Republican Debate Breakdown: Rand Paul is Sane, and Drugs are Drugs are Drugs

Thankfully, I had other commitments last night and had a great excuse to miss the dumpster fire known as the second Republican Presidential Debate.  And even though I don't know how many times Trump called someone an ugly loser, or what specific kind of mustard stain Chris Christie was wearing, I found some greens in this bowl.

Before getting into the coverage today (favorite quick, substantial recap comes from Atlanta Journal Constitution Blog), I briefly watched the clip below, and then read the subsequent full transcript for a little more context.  In one paragraph, Rand Paul made more logical and clear points in two minutes than I've heard any national candidate say in a debate format:

PAUL: I think one of the great problems, and what American people don’t like about politics, is hypocrisy. People have one standard for others and not for them — for themselves.
There is at least one prominent example on the stage of someone who says they smoked pot in high school, and yet the people going to — to jail for this are poor people, often African-Americans and often Hispanics, and yet the rich kids who use drugs aren’t.
I personally think that this is a crime for which the only victim is the individual, and I think that America has to take a different attitude. I would like to see more rehabilitation and less incarceration. I’m a fan of the drug courts which try to direct you back towards work and less time in jail.
But the bottom line is the states. We say we like the 10th Amendment, until we start talking about this. And I think the federal government has gone too far, I think that the war on drugs has had a racial outcome, and really has been something that has really damaged our inner cities.
Not only do the drugs damage them, we damage them again by incarcerating them and then preventing them from getting employment over time.
So I don’t think that the federal government should override the states. I believe in the 10th Amendment and I really will say that the states are left to themselves.

pic courtesy of

pic courtesy of

WOW.  Just about everything you want to hear someone say on the national stage about marijuana legalization: it's enabled racism in justice system, war on drugs has failed, and it's up to the states to figure out. 

Bush is getting the headlines today "Jeb Bush Admits to Smoking Marijuana", but Paul provided important substance, especially with regard to the inconsistency of republican candidates when it comes to how they like their states' rights (women's health, yes; marijuana economy, no).  As the exchange continued, the gap between logic and fear widened as Paul brought up the medical laws prohibiting children from getting relief from CBD oils, while Bush lazily lumped in marijuana with heroin as "drugs" and started talking about epidemics and overdoses.

BUSH: That’s true. And here’s the deal. Here’s the deal. We have — we have a serious epidemic of drugs that goes way beyond marijuana. What goes on in Colorado, as far as I’m concerned, that should be a state decision.
But if you look at the problem of drugs in this — in this society today, it’s a serious problem. Rand, you know this because you’re campaigning in New Hampshire like all of us, and you see the epidemic of heroin, the overdoses of heroin that’s taking place.
People’s families are — are being torn apart. It is appropriate for the government to play a consistent role to be able to provide more treatment, more prevention — we’re the state that has the most drug courts across every circuit in — in — in Florida, there are drug courts to give people a second chance.
That’s the best way to do this.
PAUL: But let me respond. The thing is, is that in Florida, Governor Bush campaigned against medical marijuana. That means that a small child like Morgan Hintz (ph) that has seizures is day, is failing on non-traditional medications, is not allowed to use cannabis oil.
And if they do that in Florida, they will take the child away, they will put the parents in jail. And that’s what that means if you’re against allowing people use medical marijuana, you’ll actually put them in jail.
BUSH: No, you’re wrong — you’re wrong about this.
PAUL: And actually, under the current circumstances, kids who had privilege like you do, don’t go to jail, but the poor kids in our inner cities go to jail. I don’t think that’s fair. And I think we need to acknowledge it, and it is hypocritical to still want to put poor people in jail… BUSH: I don’t want to put poor people in jail, Randy.
PAUL: Well, you vote — you oppose medical marijuana…
BUSH: Here’s the deal. No, I did not oppose when the legislature passed the bill to deal with that very issue. That’s the way to solve this problem.
Medical marijuana on the ballot was opened up, there was a huge loophole, it was the first step to getting to a (inaudible) place. And as a citizen of Florida, I voted no.

republican debate marijuana results

Not to be completely forgotten, Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina did some solid fear mongering with all the classic hits: 'gateway drug', 'lost child to drug addiction, 'drug epidemics', 'weed today isn't the same as 40 years ago'...

Fiorina, who many pundits are calling the stand out of the debate (no shit, she's the only woman on the dais and had to fight for that), is a curious example of how muddled this issue is for Republicans trying to appeal to a base, and project any kind of mainstream sanity.  Said, Fiorina:

“We do — sorry, Barbara (Bush, Jeb's mommy who doesn't like him admitting he smoked in high school). We do need — we do need criminal justice reform. We have the highest incarceration rates in the world. Two-thirds of the people in our prisons are there for non-violent offenses, mostly drug related. It’s clearly not working.
“But we need to tell young people the truth. Drug addiction is an epidemic, and it is taking too many of our young people. I know this sadly from personal experience.”

While she might acknowledge that non-violent drug offenders are expensive and unproductive, her comments sound like she's only going to draw on her terrible experience of burying her step-daughter, who died at age 35 from "demons of addiction", more specifically, "struggles with alcohol, prescription pills, and bulimia".

This issue WILL continue to be a huge one as the debate unfolds, so it will be interesting to see how some of the classic anti-legalization arguments hold up to more scrutiny from a more informed public, and if Rand can pull anyone out of Reefer Madness and into common sense.


Eli HarringtonComment