Thanks Bob Barr, Now Can I Have My Faith in Democracy Back?

Christmas came nine months early with news that former drug-warring Congressman Bob Barr has repented and agreed to work with MPP on medical marijuana. One of our worst enemies has become one of our most promising allies in just a few years time. For me, this is perhaps the single greatest validation I've experienced since joining the drug policy reform movement (even though I had nothing to do with it).

It was November of '98 and I was finally 18. Lacking any significant interest in D.C. politics at the time, I deliberately registered to vote for the sole purpose of helping to pass Initiative 59 to protect Washington D.C.'s medical marijuana patients.

This was my first exposure to drug policy reform in my own community, and my first opportunity to participate in the democratic process. I spent the afternoon hanging out with friends and arrived at the polling site late afternoon in high spirits, eager to do my civic duty. I recall bumping into my dad, who assured me that he'd voted the right way on 59. Go, Dad!

Initiative 59 passed with 69%, making our city the cherry on top of MMJ victories in Alaska, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington State.

I don't recall fully understanding the issue, but I knew it was the beginning of something important. Proposition 215 in California two years earlier had proven that compassion could triumph over tyranny in a democratic society, even beneath the shadow of the drug war's towering ramparts. I was inspired.

But then came the Barr Amendment to the D.C. Appropriations Bill:

An amendment to prohibit any funds to be used to conduct a ballot initiative which seeks to legalize or reduce the penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any schedule I substance under the Controlled Substance Act or any tetrahydrocannabinois derivative.
The first time I'd participated in the democratic process, the U.S. Congress intervened and overruled me. They also overruled my dad, and pretty much everyone I knew. A lot of people just shrugged it off, as D.C. residents had become accustomed to being marginalized politically. But I'd had my first taste of the hypocrisy of the drug war and the anti-democratic principles in which it is founded.

Many criminal justice courses, conferences, protests, and late paychecks later, the man who took away my voice has admitted he was wrong. Today I feel the righteousness of our cause in my heart. It is a feeling most drug warriors will never know.

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wonder what changed his mind

Wouldn't be surprised if it was someone he cared about needing MMJ. For some people the needs of one person they care about easily outweighs the needs of 1 million people they don't know. Or maybe he's sniffing the political winds.

David Dunn's picture

Bob Barr & Medical Marijuana

Didn't Bob Barr change party affiliation and is now a Libertarian?

If he's just promoting medical marijuana then he apparently doesn't buy into the conservative philosophy of Milton Friedman, William Buckley and the Wall Street Journal calling for the legalization of marijuana, and all drugs.

I've yet to hear any Libertarian defend the war on drugs (WOD). Their philosophy is more of a minimalist government. WOD would be anathema to their philosophy.

Maybe there's hope. As Barr learns more about hemp, maybe he'll come to realize that the $69 billion a year WOD is a miserable failure. Then maybe he'll advocate legalizing all things hemp.

"The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government."

- Thomas Jefferson

Yes.

Bob Barr is now a libertarian. In time, we might see more evolution in his views on drug policy. For now, his MMJ views are focused on states rights, which is good enough for me.

As for the change of heart, he cites post-911 civil liberties violations as having forced him to reconsider what the appropriate boundaries of government power should be.

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