We’ve come a long way in 27 years.
In March of 1992, then–Arkansas governor Bill Clinton admitted to experimenting with marijuana while he was a student at Oxford University. “I didn’t like it. I didn’t inhale it, and never tried it again,” he said.
On “The Breakfast Club,” a New York City–based radio show, California senator and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris admitted just the opposite. Asked if she’s ever smoked marijuana, Harris said, “I have. And I inhaled. I did inhale.”
Host Charlamagne tha God asked if she would smoke again provided marijuana is legalized. Harris, who said she smoked a “long time ago,” didn’t answer, but she did use the language of Marie Kondo to endorse weed. “Listen, I think it gives a lot of people joy and we need more joy in this world,” she said.
Harris’s admission came after she was asked her about her stance on the legalization of marijuana. She said she supports it. “Half my family’s from Jamaica. Are you kidding me?” she joked.
The former California attorney general added that she’d like to see more research in order to better understand the “impact of weed on a developing brain.” She added: “The other issue that we’ve got to address is how we’re going to measure impairment when somebody has been smoking weed, in terms of driving.”
That’s a subject she’s raised before. In 2010, Proposition 19 was on ballots in California. The measure, which ultimately failed, would have made it the first state to legalize weed. Then the San Francisco district attorney, Harris, like many top California Democrats, opposed the ballot initiative and expressed concern that it would lead to more “driving while high.”
“Spending two decades in courtrooms, Harris believes that drug selling harms communities,” her campaign manager said in 2010. “Harris supports the legal use of medicinal marijuana but does not support anything beyond that.”
She remained opposed to legalization in 2015, when Ron Gold, her Republican challenger for AG, came out in support of recreational weed. “He’s entitled to his opinion,” she said, laughing off the issue to local news reporters. By January of 2018, Harris’s public position began to change. She no longer opposed legalization, her spokesperson told Roll Call, and thought “states should be allowed to do what they want.”
Just a few months later, Harris’s evolution on the issue was complete. “Making marijuana legal at the federal level is the smart thing to do and it’s the right thing to do,” she tweeted. She also signed on as a co-sponsor of the Marijuana Justice Act, a bill to make marijuana legal at the federal level. Introduced by Senator Cory Booker, who’s also running for president, the bill has been co-sponsored by 2020 hopefuls Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand. Likely candidate Bernie Sanders is also onboard.
Harris’s support for marijuana legalization is clearly not unique among the crowded Democratic primary. But neither is her admission to sparking a bit of joy in her youth. “I’ve done marijuana twice in my life when I was very young,” Sanders said on the campaign trail in 2016. “What it did for me, is it made me cough a lot. But I gather other people have had different experiences.”