Congressional candidate Parker says drug war should be fought at state level

Bob Parker

Bob Parker is adamant -- he doesn't think drugs should be legal. But the Republican challenger to U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson's 8th District congressional seat says it is not the federal government's role to decide and should be a matter left to individual states.

But the Texas County rancher stopped short of calling for a federal decriminalization of drugs Monday, a fact that had Emerson's camp criticizing him for holding a "reckless position" and failing to properly understand the legislative process.

The issue came to light at a recent meeting of the Poplar Bluff for Liberty group, when one media outlet reported that Parker announced his support for the federal decriminalization of marijuana. On Monday, Parker said that the report was false and that he only said it's a states' rights issue.

"I do not support decriminalizing drugs in any way," Parker said. "I was asked about the war on drugs. I never said I supported the decriminalization of drugs. I just think they should debate that at the state level."

In a position similar to U.S. Rep. Ron Paul -- who does call for getting anti-drug laws off the federal books -- Parker said that the U.S. Constitution does not grant the federal government the authority to enact such laws and he doesn't believe they should be there.

Jo Ann Emerson

But Emerson staffer Josh Haynes said Monday that Parker can't hold both views simultaneously. As a federal representative, Parker would have to vote to decriminalize drugs at the federal level to put the issue back in the hands of the states.

"You can't hold both opinions," Haynes said. "There are right now strict federal laws making drugs illegal. To allow the states to determine on their own to make drugs illegal, it would have to be decriminalized at the federal level. And Jo Ann is absolutely opposed to that. It is not OK to sell drugs, move them between states and smuggle them into our country."

Haynes added: "We need to give more tools to law enforcement to stop drugs from coming into our communities, not less. This is a very big difference between the two candidates."

Parker said he rejected Haynes' assertion about the requirement to decriminalize drugs at the federal level. The laws, for example, should be stricken because Congress does not have the authority to enact them. Parker, who acknowledged he experimented with marijuana until he was 18, said he realizes how destructive drugs can be. Parker, 55, also added there are more important issues to deal with, including the national debt and reining in government spending.

"This isn't even my issue," Parker said. "I know it is an issue for some. But I was asked a question."

Jack Rushin

The other two candidates -- Democrat Jack Rushin and Libertarian Rick Vandeven -- each also weighed into the debate Monday. Rushin, a chiropractor from Poplar Bluff, said he believes the war on drugs should be a joint effort of the federal and state government.

"I would side with the federal government being involved as well," Rushin said. "I just don't think it makes sense to push to legalize drugs. I'm for doing whatever is necessary to curtail drug use."

Vandeven, who lives in Chaffee, Mo., and works at Procter & Gamble, holds the opposite view.

Rick Vandeven

"It's not a crime, it's a vice," Vandeven said. "It's only a crime when there's an identifiable victim. I should be able to do whatever I want to with my body. It should not be prohibited at any level. It's like drinking or eating a whole rhubarb pie."

Parker lost to Emerson in 2010 GOP primary as did Vandeven -- along with Democrat Tommy Sowers and Independent Larry Bill -- in that year's general election. The GOP primary takes place this year Aug. 7.


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