U.S. presidential candidate Harris says she tried pot - and inhaled

(Reuters) - U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, a former prosecutor who is seeking the Democratic Party's 2020 presidential nomination, said on Monday she had smoked marijuana in college and supported its legalization.

The California Democrat told the syndicated radio show The Breakfast Club at Power 105.1 in New York that she smoked pot while attending Howard University in Washington in the 1980s.

"And I did inhale," she said, laughing, in a swipe at former President Bill Clinton, who famously said he had tried marijuana but had not inhaled.

Harris, 54, is among a diverse and growing group of Democrats seeking to challenge Republican President Donald Trump in next year's presidential election. Fellow Senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts launched their bids over the weekend.

A former San Francisco prosecutor, Harris stopped short of endorsing legalized pot during a tight but ultimately successful race to become California's attorney general in 2014.

In 2016, during her run for the U.S. Senate, she declined to endorse a ballot initiative that legalized the drug in the most populous U.S. state for recreational use by adults. She said at the time, however, that she expected marijuana to eventually become legal.

Since her election to the Senate, Harris has called for legalizing pot and supported a measure to decriminalize it at the federal level. She has for years called for research into the impact of marijuana use on the developing brains of teenagers and young adults, and for standards to judge when drivers are impaired after using cannabis.

Asked by the program's host whether she would use marijuana again if it became legal, Harris laughed but did not answer the question directly.

"It gives a lot of people joy," she said. "And we need more joy."

As of last December, 10 states and the District of Columbia had legalized small amounts of marijuana for adult recreational use, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The drug is still illegal at the federal level.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, California; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Peter Cooney)

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