It’s been discussed a bit in comments, but it’s important to note once again just how horrible Newt would be.
Three Republican presidential candidates have shown an openness to handing over control of drugs and medical marijuana to the states. Would you continue the current federal policy making marijuana illegal in all cases or give the states more control?
I would continue current federal policy, largely because of the confusing signal that steps towards legalization sends to harder drugs.
I think the California experience is that medical marijuana becomes a joke. It becomes marijuana for any use. You find local doctors who will prescribe it for anybody that walks in.
Why shouldn’t the states have control over this? Why should this be a federal issue?
Because I think you guarantee that people will cross state lines if it becomes a state-by-state exemption.
I don’t have a comprehensive view. My general belief is that we ought to be much more aggressive about drug policy. And that we should recognize that the Mexican cartels are funded by Americans.
Expand on what you mean by “aggressive.”
In my mind it means having steeper economic penalties and it means having a willingness to do more drug testing.
In 1996, you introduced a bill that would have given the death penalty to drug smugglers. Do you still stand by that?
I think if you are, for example, the leader of a cartel, sure. Look at the level of violence they’ve done to society. You can either be in the Ron Paul tradition and say there’s nothing wrong with heroin and cocaine or you can be in the tradition that says, ‘These kind of addictive drugs are terrible, they deprive you of full citizenship and they lead you to a dependency which is antithetical to being an American.’ If you’re serious about the latter view, then we need to think through a strategy that makes it radically less likely that we’re going to have drugs in this country.
Places like Singapore have been the most successful at doing that. They’ve been very draconian. And they have communicated with great intention that they intend to stop drugs from coming into their country.
In 1981, you introduced a bill that would allow marijuana to be used for medical purposes. What has changed?
What has changed was the number of parents I met with who said they did not want their children to get the signal from the government that it was acceptable behavior and that they were prepared to say as a matter of value that it was better to send a clear signal on no drug use at the risk of inconveniencing some people, than it was to be compassionate toward a small group at the risk of telling a much larger group that it was okay to use the drug.
It’s a change of information. Within a year of my original support of that bill I withdrew it.
Ron Paul and Barney Frank have introduced a similar bill almost every year since.
You have to admit, Ron Paul has a coherent position. It’s not mine, but it’s internally logical.
Speaking of Ron Paul, at the last debate, he said that the war on drugs has been an utter failure. We’ve spent billions of dollars since President Nixon and we still have rising levels of drug use. Should we continue down the same path given the amount of money we’ve spent? How can we reform our approach?
I think that we need to consider taking more explicit steps to make it expensive to be a drug user. It could be through testing before you get any kind of federal aid. Unemployment compensation, food stamps, you name it.
It has always struck me that if you’re serious about trying to stop drug use, then you need to find a way to have a fairly easy approach to it and you need to find a way to be pretty aggressive about insisting–I don’t think actually locking up users is a very good thing. I think finding ways to sanction them and to give them medical help and to get them to detox is a more logical long-term policy.
Sometime in the next year we’ll have a comprehensive proposal on drugs and it will be designed to say that we want to minimize drug use in America and we’re very serious about it.
I’d be happy to purchase a one-way ticket to Singapore for Newt Gingrich.
Representative Barney Frank isn’t too worried about Gingrich’s candidacy, and got in a pretty good jab:
“I did not think I lived a good enough life to see Newt Gingrich as the Republican nominee,” the 30-year House veteran said. “He would be the best thing to happen to Democrats since Barry Goldwater … It’s still unlikely, but I have hopes.”
Unfortunately, Frank, who has been a real friend to drug policy reform, has announced that he is retiring from the House this year.
He’ll be missed.