Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg asked President Reagan yesterday to withdraw his beleaguered nine-day-old nomination to the Supreme Court, saying that his judicial views "have been drowned out in the clamor" over his use of marijuana.

The withdrawal of the 41-year-old federal appeals court judge -- who admitted having smoked marijuana as recently as 1979, while a professor at Harvard Law School -- was only the seventh such action in U.S. history and the second in this century.

It was also only the second time this century that a president has twice failed to fill a vacancy. The Senate in 1969 and 1970 defeated President Richard M. Nixon's nominees Clement Haynsworth Jr. and G. Harrold Carswell before confirming Justice Harry A. Blackmun.

After Ginsburg's announcement in the White House press room, Reagan said in a statement that he accepted the decision "with regret" and vowed to "move promptly" to pick another nominee. An administration source said that the leading candidate is federal appeals court Judge Anthony M. Kennedy of Sacramento and that he is likely to be named this week. However, a Senate source said the administration continues to be divided between those who want more time to defuse confrontation with the Senate and others who want to move quickly.

Ginsburg's announcement was scheduled for 2 p.m., but was delayed for more than an hour. Administration sources said Ginsburg, who arrived at the White House with his wife, Hallee Morgan, expressed second thoughts about withdrawing in a meeting with White House counsel A.B. Culvahouse Jr., deputy White House chief of staff Kenneth M. Duberstein and spokesman Marlin Fitzwater. After being told that reporters had been informed he was withdrawing, the sources said, Ginsburg agreed to proceed with the statement he had drafted by hand on a piece of yellow legal paper.

Ginsburg's admission that he smoked marijuana was a major political embarrassment for the president, who along with his wife, Nancy, has crusaded against illegal drug use. Ginsburg's withdrawal, just two weeks after the Senate rejected Reagan's first choice for the court, federal appeals Judge Robert H. Bork, by the widest margin in history, made it unlikely that hearings could be held this year on a third nominee for the seat left vacant by the retirement in June of Lewis F. Powell Jr.

Senate Judiciary Committee member Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) said the Senate "will give them {the administration} another chance," but that Reagan "has got two strikes . . . the third strike he would be out."

Leahy added, "If they screw up a third time . . . if they don't come up with someone readily acceptable on the third try, then it is extremely doubtful there will be another Supreme Court nominee from this administration."

Senate Minority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.), in a statement issued from Des Moines, said, "I respect Judge Ginsburg's decision to bow out. It's unfortunate, but now we have to move on. I urge the president to proceed with caution and to make certain the next nominee is asked all the right questions."

Ginsburg appeared composed as he delivered a short statement in the White House press room. He praised the Reagans for "leading the fight" against drug use and said, "I hope that the young people of this country, including my own daughters, will learn from my mistake and heed their message," his voice faltering as he mentioned his two children.

Ginsburg said he had been "looking forward to sharing with the American people my views about justice and about the role of the courts in our society. Unfortunately, all of the attention has been focused on our personal lives and much of that on the events of many years ago. My views on the law and on what kind of Supreme Court justice I would make have been drowned out in the clamor."

He said that "for my part, I plan to continue to serve on the Court of Appeals for many years to come."

Reagan, in his statement, said, "I commended Judge Ginsburg for his record and qualifications when I announced his selection, and I commend his selflessness and clear thinking now."

Attorney General Edwin Meese III, who persuaded Reagan to choose Ginsburg rather than Kennedy following Bork's defeat, last night complimented Ginsburg for acting "in a courageous and forthright way throughout these matters. He felt this information could contribute to the prolongation of the hearings . . . and embarrassment for the administration. I regret that it happened but . . . I understand his reasons."

Meese, in a brief interview before a speech at the convention of the Federalist Society, said the administration has "a good list of people from which the president can choose" but declined to talk about any specific prospect.

A senior White House official said that Reagan hoped to name a new nominee early this week and that the choice would likely be from among the list discussed before Ginsburg's selection. "The universe is pretty well known," the official said. "Most will be ones that were on the list."

Administration sources said that Kennedy's chances could be complicated by the fact that several conservative senators, including Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), called the White House the morning Reagan was deciding on Ginsburg to express their displeasure with Kennedy, who is perceived to be more moderate and who had the support of White House chief of staff Howard H. Baker Jr. "I said 'no way, Jose' I could support him," Helms said.

