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Rand Paul & Medical Marijuana [Updated]

See updates below.

Rand Paul (courtesy Gage Skidmore via
Mike Meno at MPP points out that Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul no longer supports medical marijuana. That's right, folks. Rand Paul, son of the famously libertarian-leaning and pro-marijuana-reform Congressman Ron Paul, is now in favor of arresting sick people for medical marijuana.

How did this happen? Well, Paul seems to be suffering from a fit of desperation in the aftermath of a weird college bong controversy, followed by a series of super-lame "soft on crime" attacks from his Democratic opponent, Jack Conway. The whole situation is an ugly throwback to the polarizing crime politics of the 1980's, and it's just pathetic that Rand Paul fell for it.

Sure, marijuana reform may not sell as well in Kentucky as it does in California, but posing as a typical drug warrior politician serves only to undermine Paul's credibility with libertarians while failing to deflect his opponent's inevitable attacks. By backing down, Paul lost the ability to defend his position and connect with a huge number of voters who share his views. Meanwhile, his past statements in support of medical marijuana will still be held against him by the few people who actually have a problem with it.

The worst part is that if Paul loses the election, it may appear to vindicate the "soft on crime" attack strategy that his opponent deployed. Who knows what would have happened if Paul had actually stood up for himself and turned the tables by pointing out that Jack Conway wants to continue arresting cancer patients at an enormous cost to tax-payers. It may or may not have worked, but it's better than backing down and letting your opponent redefine your political identity.

Whether Rand Paul will be the next Kentucky Senator remains be seen. But it's clear he won't be the next Ron Paul.

Update: As some commenters have pointed out, we don't have a direct quote on this from Rand Paul. Here's what the AP story says:

Paul, a tea party favorite, shows libertarian leanings on drugs. He said he is opposed to the legalization of marijuana, even for medicinal purposes. But he also has called drug sentences of 10 to 20 years too harsh.

Some of you felt that he may have been misquoted, and that's a possibility, although the story is a week old and hasn't been corrected or disputed by Paul. I also agree that the real drug warrior in the KY Senate race is clearly Jack Conway. My comments focused on Paul because I wanted to illustrate a point about why it didn't make sense for him to shy away from his position on marijuana reform. I agree that Rand Paul is still the better candidate when it comes to drug policy, I just wish he'd handled this situation differently.

Update 2: Mike Meno at MPP got in touch with the Paul campaign and was told that Rand Paul is standing by his state's rights position on marijuana policy. That means the AP quote is inaccurate. Unfortunately, Paul also refuses to say whether he personally supports marijuana reform, other than to allow states to make their own decision about it. So his position is better than my initial post suggested, but not as good as I previously believed it to be.

I'm sorry that I passed along AP's misleading characterization of Paul's position and I certainly wouldn't want drug policy reformers to get the wrong idea about Rand Paul.

(This article was published by's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Now he's lost me ...

It's really hard to know what to think. On the one hand, Rand Paul can't do himself or us any good if he can't get elected. One thing about Ron Paul is, no matter whether you like his positions or not, he's always consistently defended his free market non-interventionist philosophy and everyone, colleagues included, seem to admire him for it.

I'm not from Kentucky but I've contributed to the Rand Paul campaign. But now I don't know if I would again. If he'll cave in at this stage why would I have any reason to believe he wouldn't do the same under pressure from the party leadership. And, if that's the case, he becomes just another "less bad" politician.

Awesome. You know the only

Awesome. You know the only thing anyone ever has seen through the haze of bong smoke aside from mild hallucinations is a whole lot of fail. Rand Paul is a winner and this proves it! Winners don't take drugs! GO RAND PAUL!

undrgrndgirl's picture


no caffeine, no antibiotics, no aspirin or tylenol, no antidepressants, no heart drugs, no...well...i think you get my drift....

i can't speak for anyone else here, but i've NEVER hallucinated under the influence of cannabis...


I think this is BS. I'm pretty sure Rand Paul never said that he opposes legalization. He simply said that the issue of drugs should be decided at the state level.


Nobody seems to be able to provide any proof of his opposition to MMJ outside of a single line from an AP article, and it isn't even a quote.

that clears things up

Conway is a full blown drug warrior in the very real sense of the term while Paul seems to have been either misquoted or having a brain cramp.Removing federal funding is a really slick way of taking the teeth out of the DEA's bite without sounding too weak on the drug thing,which is probably just a politician being a politician.It's a shame that even the son of Ron Paul is terrified to come out and say what he means where drugs are concerned.There is no question where the best place to put your anti drug war vote is here.Conway is a rabid dog where drugs are concerned and he's a democrat,which proves there is no sure place to put your vote if you want drug reform.Some of the worst drug warriors have been democrats.In Canada if you vote for anyone but a conservative you can be pretty sure you're voting for drug reform.This is how I wound up voting for a guy that's wound up supporting most of Harper's draconian drug legislation.It seems he feels Canadians are too dumb to tell the difference between gangster drug dealers and harmless addicts.Sometimes I wonder myself.

I'm pretty sure he never said

I'm pretty sure he never said he was against it and is being misrepresented. Try to find his actuAl words on it anywhere

State rights

Who cares about legal or illegal at the State level. Its all about making it a State issue and not a Federal issue. Each State should be allowed to make it legal or illegal and allow the people in that state to govern themselves as they see fit. Than people can move to the State that reflects there values the best.

