Ron Paul debates Stephen Baldwin on Ending the War on Drugs

In Friday night’s debate with Stephen Baldwin on Larry King Live, Ron Paul makes the case for ending the failed War on Drugs, legalizing marijuana, and allowing individual states, as opposed to the federal government, to regulate drugs.

Poll: Who won the debate on ending the War on Drugs?

Ron Paul: 1,540 votes (95%)
Stephen Baldwin: 30 votes (2%)
It was a draw: 55 votes (3%)

Total Votes: 1,625

The poll was open from March 14, 2009 – May 20, 2009

Show: Larry King Live
Host: Joy Behar
Date: 3/13/2009


Joy Behar: Michael Phelps finally spoke out publically about the bong photo seen around the world. Here’s what he told Matt Lauer on The Today Show.

Michael Phelps: We were just celebrating honestly. It was just a small group and we were sitting around and celebrating.

Matt Lowler: You know, I have to ask you: Were you smoking pot?

Michael Phelps: It was a bad mistake. I mean, we all know what you and I are talking about. It was a stupid mistake and a bad judgment.

Joy Behar: Should Marijuana be legalized? We’ll debate the pros and cons right now. In the anti-legalization camp is actor Stephen Baldwin and on the pro side is Congressman from Texas, Ron Paul. He was a presidential candidate and Paul has sponsored hemp related legislation. Gentlemen, round one. Okay, what’s your reaction to the hoo-hah over the Phelps photo? Ron?

Ron Paul: I’m sorry, over the what?

Joy Behar: Over the photo, the Michael Phelps photo. What was your reaction to all of that what happened with Michael Phelps? I mean he basically lost a lot of his endorsements.

Ron Paul: Oh, Michael Phelps, well the whole thing I think is a mess. It’s outrageous. I think we’re getting carried away with the whole War on Drugs. That’s how silly the whole thing gets. Drugs are very dangerous, but there are a lot of things that are very dangerous. The question here is, who should regulate danger? Should we assume responsibility for ourselves, or should the government take care of us. And I don’t believe in the nanny state. If we do have regulations and laws they should be at the state level, not at the federal level. We didn’t even have a federal law up until 1937, and here we are, we have spent hundreds of billions of dollars in a very unsuccessful attempt to regulate drugs and you have all these weird examples.

That’s one example you mentioned, but what about a sick person dying with cancer who goes out and uses marijuana when it is legalized in a particular state like California, and the feds come in and arrest him. I mean there’s so much violation there of common decency and the constitution. It makes no sense. The drug is a total failure and the federal drug war ought to be revisited and, for the most part, gotten rid of.

Joy Behar: Ok, Stephen Baldwin, hi. You’re against legalizing marijuana. Why?

Stephen Baldwin: Well, it’s a little bit ironic. I can see why Jimmy wanted to rush out of there so quickly. Here you’re looking at an actor that has starred in two very popular marijuana films; Half Baked and Biodome, and here I am bringing a faith-based conservative perspective to this issue.

Obviously Joy, there’s a lot of common sense that needs to be included in this conservation. It’s a very simple reality: marijuana leads to doing worse things. That’s just a fact. I don’t care what anybody says or what the debate is. When you smoke marijuana at a young age it will usually lead to alcohol abuse and harder drugs. So right there, I mean, that’s one reason why it should not be legalized.

Joy Behar: We’ve heard that for years that it’s a gateway drug. What do you say to that, Congressman Paul?

Ron Paul: Well, I think it’s silly. Probably the most addictive drug in the country, in the world, is nicotine and nobody talks about nicotine being a gateway drug, so there’s no sense to that. And besides it’s not nearly as addictive as alcohol. So if you’re a consistent person and you think the government should be regulating personal behavior, you have to be for prohibition of alcohol.

And when you look back throughout history and what happened to that, it was a total disaster. It created the Al Capones. And right now today there is so much violence today, not because people use drugs, but because they are illegal. You know the people who benefit the most by all these laws, these are the drug cartels. They lobby to keep these laws in place because they can’t exist without them. You don’t have the Al Capones now because you don’t have prohibition of alcohol.

