Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen joked that smoking marijuana “always helps” when you “get stuck” on a difficult level of the mobile game Candy Crush—but in reality, she said she hasn’t used cannabis since the summer before attending Yale University, when she trained for her first session by smoking cigarettes.
During an appearance on the NPR game show “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me” that aired on Sunday, the Biden Cabinet official—who also ventured to China last year where she inadvertently ate a “delicious” meal featuring a mushroom with hallucinogenic properties—talked about how she likes “to be prepared” in all aspects of her life, and that extended to her first time trying marijuana.
“You know, I had never smoked marijuana before. It was the summer before I was going to college,” she said. “My roommate said she hid some marijuana and we should have a party and smoke marijuana.”
“I always tried to prepare when I can, and I said, ‘How can I prepare for this experience? Well, why don’t I buy a pack of cigarettes and try to smoke them and see if I can inhale,’ because I was told you can’t really enjoy marijuana unless you inhale,” Yellen said. “So I bought a pack the cigarettes. I started smoking them. Horrible, it was a horrible experience. I was coughing. I thought, ‘Well, I’m not prepared. I have to work harder at this.’”
“So I bought some more cigarettes and, all week preparing for this party, I smoked cigarettes. Then I went to the party, smoked a couple of marijuana cigarettes. But I never did that again,” she said. “But you know, what happened to me was within a couple of months, I was up to three packs [of cigarettes] a day.”
Listen to the secretary discuss her cannabis experience around 20:15 into the audio below:
Yellen said she eventually quit, but she’s more recently found herself addicted to a different sort of high: playing mobile puzzle games, namely Candy Crush. She said that, at the time of the interview, she’d reached level 6,180.
“Do you have a secret for Candy Crush?” host Peter Sagal asked.
Another panelist quipped, “Yeah, marijuana cigarettes.”
“If you get stuck, it always helps,” Yellen affirmed.
The treasury secretary might not have actually smoked marijuana since her first experience, but last year she laughed about an official trip to China, where she ate a mushroom-based made of the psychoactive Lanmaoa asiatica, a species of fungi native to Asia. She said she didn’t eat enough of it to experience the hallucinogenic effects, and she learned about its psychedelic properties only after indulging.
“I read that if the mushrooms are cooked properly—which I’m sure they were at this very good restaurant—that they have no impact,” Yellen said at the time. “All of us enjoyed the mushrooms, the restaurant, and none of us felt any ill effects.”
In terms of serious drug policy issues, the official has expressed frustration about ongoing barriers to traditional financial services for the marijuana industry under federal prohibition, saying last year that it is “unfortunately” the case that banks remain reluctant to work with state-licensed cannabis businesses, and it’s something regulators “have been looking for solutions to.”
In 2022, she said that it’s “extremely frustrating” that Congress has so far been unable to pass legislation like the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act and that Treasury is “supportive” of the proposal.
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