Former Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) was a major buzz kill when he was in Congress.
Termed “the worst drug warrior” on Capitol Hill by the Libertarian Party, he led the charge among conservative Republicans against the drug legalization movement.
Advocates for medical marijuana once blocked the door to his Congressional office in protest, and when he lost a primary race in 2001, the executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project called it “glorious news.”
So you might think you’ve smoked something to hear the latest: Barr just signed up to work for the marijuana lobby.
“You reach the point where you realize the federal government has become so big and so intrusive that it really forces you to take a look at a range of issues in a new light,” Barr said in an interview.
As of this month, Barr has signed a contract to lobby for the Marijuana Policy Project. That’s the same group that once sued the government over the “Barr Amendment,” a law that forbids D.C. residents from legalizing pot for medicinal purposes. Now, Barr said, he may be working to overturn it.
The turn is the latest in Barr’s dramatic political evolution since leaving Congress. In the wake of disagreements with the GOP over privacy and spending issues, he quit the party and officially became a Libertarian in 2006. He has since built a platform as a political commentator, ringing the alarm about what he calls the “curtailment of personal liberties,” and he founded an Atlanta-based lobbying and consulting firm called Liberty Strategies.
Nobody seems more surprised about the new arrangement than the folks at the project. Aaron Houston, the group’s top lobbyist, said Joe Seehusen, a former Libertarian Party director who once worked at the group, made the introduction. “He said, ‘I’ve got a friend you should talk to, and you won’t believe who it is,’” Houston said. “Obviously we’re happy to have him with us, and we hope he’ll set an example for some of his conservative colleagues.”
So far, Barr is working with the group to pare back spending on an anti-drug advertising campaign he said “is not a wise use of federal money,” and to forbid federal agents from conducting raids to enforce state drug laws.
Barr said he has only conducted a few Hill visits so far, but “the couple Members I’ve spoken with have actually been very supportive.”
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Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.