Prohibition is what is bad, and this does not mean that we endorse personal behavior that is not beneficial, it just means who regulates personal behavior. And it shouldn’t be the state. There’s no benefits to it. It’s like regulating church behavior or religious behavior of any sorts, so I see no purpose in doing this.

Joy Behar: Okay, Stephen we’ll get back to you when we return, Okay. More Baldwin vs. Paul.

Okay, we’re back. Stephen, let me ask you a question. Congressman Paul brought up the whole idea of medical marijuana. What is your response to that? People have glaucoma, they’re nauseous from anti-cancer drugs. What do you say to that?

Stephen Baldwin: Well, again there is, you know, not a whole lot of research to back up the fact that there are’nt alternatives even to that. There are lots of pain-relieving practices that people can study. So, I must say that to be honest with you Joy, when in fact there are people for those reasons that do have success with it, then, if prescribed under a controlled situation, then yes, obviously that makes a lot of sense.

But back to Mr. Paul’s statement about the addictive aspects of smoking cigarettes, obviously, if I smoke a cigarette I’m not going to go in my vehicle and be impaired potentially to damage somebody else’s life. If we legalize marijuana there’s no question that the number of deaths related to people being impaired under the influence of marijuana is going to increase. The question is, just to be able to tax it, is it worth it? That’s the question.

Joy Behar: Okay. Ron, what do you say to that?

Ron Paul: Well, I understand there’s a few people who smoke marijuana already, and how many times have you seen somebody arrested for driving under the influence of marijuana? I mean, I’ve never even heard of it. Driving under the influence of alcohol… that is dangerous, butpeople shouldn’t do that and they should be responsible. But you can’t get more people smoking marijuana, it’s just that, what is so bad is the war on marijuana, putting people in prison. They can be caught using drugs for the third time, never committing a violent act, and putting them in prison for life, and yet rapists and murderers can get out.

And if you think of all that expenses you’re talking about hundreds of billions of dollars that get been spent on this and people usually who get sent to prison for non-violent drug use come out as violent criminals. So it makes no sense at all to pursue this method because marijuana is not going to increase car accidents. Let me tell you that is not the case.

Joy Behar: I would think that it’s hard to detect if you’re high on marijuana when you’re pulled over by the police. There’s no breathalyzer test, so how would we know what effect it has?

Ron Paul: Well, that’s a possibility but even under today’s circumstances nobody gets arrested for it and the alcohol is the real culprit and the real problem. And yet we have people in Washington D.C. who drink a lot of alcohol, let me tell you. Because of political reasons they’re scared to death even to vote to legalize the growing of hemp. Hemp has nothing to do with smoking marijuana. And because of this obsession on the drug war we can’t grow hemp in this country. We send the hemp growing up to Canada, then we buy the products that we make from hemp. So we export our jobs to Canada. Hemp is a good product that we prohibit from being used, and it was legal up unto even after World War II. We were allowed to raise hemp in this country. This is how hysterical this War on Drugs has gotten.

So the soon as we come to this realization, someday, actually I’m optimistic about this. Someday this country is going to wake up like they did in the 1930s and say, “Hey, you know, prohibition didn’t work”. Alcohol is a horror, it has made things worse and it has caused a lot of crime and a lot of violence. It’s about time we just do this. Get rid of the prohibition. Let the regulation go back to the state. Regulate it like alcohol and where the real regulation comes from the individual and also from the family and the parents and the community. That’s what prevents drug use. Not some federal thug coming in with guns and arresting some kid and throwing him in prison for life. That makes no sense whatsoever.

Joy Behar: Are you saying that there are a lot of alcoholics in Congress? Is that what I heard you say?

Ron Paul: No, I didn’t say that. I said there’s a lot of people in Congress who drink a lot of alcohol and they won’t vote to legalize hemp. They won’t even let us raise hemp because they’re afraid of the political consequence.

Joy Behar: Let me ask you something. Is there any drug you would not legalize? Do you want to legalize all drugs? Heroine included.

Ron Paul: Well, I want to go back to a previous time prior to 1937 when the states did the regulating. I don’t advocate giving marijuana to ten year olds walking into a store. But the kids now can get more marijuana with all these laws easier than they can get alcohol. So the states have every right to regulate and legalize and allow people to use these things.

Joy Behar: We’re running out of time. Stephen, I’m going to give you the last word before we go.

