You might be a 90s kid if you remember Bill Clinton, once confronted by the fact that he touched wacky tobacky in his 20s, defending himself by saying he never ‘inhaled.’ In a recent interview, it’s a stretch he continued to stand by.
The return to the subject came from a new interview with Clinton in The New York Times in promotion of his and James Patterson’s new book The President Is Missing, a fictional thriller about, well, a missing president. When the conversation arrived at places like the Stoneman Douglas shooting and Hillary Clinton’s own failed bid for the White House, Times interviewer Josh Glancy decided to shift things to lighter matters.
“Given your political career is behind you now,” asks Glancy, “can you tell me, Mr. President, did you inhale?” Clinton tells Glancy that he’s glad the matter came up so that he can readdress it decades later. “No!” responds the former president.
The story originated during Clinton’s first successful campaign for the Oval Office. During a forum in March of 1992, Clinton was asked if he had always stayed on the straight and narrow, ever breaking any international laws. “I’ve never broken a state law,” said Clinton. “But when I was in England I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and I didn’t like it. I didn’t inhale it, and never tried it again.”
The quip became fodder for reporters and late night hosts, lasting in the headlines for weeks. The fact that it didn’t become a setback for Clinton amongst voters caused pundits at the time to consider it a watershed moment for cannabis. A sign that public feelings on cannabis were shifting in its favor.
Still, to return to that strange assertion is much weirder in an era where marijuana use is undeniably less scrutinized. Barack Obama even mocked the moment in 2006 before he beat Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries, joking: “When I was a kid, I inhaled.”