David Adams took a long pause.
Adams, who, in 2009, was Rand Paul's first campaign manager when Paul was running for the U.S. Senate, was finishing a lengthy interview with the Herald-Leader just days before his old boss was set to announce his run for the White House.
The last question — what advice would you give Paul as a presidential candidate? — could have gone any number of ways. Adams could have suggested that Paul focus on his Tea Party roots. Or maybe emphasize his foreign policy differences with the rest of the forming Republican field.
Instead, Adams offered two words: "Legalize marijuana."
"I think the first Republican that comes out of the gate for legalizing marijuana, ending the drug war, which is a fiscal catastrophe, becomes virtually unbeatable," Adams said.
Adams, who is managing the Republican gubernatorial campaign of recently retired state Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott, said he was speaking for himself and not for Scott.
For Paul, a candidate who hails from the state of libertarianism as much as he does from the state of Kentucky, calling for the legalization of recreational marijuana use is a taboo line that he does not appear ready to cross. After all, he's running to be the presidential nominee of the party of "just say no."
But Monday was April 20, a date celebrated by many users of 420 (a popular code name for marijuana), so let's pause to examine why Paul was named one of "12 people to watch in marijuana policy" on Monday by the Brookings Institution, a centrist think tank in Washington.
Regarding his own use of marijuana, Paul has been somewhat circumspect. But his remarks in December to WHAS-TV's Joe Arnold left little room to guess about whether the senator, in fact, inhaled.
"Let's just say I wasn't a choir boy when I was in college," Paul told Arnold. "And that I can recognize that kids make mistakes, and I can say that I made mistakes when I was a kid."
As Arnold said at the time, "Paul was quick to point out the admitted or presumed drug use" by the three most recent 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."
Reforming drug sentencing laws has been one of Paul's top issues, arguing wherever he goes that kids' lives shouldn't be ruined by mistakes made when they are young.
Paul went so far as to describe former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as hypocritical after it was revealed in The Boston Globe that Bush used marijuana while he was a student at the prestigious Andover School.
"He was even opposed to medical marijuana," Paul told The Hill in January. "This is a guy who now admits he smoked marijuana, but he wants to put people in jail who do.
"I think that's the real hypocrisy, is that people on our side, which include a lot of people who made mistakes growing up, admit their mistakes but now still want to put people in jail for that.
"Had he been caught at Andover, he'd have never been governor, he'd probably never have a chance to run for the presidency."
Most recently, Paul joined Democratic U.S. Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York last month in sponsoring legislation that would end the threat of federal prosecution for patients who use medical marijuana.
A number of publications described the effort as the first step toward ending the federal government's war on marijuana.
Paul's moves have won the attention of marijuana advocates across the country.
In addition to the Brookings Institution designation, he joined rapper Snoop Dogg and CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta on the International Business Times' list of the "20 most influential people in cannabis."
The newspaper asked whether Paul will be "America's first green president."
Aaron Houston, a Washington lobbyist and longtime advocate for the reform of marijuana laws, said Monday that Paul had been "incredibly effective" in raising the issue, and that the senator had been savvy to "recognize the political power of marijuana."
"It's a wise position for him to highlight because it's actually the position of the majority of voters in every swing state except for one," Houston said.
"He's made some amazing steps in this direction, and I expect to see him talking more about this as we move forward."
According to a Gallup Poll from November, 51 percent of Americans favor legalization, but the poll found that 64 percent of Democrats favored the idea, compared to only 39 percent of Republicans.
GOP primary voters might be more in line with, say, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who told radio host Hugh Hewitt this month that he would "crack down and not permit" legalization of marijuana if he were president, but Paul would probably find a pretty receptive audience should he make it to the general election.
None of this is to say that Paul is promoting marijuana use.
When asked about marijuana, Paul repeatedly has offered some version of the answer he told the Hoover Institution in June 2013. He doesn't "really believe in prison sentences for these minor, nonviolent drug offenses," Paul said, but he isn't "willing to go all the way to say it is a good idea either."
"I think people who use marijuana all the time lose IQ points," Paul said. "I think they lose their drive to show up for work."
For his part, Adams said that he wishes his former boss luck and that "it's pretty cool" that someone he knew as an unknown, upstart candidate just a few years ago is now in the hunt to be the Republican presidential nominee.
But Adams said he remains an "undecided voter."
"It's kind of been off my radar screen a little bit," he said. "So I don't know. It may just be that Rand is the guy. I just ... I have no reason to commit my vote to him at this point."
Maybe a call to legalize weed could be that reason for Adams and other voters. Or maybe doing so would leave Paul's chances of winning the nomination up in smoke.