Stephen Baldwin: I’m just curious, Joy, do you think there’s a lot of marijuana smoking Ron Paul supporters? I’m just wondering.

Joy Behar: Yeah, have you ever smoked a joint, Ron? Congressman Paul, have you ever smoked a joint?

Ron Paul: Well, this is the truth and most people believe what I say. I have never seen anybody smoke marijuana and I have never been in the same room with it. To me it’s an issue of freedom of choice.

Joy Behar: I got to go. Okay, thank you very much, you guys. Go to to comment about this show or any other. Larry, thanks for letting me sit in for you, I had a great time.

  • This was a very silly debate. They couldn’t find a tougher opponent than the idiot Baldwin?

    I guess it wouldn’t matter since there is no sensible opposition to legalized marijuana.

  • T Reamonn

    The bottom line is:

    Drugs are cool, and people should stop being suckers!

    I’m not saying that it’s necessarily every mother’s duty to get there child drunk and high by the age of three, but it’s time for people to wake up a realize that prohibition doesn’t work and if they can’t accept that then they should just whack themselves over the head with a hammer and stop trying to piss me off.

    • travis

      That is so right. Look at Amsterdam the crime rate is almost zero. The only reason we have drug enforcement laws is for the money. That is the bottom line. Its a way to finance the over spending the government has incurred on the future generations. The average fine for a misdemenor drug charge is 600.00. You can figure there is two or three million people every year that get charged. That is state money not well spent.

  • Dereck

    I have a brother who is about to do 5 years for owning a plant. I am so sick and tired of hearing people say it’s a gateway drug. Most of the pot smokers I know stick to pot exclusively. Most are peaceful proud tax paying americans. Pot laws have torn my family apart and I have become very resentful of our goverment. If your argument is the tired, old “gateway drug” approach. Then sit back enjoy your caffine, nicotine or alcohol and think about how much better you are than me.

    Thanks to Mr Ron Paul. I am now a supporter for life


  • T Reamonn

    We should ask Stephen Baldwin if he believes Martin Scorsese should have been punished for having abused Cocaine when he was younger.

  • Ross

    Drugs have always been used by man in some form or another.Ban one and someone will invent a new one.On the other hand ,legalise everything and we could have a problem many times that of alcohol.

    If Govt is allowed to tax drugs and then Govt has a vested interest in their dissemination.Do we develop a twilight situation wherby the taking of drugs is not illegal but the resulant poor behaviour is penalised with no excuses.There are no easy solutions.

  • Jay G.

    Ron Paul clearly won the debate. Simply because there wasn’t a debate. Steve Baldwin hardly got to say anything. Don’t get me wrong I am clearly for ending the Drug War. Even if Baldwin was able to speak the facts align with Dr. Paul’s position. I have to admit that it was nice to see Ron Paul able to monopolize a debate for a change, usually he’s the one twiddling his thumbs waiting for a chance to speak.

  • travis

    Any one else notice how High stephen baldwin was. Ever since Arnold became the govenor of california we let actors and singers into the world of politics. This is a pet peve of mine and i think we the people should decide not this so called government.

    • observer

      No offense, but since when did we let people who have no idea who, how or, why people smoke weed… Make weed related decisions?

      I don’t care if Dr. Paul has a ‘Doctorate’, he obviously hangs around with the drinkers in congress and admittedly has:

      1) No idea if stoned people drive
      2) If stoned people drive, apparently they are faultless!!

      It’s like Mr. Paul saying ‘when was the last time you heard someone in BFE Texas get pulled over for cocaine!’

      Dude, Ron Paul might be progressive thinking, but he is like Ozzy Osbourne, he is just spent toooo much time in his enivronment (politics) to know a single thing he isn’t fed…

      • p.s. richards

        Studies have shown that stoned drivers are actually more cautious drivers than your average cellphone talking/big mac eating driver. Also, many of my friends and I are all regularly stoned while driving and have no trouble at all. Ron Paul is either enlightened enough to see this or has smoked a couple joints going down the road before.

      • travis

        So what are you saying that we shouldn’t let politicians make decisions for us? I would have to agree to that. We were supposed to be free not a little free with a lot of laws. Check the books they didn’t start making a whole lot of laws until the 1940’s.

