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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bob Barr applauds killing of 'Barr Amendment'

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Former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, R-Marietta, continues to push for the repeal of some of his most notorious achievements as a congressman, such as the Defense of Marriage Act and the eponymous “Barr Amendment,” a slick piece of legislation from 1998 that cut the legs out from under Initiative 59, a referendum to legalize medical marijuana in Washington, D.C.

The Barr Amendment, which was tacked onto that year's omnibus spending bill, effectively prohibited Initiative 59 from being implemented and even forbade D.C. officials from making public the referendum's vote tally. (It was another year before the ACLU discovered the initiative had passed with a 69 percent majority.)

Barr later revised his amendment to prevent the nation's capitol from ever holding another medical marijuana referendum.

But leopards do sometimes change their spots. In the years since he left office, Barr has famously gone from being one of the country's most outspoken anti-drug crusaders to becoming a leader of the Libertarian Party and a friend of the ACLU.

Last week, the House of Reps finally voted to repeal the Barr Amendment. Its author was quick to signal his approval via a press release:

Last week’s vote by the House of Representatives lifting the 11-year old prohibition on the District of Columbia from taking steps to pass and implement any measure decriminalizing or legalizing the sale or use of marijuana in the District, represents an important step in the direction of individual freedom and properly limiting the power of the federal government.

While I in fact sponsored the initial appropriations limitation in 1998, the years since then have witnessed such a dramatic increase in federal government power and an unprecedented decrease in individual liberty, especially since 2001, that I have come to realize that such limitations as the so-called “Barr Amendment” are not and cannot be justified. It has become necessary to reevaluate the power of the federal government that I and others once were able or willing to justify, and do what we can to roll back the tide of government control.

I have applauded also the indications by Attorney General Eric Holder to begin easing federal efforts against individuals in states that have moved to decriminalize or legalize the use of marijuana, and the fresh approach to the federal anti-drug effort as articulated earlier this year by Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (the so-called “Drug Czar”).

Don't take this as an invitation to offer Bob a fattie. He's not pro-pot, but he does support the idea that individual states (and D.C.) should be able to determine their own policies on such matters as medical marijuana use and gay marriage without interference from the federal government.

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