Fresh off a third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses on Tuesday, a weary-looking Ron Paul spoke with CNN Wednesday morning but managed to summon his usual enthusiasm while railing against the U.S. war on drugs.
"This war on drugs has been a detriment to personal liberty and it's been a real abuse of liberty," Paul said. "Our prisons are full with people who have used drugs who should be treated as patients -- and they're non-violent. Someday we're gonna awake and find out that the prohibition we are following right now with drugs is no more successful, maybe a lot less successful, than the prohibition of alcohol was in the '20s."
Asked if he thought this was a viable position among social conservatives, Paul claimed that the proof was in his performance in Iowa.
"I did pretty good in a very, very socially conservative state, so that tells you it's a very popular position," Paul said. "We have not had a federal war on drugs in our entire history, but to just say it's legalized is not the case. I take a Constitutional approach where the states regulate it, sort of like they do with alcohol."
The Texas congressman has used his stance against the U.S. drug war to catalyze support for his presidential run, especially among younger voters.
As Paul pointed out to CNN, he's been loudly stating his opposition to the nation's anti-drug policies for decades. During a run for president in 1988 as a libertarian, Paul explained to a National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws meeting that the drug war in the U.S. had racist origins.
The Huffington Post's Ryan Grim reports that Paul's contention is largely correct:
The reaction of the American government, and its people, to drug use was -- and still is -- a complex mix of factors, involving lobbying by the medical community, pharmaceutical companies, the alcohol industry, temperance advocates, and religious movements. Historically, the argument has played out -- and continues to play out -- amid a backdrop of racism and class antagonism. Racism and bigotry were generally not the drivers of prohibition movements, but instead were the weapons used by temperance advocates to achieve their ends. The movement to ban alcohol, for instance, gained its strongest adherents without resorting to bigotry, but when World War I broke out, the movement was quick to tie beer and booze to instantly despised German immigrants, pushing the effort over the Constitutional hump.
Grim later reported that at the same appearance, Paul also accurately claimed that the CIA was involved in trafficking drugs as part of the Iran-Contra debacle.