  • Darrell


    Not sure how often you may check into this site, but I hope this one makes it to you.

    After the bailouts, failed immigration policies (or lack there of), selling debt to China, . . . list goes on and on, it appears the greatest country in the world is headed for ruin. Washington has served as a whore to the highest bidders–foreign governments, corporate lobbiest, and big oil. Our debt is out of control, our jobs have headed over seas, and our country is being invaded by a mexican nation who insist on a dual society.
    All of this just to say that we cannot wait a moment longer to reclaim our country. Now is the time for the second American Revolution, and you should be the one to lead this effort. I and many others are willing to take back our country, but cannot succeed without a unified and organized effort. If you lead, we’ll follow.
    Please help.

  • Dan D

    yeah the state receives tax money, but it’s the feds that have the problem. A state can make it medically legal, the FED’s, however, still have it classified as an illegal substance on all accounts.
    So, yes it is a state issue, and i don’t see why the government thinks they should step in and tell the people that what they voted for it wrong.

  • Terry

    Come on guys is it that hard to see that Baldwin is high as f*ck.

  • marcus

    Dear Ron Paul,

    I love you!

  • steffen

    Was it even a debate? Baldwin only had one point and ron paul did his usually long winded speeches (which i would usually rather hear the the other guy anyway). it didnt seem that Stephen was really there to depate, he spoke for about 30 secs…

  • Bob

    Sorry, but is the polling even necessary? You probably have an idea what the result will be. Yes, and I voted the last option 🙂 It’s there, somebody got to vote it.

  • Joe

    I like Stephen Baldwin, however at the end there he acted a lot like his brother.

    I agree with the Doctor that it is a State Issue.


  • Mr. Baldwin is not very well versed in his American History. The main staple crop of our founding fathers was hemp. It was a prime factor in the frontier economy. George Washington himself tended to his hemp fields, as did Jefferson. The Declaration of Independence most likely was written on hemp paper. Its uses are mentioned above, paper, cloth, ethanol, bio-fuels, all are uses for this simple weed. As for the ignorant Gateway Drug theorists, all addicts interviewed indicated that they had started on …MILK!
    Let’s ban the cows. As many are aware, the number 1 topic on website concerned the de-criminalization and/or legalization of marijuana. Let us NOT permit this groundswell to subside. Remember “DO IT NOW!”

    • observer

      Let me get this straight, you are comparing growing hemp with getting stoned off of cannabis? They aren’t even the same type of plant. You must not be very well versed in botany, or you are misrepresenting the facts 🙁

      Additionally, hemp was “The main staple crop of our founding fathers”? I could have sworn it was cotton…

      • travis

        This guy you replied to wants to ban cows. Wow what a tree hugging remark, and i do not mean hippies. I am talking about the enviromentalists who started this whole global warming. The war on drugs is just a ploy to get you the good giving tax payer, to look this way, while they the people spending our money, to make bad decisions,some if we could find the paper trail,if there even is one, would be so illegal that it would put the war on drugs in the back corner of some government controlled building, and never be mentioned again.

  • Aaron G

    You know I think its funny but I was talking to someone I know about this interview. He was on Baldwin’s side, the anti-legalization side,of the argument. What makes it funny to me is that he,my friend, is a big time pot-head. I just don’t get it! Someone who smokes pot illegally doesn’t believe it should be made legal. I just don’t get it.

    • travis

      Your pot smoking friend has got to be a dealer. If its legal he would be put out of business, or start paying taxes. I am not against pot. I think it should be flooded into the country a whole lot more than we are currently getting. Think about it flood the system, and then there is no control. That is how our founders of this country would have done it. If there is such a great quantity more than any government agency or state can handle they cant put us all in prison for having pot.

