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Rep. Susan Molinari Falsely Denied Ever Using Marijuana


October 1996

Rep. Susan Molinari (R-NY), admitted that she smoked marijuana in college after having denied doing so in a 1992 interview (Associated Press, "Rep. Molinari allegedly changed story on past drug use," Buffalo News, August 9, 1996, p. A8; Newsday, "Molinari flip- flopped on pot story," Star Ledger (Newark, NJ), August 9, 1996, p. 18; Associated Press, "Molinari falsely denied ever smoking marijuana," August 10, 1996, p. 44A; Joanne Jacobs, "It's high time to lighten up on ex-pot smokers," Buffalo News, August 14, 1996, p. C1).

In a July 26 interview, Molinari, who Bob Dole picked to be keynote speaker at the GOP national convention, admitted her marijuana use while attending the State University of New York at Albany in the early 1980s. "I did experiment with marijuana less than a handful of times," said Molinari. "It was the wrong thing to do." In a 1992 interview on Staten Island Cable, Molinari, now 38, denied ever trying the drug, saying it was "not really available" in college. When asked why she lied in 1992, she responded, "It was an initial panic to a question that I believe every person in America dreads." The Dole campaign stood behind Molinari. "She stood up and admitted she made a mistake," said Nelson Warfield, press secretary for the Dole campaign.

During political squabbling over Molinari's past drug use and past drug use by some White House staffers (see NewsBriefs article, Summer 1996), Barry McCaffrey, the national drug control policy director, called for an end to the finger pointing. "Drug use was a generational thing, and we should just accept that and move on," said McCaffrey. "I think this 'gotcha' mentality just isn't very helpful to our national strategy." McCaffrey had issued a press release on July 24 saying that past drug use should not disqualify anyone from government service. Among many other high ranking public officials who have publicly admitted trying marijuana are Vice President Al Gore, House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (Richard Keil, "Drug chief urges end to finger-pointing," Buffalo News, August 9, 1996, p. A8; "National Drug Policy Director Tells 50 Million Americans Who Used and Rejected Drugs: We Need You in the Nation's Anti-Drug Effort," Office of National Drug Control Policy, July 24, 1996).

For copies of ONDCP papers, Contact: Executive Office of the President, Office of National Drug Control Policy, Washington, DC 20503, Tel: Bob Weiner @ (202) 395-6618 or Fax: (202) 395-6730.