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Libertarian-leaning group in Raleigh hopes to be chartered

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A new chapter of a libertarian-leaning organization is trying to reestablish itself in the Triangle area. On Wednesday night, the local chapter of the Republican Liberty Caucus held a meeting in Raleigh. This may be good news for drug policy reform in the state.

The national Republican Liberty Caucus was founded in April of 1991. The director at-large, Jeffrey Palmer, who was at the meeting, explained that the North Carolina chapter of the organization has existed since 2000. The local chapter, though, has only existed since 2007, and has not been officially recognized. This meeting was part of an attempt to revitalize the chapter, now known as the Greater Triangle Area RLC, and finally have it chartered. About a dozen people attended.

The RLC is neither a branch of nor officially recognized by the Republican Party; they have no vote on the Party’s central committees. Although they have been offered such privileges in exchange for closer cooperation with the Party, they choose not to accept this privilege in order to maintain more independence.

They are, however, committed to working with the GOP and supporting selected Republican candidates for office. They will also provide delegates to various Republican conventions, which is an opportunity to influence the Party rules and platform. It was explained that many of the members had tried different avenues for advancing libertarian ideals with less success. It was said to be “infinitely harder” to effect change through any other route, such as third parties and independent candidates.

Some Republicans mentioned at the meeting as allies to the cause include Congressmen Justin Amash (MI), Thomas Massie (KY), and Tim Huelskamp (KS), and Senators Rand Paul (KY) and Mike Lee (UT). One person present at the meeting, Glen Bradley, ran for state house and won in 2010 with the RLC's support.

There is a clear overlap with the Religious Right here. In fact, both Bradley and another former state senate candidate present, Geoffrey Hurlburt, identify as “Frederick Douglass Republicans.” This is a reference to a conservative Christian group called the Frederick Douglass Foundation, who list views on their website such as “the Holy Bible is the inspired, infallible and authoritative source of Christian doctrine and precept” and “We Believe in the Sanctity of Human Life and the Protection of Traditional Marriage.”

This does not, however, mean that the group supports the current drug laws, traditionally supported by many conservative Christians. The state branch of the RLC claims to support “alternatives to the War on Drugs;” the FAQ explains as follows. “Specifically we have supported medical marijuana and opposed mandatory minimum sentences. ... Many support complete decriminalization, others are skeptical of that. The group would probably agree with the statement that the war on drugs is a failure.”

I questioned the director at-large of the RLC, Jeffrey Palmer, on the drugs issue. He confirmed that the group in general would support reforms along the lines of those advocated by Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

A questionnaire was mentioned which the RLC administers to candidates it may want to express support for. Palmer explained that in order to receive the RLC’s approval, a candidate should agree with the RLC position on at least 80-90% of issues. Question 10 covers the War on Drugs, including options to indicate that it “Has created victimless crimes and unnecessarily punished and adversely affected the lives of millions of nonviolent citizens” as well as “increased violent crime and created a lucrative industry for violent criminals.” A copy of one version of the questionnaire (though not the desired answers) can be found here.

Bradley explained, upon prompting, his contributions to drug policy reform in the state. Specifically, he was involved with the passage of two bills in 2013 in connection with the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition.

One bill, passed overwhelmingly by the House and unanimously by the Senate, partly decriminalized the possession of hypodermic syringes. The NCHRC is now advocating for a complete decriminalization of syringe possession. Similar but reforms have proven to restrain the spread of sexually transmitted disease such as HIV in other states and foreign countries.

Another bill Bradley helped pass was SB 20, which was a "good Samaritan" bill. The measure gives limited immunity to people calling for, receiving and providing medical help for people experiencing drug overdoses.

Bradley explained that the bills’ authors credited him with making their passage possible, by explaining how to market them to Republicans. The national Harm Reduction Coalition had previously been “unaccustomed to success with these measures in a Republican legislature,” particularly in the South.

The chapter will accept as members residents of the following counties: Orange, Durham, Wake, Granville, Vance, Franklin, and Chatham. Anyone interested should contact David Williams at dwilliams2007@hotmail.com or visit them on the web at www.rlcnc.org.

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