Despite their personal views, Clinton and Trump have pledged to allow states to regulate marijuana.
While President Obama has never hid his penchant for marijuana during his youth in Hawaii, Americans soon will elect a president who claims never to have touched it.
Republican Donald Trump boasts that he has never smoked marijuana or a cigarette, or had a drop of alcohol.
Democrat Hillary Clinton was adamant on CNN when asked whether she had ever smoked marijuana, replying that she never had and never would: “Absolutely not.”
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Despite their personal views, Clinton and Trump have pledged to allow the states to regulate marijuana.
That would be welcome news for Washington state, Colorado, Oregon and Alaska, where voters approved recreational marijuana, along with the 26 states that allow the drug to be used for medical reasons. But legalization backers still have one nagging question: Can you believe either Clinton or Trump?
Both candidates have a history of flip-flopping on major issues, and a majority of Americans don’t trust either candidate.
Trump, who once called himself a supporter of abortion rights, now wants to ban abortions. After first opposing an increase in the minimum wage, he wants it raised.
In 1990, the Republican candidate called for legalizing all drugs, a position he no longer holds. And his statements on marijuana have given ammunition to both sides of the legalization debate.
Trump told a Denver television reporter recently that he would not use federal laws to block Colorado’s marijuana sales: “I’m a states person. I think it should be up to the states, absolutely.”
But last year, he told a conservative gathering that Colorado had experienced “big problems” by legalizing marijuana. “I think it’s bad, and I feel strongly about that,” he said.
Ethan Nadelmann, the executive director of Drug Policy Action, a pro-legalization group, said Trump had been “all over the map,” making it hard to know what he’d do.
“He’s entirely unpredictable on this issue, as on so many others,” Nadelmann said.
Clinton once opposed same-sex marriage but now backs it. As secretary of state, she promoted Obama’s proposed Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal, only to oppose it now.
Like Trump, Clinton backs medical marijuana, though she says it needs more study. And Clinton has repeatedly said that states such as Washington and Colorado should be “laboratories of democracy” in experimenting with recreational marijuana.
In a 2014 interview on CNN, Clinton distanced herself from her husband, former President Bill Clinton, who famously said in 1992 that he had smoked marijuana once but never inhaled.
“No, I didn’t do it when I was young,” she said. “I’m not going to start now.”
In a report card from the Marijuana Policy Project, another pro-legalization group, Clinton got a B-plus while Trump received a C-plus. The group gave A-plus grades to two other presidential candidates: former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and Jill Stein of the Green Party.
“This is the most marijuana-friendly field of presidential candidates in history,” Robert Capecchi, the organization’s director of federal policies, said when the report card was released in May.
Tom Angell, the chairman of the pro-legalization group Marijuana Majority, said this year is the first time that all remaining presidential candidates had promised to respect state marijuana laws.
“In 2008, our movement had to physically chase down candidates during the New Hampshire primary just to elicit promises not to arrest cancer patients who were abiding by state medical marijuana laws,” he said. “That shows how far we’ve come in only a couple election cycles.”
Obama got in front of the issue in 2006, poking fun at Bill Clinton for claiming that he had never inhaled marijuana.
“I inhaled frequently. That was the point,” Obama said.
In his 2012 book on Obama, biographer David Maraniss described how Obama had smoked marijuana with his buddies at the Punahou School in Hawaii.
As president, Obama said he’d grown up in a home without a father and was angry about it: “I made bad choices. I got high, without always thinking about the harm that it could do.”
No one knows how many of the 44 presidents have smoked marijuana, but Richard Nixon apparently was not one of them.
Nixon signed the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, the law that classified marijuana as the most dangerous Schedule 1 drug, like LSD and heroin.
In a declassified recorded conversation with an aide, Nixon said he wanted a national commission to make “a goddamn strong statement about marijuana,” one that “just tears the ass out of them.”
President Carter tried a softer approach on regulation. He called for an end to federal penalties for possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana, “leaving the states free to adopt whatever laws they wish.” The proposal went nowhere.
President Reagan went back to Nixon’s get-tough approach, saying marijuana use could cause “permanent ill effects.” And he said that “marijuana, pot, grass, whatever you want to call it, is probably the most dangerous drug in the United States.”
Reagan’s successor, President George H.W. Bush, stepped up the war on drugs in 1988, saying “legalization is just another word for surrender, and surrender is not in our vocabulary.”
Bush’s son, President George W. Bush, apparently smoked marijuana. He was outed by a friend, Doug Wead, who secretly taped some of his conversations with Bush before he ran for president.
According to a report published by The New York Times in 2005, Bush told Wead that he wouldn’t answer reporters’ questions about marijuana “because I don’t want some little kid doing what I tried.” After he left the White House, Bush joked with TV host Jay Leno that he “didn’t behave that well” when he was younger. “I might have smoked some,” he said.
With Clinton leading in the polls, many marijuana backers say she’ll come under heavy pressure in coming months, with the Democratic national platform calling for a “pathway” to legalization for the first time.