AP Photo/Matt Rourke, AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Behind the Times


Throughout the years, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have repeatedly said they have never tried marijuana, which is a too-hot topic for the country. A whiff of uncertainty (minus any telltale funk) clouds an already raucous and circus-like election atmosphere as up to 20 states look to legalize marijuana for recreational or medical use in the upcoming elections. It remains unclear how the assurances of no toking from the presidential circuit will affect future Oval Office policy decisions that involve the DEA, FBI, FDA, IRS, and areas of scientific, law enforcement, banking and administrative work.

Their admissions mean Clinton and Trump won’t be able to relate to the experiences of millions of citizens. Users turn to marijuana for various reasons: its calming effects and its ability to often help manage pain and appetite. Other reasons people use include managing depression, upping creativity, stopping seizures, helping with PTSD, and dealing with negative emotions. The mellow factor for marijuana use is often one of the main pleasant reasons citizens use, too. These reasons are not something either Clinton or Trump have experienced or can relate to, so their understanding of the importance of marijuana is via info from researchers and white-paper writers, which is not a full understanding by any stretch.

When she was promoting her book “Hard Choices” on a live town hall meeting with CNN in 2014, Clinton confessed she has never smoked marijuana when asked if she would try marijuana when it was legal, telling moderator Christiane Amanpour, “I didn’t do it when I was young, I’m not going to start now.”

Clinton’s history comes with the fascinating twist of her husband, Bill Clinton, and his 1992 admission that he “didn’t inhale” when he tried marijuana as a young Rhodes scholar. At the time, the admission was both funny and confusing, because most users at that time tended to inhale. However, this “didn’t inhale” line gave him wide infamy for being the first president to admit anything about marijuana usage. It is unknown if Melania Trump has ever tried marijuana, but she has never been in the political sphere until now. The Clintons remain a political powerhouse couple used to decades in the media spotlight. For any marriage, there are differences in choices and actions, sure. Bill Clinton seems to consistently be the more “cut loose” type than Hillary throughout their history.

There’s been much mention of the fact that Trump has been on the record many times saying he has never tried drugs. When his book “The America We Deserve” was published in 2000, it had a telling quote: “I’ve never taken drugs of any kind, never had a glass of alcohol. Never had a cigarette, never had a cup of coffee.”

Family history has a big play in Trump’s choices, because his older brother (by 8 years), Freddy, died of alcoholism at age 43 in 1981. (Freddy had often told Donald to not drink or smoke throughout his life.) When asked earlier this year by FOX News, “Have you ever smoked weed?” Trump replied, “I have not. I would tell you 100 percent because everyone else seems to admit it. Almost like, it’s almost like, ‘Hey, it’s a sign.’ No, I have not smoked a cigarette either.” It is almost puritanical that Trump classifies coffee in the same category as nicotine and cannabis.

For policy matters related to marijuana, Hillary Clinton seems to stick to an approach that is cautious and shows a history geared toward waiting. On MSNBC this year, she said she would potentially go for a federal relaxation via medical research. That would work by changing the drug categorization to Schedule 2 from the more severe Schedule 1. For a live CNN primary debate last year, she stated she was not ready to elaborate on her stance for recreational use of marijuana; this lack of stance reflects most potential candidates regardless of their party affiliation.

Even back in 2014, Hillary Clinton was not ready to endorse decriminalization but was open to its use for medical marijuana users, by reportedly stating, “I think we need to be very clear about the benefits of marijuana use for medicinal purposes. I don’t think we’ve done enough research yet.” This approach was in step with many left-wing politicians at the time, who were seeing the rapid rise of revenue and cannabis tourism dollars for states like Colorado and Washington, which were able to sell marijuana legally, and demand seemed to be high.

Trump’s stance on marijuana policy is tough to gauge because it has evolved, and he has been light on giving details during the campaign. He does hold up the notion that the U.S. is losing the war on drugs, and that legalization would be one way to win, which is in keeping with his brand as a businessman and winner. While he did publicly go on record with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune as saying he was all for a legalize and tax approach back in 1990 to “take the profit away from these drug czars,” that was Trump commenting as a brash businessman personality. As a candidate for public office, Trump now seems to have issues with committing to any sort of cannabis policy aside from a comment with GQ Magazine that marijuana for medical purposes is “absolutely fine.”

One thing remains clear: Whomever ends up in the Oval Office will need to address the legislative issues that the vastly growing cannabis marketplace brings.