Barr and the drug war

Bob Barr gives a rare (for a poliician) public mea culpa in I Was Wrong About The War On Drugs — It’s A Failure over at the Huffington Post.

I’ll admit it, just five years ago I was “Public Enemy Number 1” in the eyes of the Libertarian Party. In my 2002 congressional race for Georgia’s Seventh District, the Libertarian Party ran scathing attack ads against my stand on Medical Marijuana. […]
For years, I served as a federal prosecutor and member of the House of Representatives defending the federal pursuit of the drug prohibition.
Today, I can reflect on my efforts and see no progress in stopping the widespread use of drugs. I’ll even argue that America’s drug problem is larger today than it was when Richard Nixon first coined the phrase, “War on Drugs,” in 1972.
America’s drug problem is only compounded by the vast amounts of money directed at this ongoing battle. In 2005, more than $12 billion dollars was spent on federal drug enforcement efforts while another $30 billion was spent to incarcerate non-violent drug offenders.
The result of spending all of those taxpayer’s dollars? We now have a huge incarceration tab for non-violent drug offenders and, at most, a 30% interception rate of hard drugs. We are also now plagued with the meth labs that are popping up like poisonous mushrooms across the country.
While it is clear the War on Drugs has been a failure, it is not enough to simply acknowledge that reality. We need to look for solutions that deal with the drug problem without costly and intrusive government agencies, and instead allow for private industry and organizations to put forward solutions that address the real problems.

It’s a conversion, all right, but the rest of the article is anecdotal and doesn’t really say anything about where he would go specifically. In fact, the anecdotal example he uses is about private industry implementing tougher drug policies.
It’s an important admission by Barr that he has changed his views, but so far it seems weak, especially compared to what we heard from Ron Paul (not that we’ve heard any better from Obama, and particularly not from McCain).
I’m not one of those who feels that Barr has to somehow make up for every past mistake before he’s given any support, but I’d like to have some clear sense that he’s not just “looking for a better way to handle prohibition.”
I’ll be curious to see how much the drug war factors in the Barr campaign (I’m sure Daniel will help with that) and how that translates into a national discussion. That would be welcome no matter what.

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