Mike Meno at MPP linked to it

Mike Meno at MPP linked to it through Talking Points Memo or TPM self described as "Commentary on political events from a politically left perspective"  The quote that TPM references is nowhere to be found in the linked AP story.  To me it looks like a hit piece that TPM knows Rand will not come out to complain about because he would need to clarify his position on medical marijuana in conservative Kentucky.  A very nice political move i might add, except that Rand's opponent is raging anti-drug and pro drug war.

I'm going to withhold

I'm going to withhold judgement on this until more evidence comes out. The article cited doesn't even contain a quote. This looks a whole lot like the artificial civil rights controversy from a few months back.

Wrong candidate

Great job StopTheDrugWar. Instead of attacking a candidate (Conway) who'd probably even be for alcohol prohibition if he could get away with it, you attack the guy that would probably have a much, much moderated stance on your pet issue, especially considering he's all but confirmed to be a bong-toker back in his college days.

No really, you're attacking the right person here ;)


Dont  believe the hype.   actions speak louder


what if he opposes this now just get to  elected and then bait and switch , kind of like Obama

only the other way around.

Ill wait this one out , it could be rumors spread by the opposition to force him to make a public statement.

media madness!


 If a politician is afraid of -- or pretending to be afraid of -- an ancient healing plant that cannot kill from toxicity and has been treasured all over the world for its medicinal benefit, for thousands of years -- then they don't have the integrity and/or the intelligence to protect us from real threats.

And I won't vote for any fool, coward or crook who opposes medicinal access to cannabis or tries to dismantle their current state medicinal cannabis laws. If they cannot see that it is time for the lies to end and the time for them to benefit politically -- by helping to end this shameful charade -- then, they are not bright enough to represent us.

With approximately 75-80 percent of Americans supporting access to medical cannabis, it is deplorable and politically unwise for our elected officials to continue moving in the opposite direction, to look "tough on crime" (by the way, the people aren't buying this crap anymore).

Didnt' Obama say he was going to take a good look at all programs and get rid of the ones that are wasting our money? What is it, again, that the ONDCP does except for disseminate very real propaganda? 

The "quote" is wrong

Rest assured, Rand Paul's position has not changed. He believes that this is a states' rights issue. He has said that medical marijuana should be handed at the state and/or local level. I am a volunteer currently working at the Rand Paul campaign headquarters. We have received a lot of questions about the article. Dr. Paul never said that - the article's statement is incorrect. Thank you for clarifying in the update!


Thanks for taking the time to clarify this, Scott and the R. Paul campaign.

With the public AND medical support for medicinal cannabis as overwhelming as they are, maybe Paul could politically benefit by making access to medicinal cannabis a consistent talking point of his campaign. At least don't shy away from it, and "shame" it with silence.

There are several hundred thousand patients in the 14 states that permit medicinal cannabis; and the numbers are surging by the thousands daily. The movement cannot be stopped: People are demanding access to this ancient healing herb with incredible therapeutic versatility and cannot kill from toxicity (with fda-options killing tens of thousands of people every year, it is utterly insane to block access to medicines, like cannabis, that cannot kill from toxicity).

Cannabis has been studied and dissected for thousands of years; we know a lot more about it than we do about our newer, more improved medicines, like Vioxx, which killed approximately 30,000 people, mostly from sudden cardiac "events." And the last decade has seen a huge increase in cannabis research, thanks to our discovery of and increased understanding of the endocannabinoid system and its effect on health.

Help share the historical and medical facts regarding cannabis, and end the decades of blatant medical distortion; and the people will thank you. They deserve the truth.

What's appropriate?

So this guy believes that "drug sentences" of 10 to 20 years are "too harsh."  Boy, am I happy to hear that.  I wonder, though; what he thinks is an appropriate punishment for a victimless crime.  Two years?  Five?  Eight?  What if you throw in watching your kids being terrorized by police and being powerless to protect them?  Five years, max?  And don't forget the child abuse charges, brought by the thugs who kidnapped your kids at gunpoint.  Seven years; surely they wouldn't accuse you if you weren't guilty.  Spouse in jail, not allowed contact?  Car vandalized?  Being evicted from your home while you're in jail and losing everything you own?  Losing your job due to jail time?  Hey, do the crime, do the time -- eight years, max.  

Never mind prison, how about job-hunting with a felony drug conviction?  With lifetime -- LIFETIME -- sanctions on federal assistance -- sanctions imposed exclusively on drug felons.  And should you choose to remain in the community, like, maybe in hopes of seeing your children, count on continual harassment by local police as well.

You know what's really harsh?  Knowing that the people who did this to you do it so often, and so casually, that they won't even remember your name. 

The Paul's have an

The Paul's have an interesting, unique and unconventional method of unifying their movement that is outside of the left/right paradigm of traditional politics. Without a shadow of a doubt getting this independent tea party favorite into a major political party will be a big victory for people who pine for a more sane, constitutional style of governance.

500 Million Saved Annually

I am Republican and Voted Straight Ticket, and I feel on the views of Medical Marijuana is a very good idea, just annually Kentucky would save 500 Million from Medicaid program and Health/Private Insurance Companies, I believe for a more unified reform for the United States to revamp there marijuana federal laws.

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