HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Concerned that his call to lessen criminal penalties for drug use could be misinterpreted as an endorsement of drug use, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul expresses disapproval in an exclusive interview to air Saturday morning on WHAS11.
"I think drugs, marijuana included, aren't good for you," Paul says in The Powers That Be with Joe Arnold interview. "I don't want to be someone who is seen as being this person advocating for drug use. I think they're not a good idea."\
Yet, four years after deflecting questions whether he smoked marijuana while in college, Paul now appears to acknowledge it.
"Let's just say I wasn't a choir boy when I was in college," Paul replied when asked whether he smoked marijuana while in college, "and that I can recognize that kids make mistakes, and I can say that I made mistakes when I was a kid."
Paul, who is considering a 2016 presidential run, was quick to point out admitted or presumed drug use by previous presidents.
"Think about the last three presidents we've had," Paul said. "Bush, Obama and Clinton all either admitted or skirted around the issue and said, 'Well, yeah, maybe they did break the law when they were a kid.'
"If they had been poor or lived in poverty or lived in one of our big cities where there are a lot of patrols, there's a good chance none of them would have ever excelled," Paul continued, "So I have a great deal of personal sympathy for people who have made mistakes as a young person."
It's an issue that wins him crossover appeal. Last month, a studio audience applauded when Paul condemned the "War on Drugs" in response to a query from HBO host Bill Maher.
"You said in 2000, the War on Drugs is an abysmal failure and a waste of money. Are you still on that page?" Maher asked.
"I'm absolutely there," Paul said. "And I'll do everything to end the War on Drugs."
The issue also prompts scrutiny that Paul largely deflected during his Senate run four years ago. The "Aqua Buddha" chapter of that race is largely remembered for the Jack Conway campaign questioning Paul's religion based on an account by a college classmate of Paul's. Until now, Paul never directly addressed his alleged marijuana use described by contemporaries in the Aqua Buddha story.
As Paul considers a 2016 presidential run, the scrutiny of his personal and political past is expected to intensify. The Powers That Be with Joe Arnold interview asks him whether his political views have changed since he first took office.
"There are a lot of things that are exactly the same," Paul said. "There's also some things I've discovered like in particular many trips to the West End in Louisville, that I think a big problem with getting a job is a previous conviction when you're younger."
Paul said he has six bills pending in the Senate which seek to reform the criminal justice system, yet reiterates that his efforts to lessen criminal implications for drug use should not be misinterpreted as acceptance of marijuana use.
"It's not good for a lot of things," Paul said. "That being said, I don't want to put our kids in prison for it."