Congressman Trey Radel (R-FL) was arrested in Washington, DC, at the end of October for possession of cocaine, Politico reported Tuesday. While the news is shocking, unlike with other political scandals that uncover a deep policy hypocrisy (see, for example, the number of elected officials busted for engaging in sexual relations with a person of the same sex after speaking out against LGBT people), Radel’s actions are at least not totally out of step with his position on drug laws.
Radel cosponsored a law that seeks to end mandatory minimum sentencing requirements that often send people to jail with a conviction no worse than drug possession. He has also spoken extensively about the need to reform the way the United States copes with its drug problems, repeating that a “war on drugs” is not the way to tackle drug issues. Here are just a couple of his comments on the topic:
“The war on guns is as naive as the war on drugs,” Radel said. “Nothing will disappear.” [The News-Press, January 30, 2013]
“But I do think beyond just security assistance programs, there needs to be a much more engaged and focused, targeted approach by the United States…. And that’s where we get back to institutional support versus just, gee, how many kilos of cocaine have we seized today?” [Congressional Hearing, June 19, 2013]
“Let’s take a look at the violence that is plague to Mexico. I would ask you, could we use the Colombia as an example of where foreign aid and cooperating when it comes to national security where we can work together. But, Mr. President, I would also ask this, in the context of this, if we are talking about narco traffickers — if we do the same in Mexico, are we simply going to end up pushing the problem somewhere else?” [Congressional Hearing, September 19, 2013]
Radel’s views aren’t all about dealing with drug issues comprehensively, though. He reportedly said he opposed legalizing marijuana in a debate back in April.
But Radel can surely appreciate the importance of the nuance on drug policy as it exists now. He is lucky he was not arrested on cocaine possession in Florida, as one Miami Herald reporter pointed out, where it’s a felony. That would have cost him his right to vote.
Radel also voted for a House bill that would have required all recipients of SNAP (known more widely as food stamps) to undergo drug testing.