Rand Paul Clarifies Marijuana Position: Don't Legalize, but Reduce Sentencing

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Tenn.) spoke in more detail about his position on marijuana on "Fox News Sunday." He does not support legalization, but believes marijuana users should not be sent to prison.

"The main thing I've said is not to legalize them but not to incarcerate people for extended periods of time," Paul said.

Due to drug laws, Paul complained, there are too many non-violent criminals filling up prisons.

"There are people in jail for 37, 50, 45 years for nonviolent crimes. And that's a huge mistake. Our prisons are full of nonviolent criminals," Paul said.

Paul describes himself as a libertarian conservative, but unlike many libertarians, does not support the full legalization of marijuana. In a November 2012 interview, Paul also said he would support allowing each state to decide the issue.

Paul also reminded that President's Barack Obama and George W. Bush could have gone to jail for their admitted drug use under current drug laws, as happens more often for those with less privileged upbringings.

"Look, the last two presidents could conceivably have been put in jail for their drug use, and I really think, you know, 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, and they go to jail for these things and I think it's a big mistake," he said.

"Actually, it would be the last three presidents, but who is counting?" host Chris Wallace joked about former President Bill Clinton, who famously once said that he tried marijuana but "didn't inhale."

Paul also noted that he is working with Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy (Vt.) on a bill that would address mandatory minimum sentencing laws.

Paul is among a growing number of conservatives and Republicans who have supported or implemented laws that reduce or eliminate prison sentences for drug use, Mike Riggs noted for Reason. Republican governors Dennis Daugaard (S.D.), Nathan Deal (Ga.), Chris Christie (N.J.) and John Kasich (Ohio) have all signed legislation that moves nonviolent drug offenders from prison to community supervision programs.

Justice Fellowship, an arm of Prison Fellowship, which was founded by the late evangelical author Chuck Colson, is also opposed to mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. Additionally, televangelist and former presidential candidate Pat Robertson announced last year that he opposed prison sentences for nonviolent drug users.

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