  • Baldwin definiteley sounded like an idiot. If he had at least one brain cell then he would know that the whole gateway theory has been disproven. It’s a bunch of malarky! One of my best friends tried cocaine before she tried anything so that proves that the gateway drug is differnent for everyone. Baldwin also wants to say that there’s no reasearch proving what it does…but again, that’s because the feds wont allow any reasearch to be done; the reasearch that is done is done with the shwaggiest of cannabis so the findings aren’t really conclusive. Cannabis is the only intoxicant/medicine that doesn’t have to be altered in any way to make it psycho-active and over 1,500lbs of it would have to be smoke in under 15 minutes in order to cause an overdose. Alcohol and tobacco cause over 400,000 deaths per year, but yet the public is told that cannabis is the most dangerous drug. People want to complain about all the violence surrounding drugs, but that’s because criminals are the ones controlling the market. There’s not breathalizer, as of now, that can detect current use, but there are other field sobriety tests that can be administered. People seems to think that if cannabis is regulated that kids will be able to buy it, but they can buy it now. Dealers don’t card anyone. The U.S was supposed to be founded on personal liberty. Every citizen is supposed to have to personal freedom to live their life the way they choose, just so long as they’re not hurting anyone of endangering anyone. If people are allowed to use alcohol with the assumption that they’ll be responsible, then adults should be allowed to use a safer and less toxic substance that has mutiple uses. Cannabis can be used medicinally without adverse effects and it can be used recreationally to intoxicate. The parts of the plant not smoked can be used to make anything from plastic, metal, oil, fabrics, fuel…There are so many uses for cannabis but yet everyday we’re lied to by the feds. It’s disgusting.

  • Daniel DeFehr

    Ron, it seems these days you are the only politician that makes any sense. I want to personally thank you for being a responsible, down to earth, concerned citizen. I really don’t understand how more people don’t make the connection between alcohol prohibition and this war on drugs. A significant amount of people already smoke marijuana, making it legal won’t get more people to do it by any means. Besides, the government can get tax money from it! Please keep doing what you’re doing.

    A worried American

    • Terry

      They do receive tax money from it . A club owner in southern california pays between $300,000 to $500,000 a year in taxes. I don’t understand if the government is knowingly receiving/taking money from socalled drug dealers doesn’t that mean there braking the law and should be jailed for being an accomplices.

