The last three presidents admitted to using marijuana, as have a growing number of Americans, but it appears likely that the next occupant of the Oval Office has never consumed cannabis.
Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton told CNN she’s “absolutely not” tried marijuana. “I didn’t do it when I was young. I’m not going to start now.” Similarly, in an interview with KNPR radio, she said, “No I haven’t [ever smoked marijuana]. I think that you know it’s a very personal decision and that’s why we need the states to make the move to try to get us more real-world information and experience so we know exactly how to move forward here.”
And likely Republican nominee Donald Trump claimed in his book “The America We Deserve,” that he’s never tried cannabis. “I’ve never taken drugs of any kind, never had a glass of alcohol. Never had a cigarette, never had a cup of coffee,” he wrote. Similarly, in an interview with Fox News, Trump said, “No I have not [smoked marijuana]. I would tell you 100% because everyone else seems to admit it nowadays… I’ve never smoked a cigarette either.” In an interview with People magazine, Trump indicated his aversion to drug use was shaped by his brother’s death from alcoholism. “He had a profound impact on my life, because you never know where you’re going to end up,” he said.
The lifelong cannabis abstinence puts the contenders among a shrinking share of Americans who say they’ve never tried the drug. The most recent federal survey found that 44.2 percent of people in the U.S. over the age of 12 have used cannabis at least once, up from 43.7 percent the previous year and 42.8 percent the year before that. Those numbers only represent those who are willing to admit to illegal marijuana use when asked by federal researchers; the actual amount of American tokers is probably even higher.
And the lack of experience with marijuana puts Clinton and Trump at odds with the last three American presidents, who all admitted consuming cannabis in some form.
President Bill Clinton was the first commander in chief in history to admit to cannabis consumption. But he seemed embarrassed about it, claiming he “didn’t inhale.” It was considered fairly scandalous at the time.
In contrast, President Barack Obama made no effort to shy away from his youthful cannabis use. “I inhaled frequently,” he said. “That was the point.”
Obama even admitted to using cocaine. “Pot had helped, and booze; maybe a little blow when you could afford it,” he wrote in his book “Dreams From My Father.”
And President George W. Bush acknowledged past marijuana use in a secretly taped conversation with a close advisor. “I wouldn’t answer the marijuana questions,” he said. “You know why? Because I don’t want some little kid doing what I tried.”
While the recent trend in pot-using POTUSes has led some observers to joke that marijuana is a gateway drug to the Oval Office, the current election cycle shows that toking might not be a modern requirement for the highest office in the land after all, even if never having used cannabis could soon be a minority position.
But what will it mean for marijuana law reform efforts if the next president doesn’t have personal knowledge of the drug’s effects?
“I don’t think the lack of experience will have a big impact on their policy decisions,” Morgan Fox, communications manager for the Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana.com in an email. “Both candidates have made statements in support of states being able to determine their own marijuana policies to an extent.”
Even without knowing what it’s like to feel the fear of being on the wrong side of marijuana prohibition laws, many elected officials can still see the policy and political sense in supporting reform, he said. “It doesn’t take personal experience with marijuana consumption to recognize a terrible marijuana policy. Whether they can relate to consumers or not, both candidates are going to have to deal with the fact that a majority of Americans want marijuana to be legal for adults.”
It is worth mentioning that there is still a chance the next president will be someone who knows what a marijuana high feels like. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson is an unabashed cannabis enthusiast and legalization supporter. Although he has pledged not to get stoned if elected, and has ceased consumption while on the campaign trail, Johnson says he indulged as recently as two months ago. He has also admitted to driving under the influence of marijuana and trafficking it from from legalized Colorado to his home state of New Mexico, where recreational use remains prohibited. He even served for a time as CEO and president of a cannabis company.
Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s personal history with marijuana is unknown, though she does support legalization.
While a number of 2016 campaign developments so far have taken many seasoned political observers by surprise, U.S. electoral history and current polling make it seem likely that the next president will either be Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. If so, by January we’ll have a cannabis virgin as 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW’s resident in chief for the first time since 1993.
Then again, some may find it hard to believe that Hillary never joined Bill in “not inhaling.”
To find out what else the candidates have said about their own marijuana use and their thoughts on cannabis policy, check out Marijuana.com’s comprehensive guide.
Photo Courtesy of Blablo101.