Senator Rand Paul has joined with Democrat Senator Patrick Leahy to introduce a bill that will relax the mandatory minimum sentences that are currently imposed against anyone caught smoking marijuana. While Sen. Paul is not in favor of using pot, he says it’s ridiculous to blight a young life for stupidity, and pointed to both President Obama and President George W. Bush as people who were “lucky” that they weren’t arrested when they were young.
Ironically, Sen. Leahy has included in one of his proposed gun grabbing bills a provision that makes it a felony with a 20-year penalty if a person, knowingly or unknowingly, sells or raffles off a firearm to a person who is a “prohibited person.” What’s a prohibited person? Among other things, a prohibited person is one who unlawfully uses a controlled substance. Marijuana, of course, is one of those controlled substances.
The net effect of Leahy’s proposed bill is that anyone who sells or raffles a gun to someone who enjoys a bit of recreational pot use – but who has no criminal record — has committed a felony. In other words, something close to half the population is now banned from buying guns, and anyone who sells to one of these people may find himself facing a harsh federal prison sentence. Leahy is obviously joining forces with Paul now in an effort to undo some of the disastrous results that will occur if his gun-grab bill passes.
Senator Paul’s position on marijuana is much more sensible, as he favors decriminalizing recreational use, but has no truck with bills that taint pot smokers so much that anyone who has contact with them becomes a serious felon. Speaking to Fox News Sunday, Paul pointed out that our “last two presidents could conceivably have been put in jail for their drug use.” If they’d been arrested, and if they hadn’t come from affluent families that could have made the problem “go away,” the effects on them would have been disastrous:
Look what would have happened. It would have ruined their lives. They got lucky. But a lot of poor kids, particularly in the inner city, don’t get lucky. They don’t have good attorneys. They go to jail for these things. And I think it’s a big mistake.
Despite opposing mandatory sentences for recreational pot use, Paul is no fan of the drug, acknowledging that it has serious negative effects on the people who use it. The federal government, however, should not try to legislate away foolishness:
I don’t want to encourage people to do it. I think even marijuana is a bad thing to do. I think it takes away your incentive to work and show up and do the things you should be doing. I don’t think it’s a good idea. I don’t want to promote that.
But I also don’t want to put people in jail who make a mistake. There are a lot of young people who do this and then later on, in their 20’s, they grow up, they get married, and they quit doing things like this. I don’t want to put them in jail for the rest of their lives.
Pot is now what alcohol was at the end of the 19th century: a mood altering substance that people have used for centuries and that Americans are now over-using Americans beat back the worst alcohol abuse by speaking out against it. By 1920, when Prohibition went into effect, America’s manic love-affair with alcohol was dying down. What re-started binging, and introduced an epic crime wave too, was Prohibition. With a few notable exceptions, our current government has forgotten that it cannot legislate either morality or intelligence. Both those things are a free people’s responsibility.