Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) (R) listens to Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) (L) as they arrive at the Senate Republican weekly policy luncheon November 19, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.National Journal

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Sen. Marco Rubio played coy Monday morning when a panel moderator asked him if he'd ever smoked pot. The question came at a National Journal event in Miami on improving outcomes for the nation's community-college students after the topic turned to a ballot measure that would legalize medical marijuana in his state.

Rubio said he never answers that question, for two reasons:

"If I tell you that I haven't, you won't believe me. If I tell you that I did, then kids will look up to me and say, 'Well, I can smoke marijuana, because look how he made it.' "

Rubio said when he was teen he "made dumb decisions as is." He didn't need the help of marijuana or alcohol to do that, he said. When teens make bad decisions, it can affect them for the rest of their lives, he said.

Whether he smoked marijuana as a young person: "At this point, it's irrelevant," Rubio said.

The event was underwritten by the Bill and Melinda Gates, Rockefeller, and Annie E. Casey foundations.

This article is part of our Next America: Higher Education project, which is supported by grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Lumina Foundation.

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