This morning on Fox News Sunday Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) gave his most extensive answer yet on how he feels about U.S. drug laws. The short version: He doesn’t endorse legalizing drugs, but he also doesn’t want to lock up nonviolent offenders for “extended periods of time.”
All that said, there’s another way to look at Paul’s statements on Fox (and at CPAC), and that’s in the context of what other Republicans and conservatives are saying. If you compare Paul only to his colleagues in the Senate, yes, he sounds like a pioneer. But if you broaden the comparison to include Republicans outside the Senate, Paul is coming late to this way of thinking.
Former drug warriors Newt Gingrich, Ed Meese, Asa Hutchinson, and Bill Bennet have all come out against incarcerating low-level nonviolent drug offenders. Republican Governors Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota,Nathan Deal of Georgia, Chris Christie of New Jersey, and John Kasich of Ohio have not only come out against imprisoning low-level, nonviolent drug offenders, they’ve signed legislation that diverts more of those offenders from prison into community supervision programs. Conservative state-level think tanks across the country–from Right on Crime in Texas, to the James Madison Institute in Florida–are pushing for alternative sentencing.