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Marijuana: Bob Barr to Lobby for Marijuana Policy Project

from Drug War Chronicle, Issue #479, 3/30/07

My, how times have changed. Less than a decade ago, former Georgia Republican Congressman Bob Barr was the bete noire of the marijuana reform movement. Now, he works for it. That's right, Bob Barr, the man who single-handedly derailed medical marijuana in Washington, DC, has been hired as a lobbyist by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).

Ironically, Barr will now lobby for the rights of states to set their own medical marijuana policies without interference from the federal government. It was his 1998 "Barr Amendment" to the annual DC appropriations vote that blocked DC officials from counting the votes in that year's medical marijuana initiative, which won with 69% of the vote.

A former prosecutor in the Atlanta suburbs, Barr was always "tough on drugs," but otherwise showed civil libertarian tendencies. After being defeated in 2002 in a campaign that featured attack ads using medical marijuana patients, Barr parted ways with the Republican Party, joining the Libertarians in 2006. He also became a lobbyist for his former arch-rival, the American Civil Liberties Union.

In an interview this week with The Politico, the former arch-drug warrior explained that times have changed. "I, over the years, have taken a very strong stand on drug issues, but in light of the tremendous growth of government power since 9/11, it has forced me and other conservatives to go back and take a renewed look at how big and powerful we want the government to be in people's lives," Barr said.

Barr brings a "great deal of credibility, particularly among people on the Republican side of the aisle," MPP government relations director Aaron Houston told The Politico. "He certainly would not have been the first person I would have expected to sign off to us, but I'm very pleased that he has," Houston said. "I'm very pleased that he has come around, and I hope he serves as an example to his former colleagues."

As a newly christened MPP lobbyist, Barr is already talking the talk. There might be "legitimate medical uses of marijuana and we ought not have this knee-jerk reaction against it, and people ought to be allowed to explore," he said.

He will also lobby to kill the Office of National Drug Control Policy's youth anti-drug media campaign, which repeated studies have shown to be ineffective. "A lot of conservatives have expressed great concern over the taxpayer money that is being wasted on this poorly run advertising campaign," said Barr, who left Congress in 2003.


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