, Barr was back in the private sector. See:

Gary Storck

Fri, 03/30/2007 - 8:06pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I am never one to reject a convert, but the things that Barr claims he supports such as states rights, and individual freedom, have always been important to Libertarians, ACLU members and Drug reformers. How come they're now important to him?

I hope that it's because he's genuinely changed his mind. I hope it's NOT because his anti-big government stance and the recent Republican loss of Congress has closed out lobbying opportunities for him on that side of the aisle, and he's now scraping whatever he can get from his former enemies.

Don't forget that whatever good Barr does now will be far far outweighed by the harm he did to the drug reform movement, civil liberties and state's rights when he was in power.

Matthew Holt
[email protected]

Fri, 03/30/2007 - 8:24pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Hi all,

I posted my opinion on Bob Barr today in my blog. Feel free to comment on the blog with your thoughts.

Jim Casarjian-Perry
MA Delegate, Libertarian National Convention

Thu, 05/08/2008 - 1:49pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Given Barr's track record as Impaler of medical marijuana patients, his stand afainst recreational users is even more horrific. It is no surprise that he has joined with the ultimate compromisers MPP who actually congratulate cops for screwing up an already weak medical bill in Illinois that ends up throwing more sick and suffering to the drug war wolves than it helps. Barr sees the writing on the wall, just like Obama. Ganja law reform IS coming.

Obama hides behind his mantra of "strict regulation" by the FDA - which means no reform at all since the FDA has already said that marijuana is not medicine. Barr only joins with MPP because he knows that they will stay the compromiser throw everyone to the drug war wolves just to get thier name on and half-witted bit of stinking garbage legislation.

MPP AND Barr need to unequivocally state that they absolutely and completely support Barney Frank and Ron Paul's bill to end federal penalties against personally posession, or they prove my point. Anything less shows that they are only in it to make a name for themselves with a "to hell with recreational consumers" attitude.

Richard J. Schimelfenig

Tue, 05/27/2008 - 11:55am Permalink

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