{Kennedy was flown yesterday by Air Force jet from McClellan Air Force Base near Sacramento to Andrews Air Force Base, arriving about 7:30 p.m., according an Andrews spokeswoman, Capt. Clemmer Montague, quoted by the Associated Press.}

Another appeals court judge certain to be on the list is William W. Wilkins Jr., a favorite of Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), but who is opposed by many Justice Department and White House officials.

Other candidates are Ralph K. Winter Jr., a former colleague of Bork at Yale Law School and now a federal appeals court judge in New Haven, Conn., and Patrick E. Higginbotham, a federal appeals court judge in Dallas who had been prominently mentioned early in the last round but who was opposed in part because several southern senators who voted against Bork pushed for his selection.

Support for Ginsburg in the Senate, among conservative groups and in the administration had been disintegrating rapidly following reports that Ginsburg, as a high-ranking Justice Department official, handled several matters involving the cable television industry at the time he had $140,000 invested in a cable company, and that his wife had performed abortions as a medical resident.

There were also mounting concerns in the Senate and elsewhere over whether Ginsburg had enough experience for the job. His total courtroom experience amounted to an hour-long appellate court argument and he has served on the appeals court here for only a year. If confirmed, he would have been the the second-youngest justice in this century.

Gary L. Bauer, assistant to the president for policy development, said conservative support for Ginsburg, even before the disclosure of his marijuana use, was "mixed."

After the revelation, he said, based on telephone calls Friday, conservative groups "wouldn't attack him, but we wouldn't be able to rally their support." The feeling among conservatives, Bauer said, was that the nomination was "a disaster for the antidrug efforts" of the Reagans and a "embarrassment" for the administration.

Another administration official called the marijuana use "the straw that broke the camel's back." The feeling, the official said, was, "Here we are again with Crisis 15 just coming out of the blue."

However, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) said he was disappointed that the administration did not give Ginsburg more support. "At the first sign of vicissitude they cut and run," he said. "Yes, he made some mistakes, but I believe in the principle of repentance and forgiveness."

Following inquiries from The Washington Post and other news organizations, Ginsburg released a statement Thursday saying that he had smoked marijuana "once as a student in the 1960s and on a few occasions" in the 1970s. He later told senators he had smoked marijuana as recently as 1979, just four years before joining the Reagan administration as a deputy assistant attorney general.

On Friday afternoon, Education Secretary William J. Bennett, in a call cleared by Reagan, who told the nominee, "Do what you think is right," telephoned Ginsburg in his chambers to ask him to bow out. That night, several conservative senators, who had publicly stated their support for the embattled nominee, "were giving different guidance privately to the candidate, urging him to withdraw," a senior White House official said.

Assistant Attorney General William Bradford Reynolds, who has been an influential behind-the-scenes player in the nomination process and who strongly supported Ginsburg, spoke to Ginsburg at home late Friday night and then reported to Meese that Ginsburg was willing to withdraw, the official said.

Yesterday morning, Meese called Baker in Tennessee to advise him of the situation. Baker spoke with Ginsburg and the president. Ginsburg telephoned Reagan directly at Camp David at about 11:30 a.m. to say that he would ask to have the nomination -- which had never been formally sent to the Senate -- withdrawn.

Administration officials had questioned Ginsburg before he was picked about whether there was anything in his background that could jeopardize the nomination. Ginsburg failed to mention his marijuana use even after the cable story broke, when Dole quizzed the nominee about whether there were any other problems that could arise.

Dole and Meese were both angered when the reports of Ginsburg's marijuana use surfaced, an administration official said.

Reaction among many senators to the withdrawal was relief, although some accused the administration of backing down too quickly.

Thurmond, the Judiciary Committee's ranking Republican, called Ginsburg an "able judge" and termed the situation "unfortunate," but said, "Given the circumstances, I had recommended to the White House that they give serious consideration to withdrawing Judge Ginsburg's nomination."

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) said, "I hope the administration will send us a new nominee soon. We need to fill the vacancy on the court as quickly as possible."

Staff writers Lou Cannon, Helen Dewar and Caryle Murphy contributed to this report.