  • Patrick Wood

    Complex and Simple Regulation and Advantages of Marijuana under Complex Regulation
    By: Patrick Ray Wood
    Before I begin let me define the two main terms I will be using and give my basic belief of what is classified as a drug.
    Simple regulation: Government or society in universally making an Item illegal to possess for the elimination of an item from society (Primary Form)
    Complex Regulation: Regulating an item not on the basis of illegalization but on the bases of laws of distribution and other aspects of private property laws, (I definitely not lawery) is complex regulation.
    My Belief: The base qualities of a drug are the abilities to alter the bio-chemical physiological process of the brain, (mental processes and automatic process.) Marijuana is a drug, it has the base qualities of a drug, drugs like cocaine, heroin, meth, advil, anti-depressants, alcohol, nicotine, and many other common drug store items. But like Advil, anti-depressants and other medicinal/psychotically prescribed medication it as a utility and like alcohol and cigarettes it is not harmful enough to society or to the individual to be designated as an illegal item. (To clarify an illegal item is an item that is absolutely harmful to society or the individual either physically and mentally)
    There are varying degrees of regulation, like laws of distribution of alcohol vs. the prohibition of alcohol. In order to regulate an item it is easiest to eliminated the need to regulate on a complex level (laws of distribution) by making the item illegal to possess. The simple regulation of an item is not a set of particular delegated regulations of an item but simple regulation is the general regulation of an item, mainly in the sense of the illegalization (elimination) of an item within a society. With simple regulation the prime means of regulation are controlled by the police state. Simple regulation is necessary if and only if the item in question is absolutely physically/mentally harmful to the individual or society like murder, rape, and stealing and many other unquestionable atrocities. The main problem of simple regulation of an item that is not absolutely harmful and is capable of being of utility for society or the individual is that it allows for complex regulation of an item but not through lawful means, drug cartels and black market. (Utility that can facilitate in the flourishing of the individual or society is main factor of an item within society because in its utility for furloughing, it is a need, and all needs in a capitalistic society are commoditized.)
    In the problem of illegalizing the drug of marijuana, since the regulation is confined to only the illegalization of an item in universal terms, the particular regulation of an item will be then controlled by the underground and not governed by any standard of law abiding rules. In simple regulation of an item like marijuana which is illegalized on the bases the it is a dangerous drug (harmful biochemical process in the brain) and can lead to other drugs the are even more dangerous, plus some may believe that it cannot be regulated (but more on that later), the regulation is limited to the role of only prohibiting access to the drug and use of the drug an any circumstance. While other drugs like cocaine, heroin, meth, they are by necessity restricted to simple regulation because already existing particular regulations disallow the manufacturing, distribution, or medical use of these drugs. The manufacturing and chemical process of making meth prohibited for use to all but the scientific community and science is not a business it is a study so the manufactures of the business world are restricted to the materials which the can use to make products either by health standards and business practices (distribution of a know drug that if used in small excess can kill or cause the pain of others), I In summery for brevity that the same can be said about cocaine and heroine.
    Concerning the black-market trade of marijuana (I guess, a billion dollar business) it can be avoided in that if marijuana was placed under complex regulation and thereby be legalized as a commodity (in the sense that marijuana is arguably useful and not absolutely harmful) the complex regulation from the black-market trade will be superseded by the more powerful governmental laws and restrictions. Restrictions and laws which are controlled by business and distribution laws, federal and state tax laws, and the FDA and Office of the Surgeon General. The Main point is the simple regulation of marijuana is a needless harm, if and only if marijuana offers a utility for the good of the individual and is not completely harmful it can be made into a producible (and more importantly taxable) commodities because it can be treated as a crop like cotton or rice in its means of a production and distribution. (The means of distribution and production of meth, cocaine and heroine cannot abide by the business laws that would govern them as a commodity)
    First let me try to explain the complex regulation of an item. Complex regulation is not limited to the regulation of an item, it does not allow for the simple regulation of the same item; while in simple regulation of an item on the terms of a certain party does in fact allow for another party to create complex regulations of the same item, (I.e. the black-market). For how can an item that is regulated through particular restrictions and laws also be regulated by the elimination of it. The main point of complex regulation is that it regulates from the perfected of a shared responsibility of regulation which is best accomplished the laws and restrictions decide by the society at all levels of government and more importantly the complex regulation of an item is the comodifying of and item because the desired end of complex regulation of an item is for the public use of the item and benefit of the item, (personally, socially, or economically in the capitalist sense).
    We will use alcohol and antidepressants as examples of items of regulation. In the regulation of alcohol (which was once simply regulated by prohibition, but more on this later) as it is now regulated, alcohol is not regulated in a direct way like simple regulation, but instead is regulated by the laws of distribution, business, safety, and federal (locally, stately, and federally regulation). Because alcohol is of a complex regulation it becomes a safe business commodity in that the public and citizens have been a part of every level of the regulation of alcohol through the local, federal, and state democratic processes of regulation (supposable)
    In reference to the complex regulation of pharmaceutical pills like anti-depressants (a drug that directly interferes with the chemical processes of the brain to create a desired effect), the regulation is complex because it involves federal committees like the FDA (and is supposedly governed by the Office of the Surgeon General) and therefore is supposed to have undergone proper scientific and health review that is supposed to declare it safe for the American public (I.e. will not kill the public or not cause arbitrary pain for the public.) Basically the main gist of the complex regulation of an item is that the means of its regulation are controlled and enforced through many arenas of government while simple regulation is limited to only one area of government, (the police state)
    My main argument is that marijuana is able to be an item of complex regulation and that to treat it as a simple regulation is to waste money on an item that is already complexly regulate by a black-market and thereby the government missing out on the profit of this market and suffering from the non regulated actions of the blackmarket, (drug war down south for example). The advantages of having marijuana under a complex regulation by the government as opposed to as it is now where the government controls and pays for the simple regulation while the blackmarket controls the complex regulation. It is for the economic good of America to legalize marijuana under complex regulation because it is a profitable commodity and can be taxed.
    I may send a better argument in the future this is kind of a spur of the moment Idea
    As Obama said “The Fierce Urgency of the Now”

    (I am writing this in hope that mainly it will be read and understood as a hopeful plan to help the economy and to be honest I hope that marijuana will be legalized and commoditized.)

  • I wonder if Baldwin even realizes he is talking to a medical doctor.

    • Jared M.

      Why doesn’t anyone ever mention to counter the gateway drug theory that your much more likely to be introduced to harder drugs by an illegal drug dealer than say your local 7/11.