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May 13, 2011

Is the time right for candidate Ron Paul to lead withdrawal from the "war on drugs"?

As detailed in this ABC News piece, Representative Ron Paul officially announced his bid for the Presidency saying that "the time is right" for his candidacy for the Republican nomination to take on President Obama in the 2012 election.  This is necessarily important news for anyone like myself concerned about the so-called "war on drugs" because Paul has been a consistent and vocal critic of the drug war and in a recent debate even defended the use of heroin as "an exercise of liberty."

In response to Paul's announcement, the New York Times is rightly asking "Does the Tea Party Make Ron Paul Mainstream?".  And, as detailed in these links below, other serious media folks are already talking about Paul's criticism of the drug war:

  • From the Washington Post's Michael Gerson here, "Ron Paul’s land of second-rate values"
  • From The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf here, "Why It's So Hard to Reform Drug Laws"
  • From Forbes's E.D. Kain here, "Michael Gerson Doesn’t Understand the War on Drugs"

Combined with the official entry into the 2012 race of the now-smart-on-crime New Gingrich, I am wondering and hoping that years from now we might look back on this week in May as the official tipping point when talk about retreating from the federal war on drugs became serious. 

Though I am not too optimistic that Paul or Gingrich will get lots of good publicity or traction on these matters, I am hopeful that their advocacy will help allow (and perhaps even force) the Obama Administration to be somewhat more progressive on a number of drug-war crime and punishment issues.  Especially if folks on the left and in the media start playing up the liberty-enhancing, budget-saving aspects of what Paul and Gingrich are saying on these issues, it could (and should) become much easier for both policy and political folks in the Obama Administration to be a little less cautious on issues ranging from medical marijuana to crack sentence reduction to clemency decision.

Some recent and older related posts on modern politics of the drug war and related sentencing issues:

May 13, 2011 at 11:58 AM | Permalink

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Comments

"... Paul has been a consistent and vocal critic of the drug war and in a recent debate even defended the use of heroin as 'an exercise of liberty.'"

Let's not forget LSD and meth as an additional "exercise in liberty."

There are some things appealing about Ron Paul, but campaigning for heroin as an "exerise in liberty" tells you all you need to know about why he'll never got off the ground, with Republicans or Democrats.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 13, 2011 3:11:25 PM

The Tea Party is not consistently libertarian (as their name implies, they have selective concerns) and Paul is more about state rights than completely libertarian. Supporting DOMA (federal benefits denied even if a state recognizes marriage) and limits (including national) on abortion (the issue turns on personal morality, and I'm not sure where the line drawing there is ... you can be against the "lives" ruined or even ended by heroin too) suggests neither in Paul. He's good on certain issues, so he still is a fresher voice than many others.

Posted by: Joe | May 13, 2011 3:17:06 PM

I think Bill was right several days ago when he said direct money issues are going to dominate this election cycle. And in that ocean criminal justice is a tiny drop.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | May 13, 2011 3:31:14 PM

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

Posted by: George | May 13, 2011 7:58:27 PM

No.

1) Ron Paul is the candidate of Stormfront, a Neo-Nazi organization.

2) The public is not ready for legalization, when given the chance to vote on the question.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 15, 2011 3:25:27 PM

As a registered liberal, I would just loooove to dump all over the arguments made by Michael Gerson and Ron Paul, jointly and severally. But, being even more honest than liberal, I just cannot, for each is mostly right -- but entirely wrong. Friedersdorf's article is wholly accurate about the WoD being such an abject success, about which I should know as a criminal defense attorney who has spent his career in urban America, and most of the last 15 years in federal court (can you use "mandatory minimum sentence" and "foreseeable conspiracy conduct" in the same sentence?), and it is far too easy for a child of middle-class suburbia to fail to understand the extraordinary damage wrought by addiction in some sectors of our society, were he not exposed to it routinely. Gerson at least does that.

For my money, both Paul and Gerson are fools, though, far too driven by ideology to consider that there might be another aspect to the argument. Neither one cares about the people affected by the failure of the WoD, whether it is Paul not understanding that liberty has its own problems, or Gerson's failure to acknowledge that we would not tolerate such a level of success in any other kind of war.

Controlling the EFFECTS of addiction (crime from the drug trade destroying the quality of life in many neighborhoods; damage from addiction to people and families; rightful disdain for they system in general and law enforcement in particular due its relation to and conduct toward an entire stratum of society) is the only rational purpose for our efforts, and creating or supporting "liberty" is as specious a purpose as enforcing a "law" which is as ineffective as it is illegitimate. Since we know we cannot diminish demand past a certain level, and cannot interdict supply, there has to be another way, and neither Paul nor Gerson accepts, let alone engages, this. It is equally naive, if not foolish, to concentrate as Paul does solely on the liberty issue, as it is for Gerson to fail to acknowledge that the WoD, a demonstrably unsuccessful attempt to protect people and society from the problem of drugs, has supplemented their adverse effects with a different set of problems, problems which may be yet worse, without solving the problems which drugs create. Did we have to destroy urban America to save it? Well, we pretty much have, and their platitudes do not serve to assuage my conscience.


Posted by: Michael Montemarano | May 15, 2011 3:46:06 PM

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