Ron Paul went out of his way to emphasize his support for medical marijuana, insisting that marijuana laws should be set not by the federal government but by the states.
"You can at least let sick people have marijuana because it's helpful," Paul said. "But the compassionate conservatives say, well we can't do this, we're going to put people who are sick and dying with cancer and are being helped with marijuana if they have multiple sclerosis -- the federal government is going in there and overriding state laws and putting people like that in prison."
The Obama administration had promised a hands-off policy on marijuana laws, saying the issue was best regulated at the state level. But the number of raids has been on the rise, and last month federal prosecutors in California announced a crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries, threatening to shutter state-licensed businesses.
"Why don't we handle the drugs like we handle alcohol?" Paul continued. "Alcohol's a deadly drug. The real deadly drugs are the prescription drugs, they kill more people than the illegal drugs."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report earlier this month showing that the number of deaths from overdoses of legal prescription painkillers has more than tripled in the past decade, killing 14,800 people in 2008, up from 4,000 deaths in 1999.
Paul's comments came as part of a larger commentary on drug policy. It's not the first time he's called for an end to the so-called war on drugs.
In June, he teamed up with Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) to introduce legislation removing marijuana from the list of federally regulated substances. Though essentially dead upon arrival, the bill helps to illuminate Paul's views.
"I think the federal war on drugs is a total failure," said Paul to hearty applause from the audience.
"The drug war is out of control," he added. "I fear the drug war, because it undermines our civil liberties, it magnifies our problems on the borders -- we spent like over the last 40 years a trillion dollars on this war and, believe me, the kids can still get the drugs. It just hasn't worked."
For more on where the rest of the GOP field stands on marijuana policy, see the slideshow below.
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