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That Time Bill Clinton Claimed He "Didn't Inhale"

When it comes to cannabis soundbites, few can top Bill Clinton's infamous "didn't inhale" statement from the 1992 presidential election. At that time, then Arkansas Governor Clinton - who turns 70 today - was making a name for himself as a maverick candidate. He ate at McDonald's, played saxophone on The Arsenio Hall Show and admitted to smoking marijuana - sorta.

"When I was in England [as a Rhodes scholar], I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and I didn’t like it, and didn’t inhale, and never tried it again," Clinton said during a March 1992 interview with CBS. The statement quickly became especially popular among comedians spoofing Clinton's battle for the White House with incumbent President George H.W. Bush.

Saturday Night Live lampooned the quote that year in a mock presidential debate. During the sketch, Clinton - played by Phil Hartman - was accused of burning the American flag during a protest in the Soviet Union. "I tried to burn an American flag once," Hartman said. "I didn't like it. It gave off toxic fumes, so I didn't inhale."

And the pre-Internet meme lived on long after the election. In 2006, then Illinois Senator Barack Obama riffed on Clinton's quote when asked about cannabis. "When I was a kid, I inhaled frequently," Obama said. "That was the point."

Obama gained praise for that confession among some conservative pundits who appreciated that he answered honestly instead of lying to the media about inhaling. But Clinton doesn't like the insinuation that he was being deceitful about his cannabis use. The 42nd president insists that he was being perfectly honest about marijuana.

"Like many things in the press, that whole thing has been totally twisted," Clinton said during a 2013 interview with Jorge Ramos of Fusion. "I never denied that I smoked marijuana. I told the truth." 

And he doesn't mind laughing at the controversy. "I thought it was funny," Clinton confessed during the interview.

However, he seemed to think the joke was getting a bit old when U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack brought up cannabis during a 2015 event hosted by the Clinton Foundation.

"Dear Lord, that's all I need. One more story about..." he said while laughing with the press.

But we can't help bringing it up once more - for old time's sake.

Banner image: 42nd US President Bill Clinton during a public lecture in Kiev in 2010. (photo_master2000 /

Click here to read about the 8 Presidents who have used cannabis.


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