Barr shifts in support of medical marijuana

March 29, 2007

Gerry Smith, Cox News Service

Washington — Bob Barr, a former Georgia Republican congressman and anti-drug crusader, has become a lobbyist for the Marijuana Policy Project.

The switch marks the latest chapter in the surprising evolution of the four-term lawmaker from Georgia's 7th District since he lost his seat in 2002.

Once termed "the worst drug warrior" on Capitol Hill by the Libertarian Party, Barr joined the Libertarians last year because, he said, of the GOP's move "toward big government and disregard toward privacy and civil liberties."

Barr's move puts him in the unusual position of lobbying to overturn a law he sponsored.

In 1999, Congress passed a spending bill for the District of Columbia that included the so-called "Barr Amendment," which blocked the District from allowing medical marijuana use even though 69 percent of voters had approved a measure to legalize it.

Barr declined to comment for this story, but told the Politico publication that "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."

Aaron Houston, the project's government relations director, said Barr, a former U.S. attorney, will bring "gravitas and credibility" to the project's lobbying operations, particularly among Republicans.

But Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.), who once stood by Barr in his opposition to legalizing medicinal marijuana, said he was dismayed. "It is personally disappointing to watch him change from prosecuting drug dealers to defending usage of their product," Souder said.



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