Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., didn't endorse legalization of marijuana, but he wants to make it a much lesser crime, saying laws governing drug possession and sale are "so draconian that people wind up in prison for decades at a time."
"If we're going to have punishment, [make sure] that the punishment is more appropriate, meets the crime, [and] it doesn't disproportionately target people's color," Paul told the Washington Examiner in a Friday interview.
"We're looking at mandatory minimums, we're also looking at whether or not some of these could be misdemeanors not felonies. So, for example, I think some drug possession and even sale of minor amounts, if it were a misdemeanor, then people wouldn't lose their voting rights and they also wouldn't for the rest of their life have to check a box that says they're a convicted felon."
Paul said that by changing policies that disproportionately hit the black community, Republicans could reach out to minority voters who traditionally vote overwhelmingly for Democrats.
"Black Americans, at least a third lean our way on a lot of issues, on a preponderance of issues — with Latinos, it may be as much as half — so we're way underperforming on our vote [totals]," he said.
"For me, it seems very natural because most of the things I'm talking about are civil liberties ideas and they're things I've always really been for, so I don't think it's really a problem or a stretch for me."
Paul visited Detroit on Friday to unveil an economic proposal and discuss a "21st-century civil rights agenda" that he hopes will rehabilitate blighted cities.
"Both parties, Democrat and Republican, they must admit that we haven't done all we could do for the people who live in the cities, particularly Detroit," he said during his speech at the Detroit Economic Club.