What Would President Ron Paul's Drug Policy Look Like?

The congressman's libertarian beliefs extend to the issues of harm reduction, drug testing, and the rehabilitation of repeat drug offenders.

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The average person knows that Ron Paul has an interesting take on almost every issue -- including modern drug policy. The specifics of his beliefs, however, are less well-known, which is where I come in. Below, I detail the different drugs-related legislation that Paul has sponsored or supported and examine various statements he has made about drugs during his 24 years in politics.

Ron Paul is a conservative libertarian, interested in limiting government and promoting individual liberties. His ideological bent translates into some of the most radical platforms of all the Republican candidates. His "Plan to Restore America" pledges to cut $1 trillion in spending during his first year as president, as well as to eliminate all the inefficient government programs that infringe upon our civil liberties.

Unlike every other Republican candidate (and unlike the current president), Representative Paul believes that the war on drugs has been a monumental failure and should be eliminated. Essentially, Paul loves liberty as much as he hates the war on drugs. In 2000, he was one of the 15 members of the Republican Liberty Caucus to endorse a position statement condemning the war on drugs. As demonstrated in this 2001 House floor speech, he believes not only that the drug war inherently abuses the Bill of Rights, but also that, as a federal response to drug use and abuse, it creates more problems than it solves, including "encourage[ing] violence" both at home and abroad. Paul has also made the claim that a "compassionate conservative" like himself could not support an ineffective program that fails to recognize that "drug addiction is a medical problem ... not a problem of the law." Demonstrating that "compassion," in 2008, Paul was the only Republican to support an amendment to the Higher Education Act of 1965 that would have repealed the Act's original provisions prohibiting the awarding of federal financial aid to students previously convicted of a drug offense.

In a 2011 Republican primary debate, Paul argued that the drug war drives our immigration policy, which is enabling our government to "kill thousands and thousands of people." And in both the 2008 and 2012 primaries, he has consistently called the drug war a racist program that discriminates against inner-city minorities. In fact, Paul has been reiterating this statement since his Presidential campaign in 1988.

Doctor Ron Paul has stood strong against the international drug war not only in rhetoric, but in voting record. In 2001, Paul voted no on an amendment within H.R. 2586 that would have established a task force on counter-terrorism and drug prohibition and allowed military personnel to patrol our borders. He also voted against the Merida Initiative to Combat Illicit Narcotics and Reduce Organized Crime Authorization Act (H.R. 6028, 2008), which promised financial assistance to Mexico to combat drug trafficking. The presidential hopeful has also commented that our drug policy negatively influences how the federal and state governments handle other international issues.

So you want to end the war on drugs ... what now? Well, Paul would suggest that the first (and only!) thing for the federal government to do is to relieve itself of any legislative authority. Then the states can assume authority over drug legislation. And as discerning Points readers no doubt are aware, Paul has argued that it is not particularly necessary for states to prohibit drug use. In the 2011 South Carolina debate, Paul commented that American citizens do not need the government to tell them not to do drugs like heroin, because most of them would not engage in such activity even if it was legal.

Presented by

Kelsey Harclerode is a research assistant at the University of Florida and a former staff assistant for U.S. Senator George LeMieux of Florida.

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