Sen. Marco Rubio is declining to say whether he ever smoked marijuana.

The Florida Republican and potential presidential candidate dodged a direct question at an education forum Monday, saying his own drug experience is irrelevant.

In his words: "If I tell you that I haven't, you won't believe me. And 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 opposes legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. He said like most teenagers he made dumb decisions when he was younger, and he said he didn't need the help of marijuana or alcohol to further that.

Florida voters will decide a ballot initiative in November on legalizing medical marijuana.

At the same event on Monday, Rubio called for state-accredited alternatives to four-year colleges and income-based repayments for college loans.

He said Congress should establish an independent accrediting agency to assess free courses offered over the Internet and elsewhere as transferrable credits.

"Those with the right advanced education are making more than ever. But those that do not are falling farther and farther behind," Rubio said in remarks prepared for an education forum Monday at Miami Dade College. "The result is a growing opportunity gap between haves and have-nots, those who have advanced education and those who do not."

College students, he added, also should be offered cost-benefit analyses comparing how much they can expect to earn in a particular field to how much they will owe after earning a degree in the subject.

"You have this new economic era, where higher education of some form is really a requirement to make it to the middle class and stabilize yourself," Rubio said in an interview before the conference sponsored by the National Journal. "But we have an old and stagnant education formula that doesn't meet the demand that is being created."

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