ABC News' Russell Goldman ( @goldmanrussell ) reports:
The government should not crack down on those using hard illicit drugs, Rep. Ron Paul said Friday, delivering a full-throated libertarian clarion call in his first official speech as a Republican candidate for the presidency.
“We have conceded way too much to the government about what we put in our bodies,” Paul, R-Texas, told a packed house in Exeter, N.H., hours after declaring his candidacy on “Good Morning America.”
“We control our intellectual and spiritual life, why should we concede to the government what we do with our own bodies?”
“Why,” asked Paul, “should we be so intimidated by someone using hard drugs? Better to take a position that you have freedom of choice.”
Paul also said the federal government also should not regulate medical drugs and the FDA too often limits patients’ access to new medicines.
Despite his intellectual support for decriminalizing drugs, Paul noted that since being elected to Congress in 1976 he has never introduced a bill to legalize drugs.
Paul, who has twice before sought the Republican presidential nomination and lost, has found new support of his long-held views on limiting the role of government in the tea party movement his ideas helped spawn.
He said he believed he would make a “strong president” and would use that strength to limit the power of a bloated federal bureaucracy.
“One thing the American people want and I agree with them, is they want a strong president… Where should strength be directed? Should strength be directed at… policing the world? No, it should be for standing up for liberty and restraining the government, that’s where the strength should be directed,” he said.
He acknowledged that his views, once the domain of a small sect of libertarian intellectuals, had gained a new audience, which would hopefully improve his chances at the nomination.
“Once again I am a candidate for president in a Republican national primary,” he said. “Many would like to belittle this effort. But let me tell you there’s an old saying: three is a charm.”
In his speech, Paul also hit on many of the themes that have made him a controversial long-shot candidate and a darling to the tea party – calling for abolishment of the Federal Reserve, a return the gold standard and a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.