Bob Barr: Medical Marijuana Lobbyistby Doug Mataconis
Back when he was a Congressman, Bob Barr was at the forefront of a move in Congress to block a referendum in the District of Columbia that would have allowed the use of marijuana for medical purposes. The referendum went forward, but thanks to the Barr Amendment the public wasn’t even allowed to know what the results of the vote were, although it seemed clear that the referendum had passed.
Let’s just say that times have changed. Bob Barr is now retired from Congress, he’s joined the Libertarian Party, and he’s lobbying for the legalization of medical marijuana:
Bob Barr, who as a Georgia congressman authored a successful amendment that blocked D.C. from implementing a medical marijuana initiative, has switched sides and become a lobbyist for the Marijuana Policy Project.
But that doesnâ€™t mean he has become a bong-ripping hippie. He isnâ€™t pro-drug, he said, just against government intrusion.
â€œI, 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 peopleâ€™s lives,â€ Barr said.
Ironically, Barr said he will help lead the fight to give District residents a say on whether to allow medical marijuana â€” the very thing the â€œBarr Amendmentâ€ denied them in 1998. He will lobby for the rights of states to set their own medical marijuana policy without federal interference.
The four-term former Republican congressman will also work to unplug a youth anti-drug campaign which a recent study showed actually increased the likelihood that all teens would smoke pot.
Some of the commentors over at Hit & Run are accusing Barr of “flip-flopping”, but, like Radley Balko said, I think it’s clear that this is a genuine change of mind on Barr’s part, not a change in position designed to gain votes or political support. If anything this is likely to make him even less welcome among his former allies. However, like Glenn Reynolds, I think it would’ve been nice if Barr had had this change of heart when he actually had the power to do something about the insanity that is the War on Drugs.