Skip to main content

New Biography Says Obama Smoked Pot -- A Lot

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #736)
Consequences of Prohibition
Politics & Advocacy

President Obama has written about his drug use as a teenager, but excerpts from a new biography of the president portray him as a party hardy high school and college marijuana user. And that has reform advocates calling foul on a president who laughs off serious questions about marijuana legalization and whose Justice Department is cracking down on medical marijuana distribution.

The new biography, Barack Obama: The Story, is written by veteran Washington political journalist David Maraniss and contains extensive material about the president's smoke-filled young adulthood including his leading role in the Choom Gang, with "choom" used as verb meaning to get high.

Obama choomed his way through the Punohao School in Honolulu and Occidental College in Los Angeles, Maraniss reports, citing interviews with the president's erstwhile colleagues. And young Obama wasn't just experimenting; he showed signs of being a serious pothead.

He created a pot-smoking trend among his peers called "TA," short for "total absorption," and also is credited with popularizing the notion of "roof hits," or rolling up all the windows in a car while smoking, then tilting one's head back and sucking the last remnants of smoke from the roof.

Young Barry and his Choom Gang buddies were so serious about their fun that they assessed penalties on their peers for wasting smoke by not inhaling fully. If you wasted smoke, you were penalized by being passed by the next time the joint came around. "Wasting good bud smoke was not tolerated," a member of the gang told Maraniss.

The president-to-be was also an eager pot smoker. He was known for elbowing his way in out of turn when a joint was being passed, shouting "Intercepted!" and taking an extra hit.

Obama seemed to retain his marijuana-friendly attitude until he attained the presidency. While there are no stories of him getting baked while editing the Harvard Law Review, he was critical of the drug war while an Illinois senator, and as a presidential candidate, he vowed to not go after medical marijuana in states where it is legal.

But as president, he has converted himself into a full-blown prohibitionist, laughing off marijuana legalization, continuing to fund the drug war at the same high levels (and with the same law enforcement heavy spending ratio), and attempting to export US drug war strategies to violence-wracked areas like Mexico and Central America. And, after a year and a half of relatively benign neglect, his Justice Department has turned on medical marijuana providers with a vengeance.

The publication of the Maraniss excerpts provoked a response from Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, who chided the president for his shifting stance and warned there could be a political price to pay.

"Barack Obama won a lot of hearts and minds some years ago when he talked so openly and frankly about his youthful marijuana use. That contrasted refreshingly with Bill Clinton's hemming and hawing about not having inhaled, much less George Bush's refusal to even acknowledge what old friends revealed about his marijuana use," Nadelmann noted. "But the president has been losing lots of hearts and minds, especially those of young voters, with his striking silence on marijuana issues since he became president -- apart from providing lame excuses for the federal government's aggressive undermining of state medical marijuana laws.

"Most disappointing is his failure to say a word as president about the fact that half of all drug arrests each year are for nothing more than possessing a small amount of marijuana, which is something Barack Obama did lots of in his younger days, or to offer any critical comments about the stunning racial disproportionality in marijuana arrests around the country," Nadelmann continued. "Roughly twice as many people are arrested for marijuana possession now as were arrested in the early 1980s, even though the number of people consuming marijuana is no greater now than then. If police had been as keen on making marijuana arrests back then, it's quite likely that a young African American man named Barry Obama would have landed up with a criminal record -- and even more likely that he would not have his current job."

Recent polls show support for marijuana legalization at 50% or higher, with even higher levels of support among liberals and Democrats. It is time for Obama to address the issue, Nadelmann said.

"President Obama needs to come clean once again about marijuana -- but this time he needs to speak not of his own youthful use but rather of the harmful consequences of today's punitive marijuana policies for young Americans today," he said.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


highdesert420 (not verified)

Approximately 850,000 people are arrested each year for marijuana charges. Obama and Romney are both liars and anybody who votes for either one is an idiot.

Tue, 05/29/2012 - 6:20pm Permalink
mxweedie (not verified)

Interesting but erroneous comments, fortunately the last guy mentioned slavery.  There is a parallel between the cannabis issue today (and the PUNITIVE approach Philip mentioned) and the issue of slavery in the first Illinois lawyer president's time, i.e. there were angry voices on Lincoln for his timidity or hypercaution getting around to the promised Emancipation, and he responded: "If I can save the Union without abolishing slavery I will do it."  So I am not writing off Barry.  

If third party guys bark up the wrong (i.e. unreformed Electoral College) tree and put a Republican in we are exponentially worse off unless Romney surprisingly puts Church ahead of Party and agrees to suppress the real enemy, $igarette oligarchs who consider puffsuckin' nicotine addicts their Private Property to milk out of Pack-a-day money, and who consider the cannabis "alternative herb" a possible means of liberating ("stealing") those slaves.  The fact is Mormons do a better job than anyone at keeping their kids from getting hooked on $igarettes, and keeping money out of the hands of the oligarchs-- which today amounts to reducing the attack-ad PAC(k) funds they have available to elect Republican (mostly pro-tobacckgo) candidates and keep "Low-tar Johnny" in the Speaker chair.

I say give Romney a little more time to show he wants to do something about Modern Black (Lung) Slavery, otherwise Hold Nose, Vote Barry. 

Lincoln waited for some significant battlefield victories which would give him a footing from which to launch the Proclamation in 1863, maybe comparable victories today would include:

1.  Successful widespread marketing of the "Vapor Rush" cannabinoid E-Cigarette or similar product to eliminate the "smoking" hazards (mindnumbing monoxide etc.) which cause "stoner" disorders blamed on the cannabis used by joint-smokers.

2.  Widespread popularization and de facto legality of harm-reduction utensils, such as a new Jamaican-style long-stemmed chillum, CHOOMETTE, with a 5.5-mm-i.d. screened crater for 25-mg single tokes and a flexible extension tube (hookah-hose), so that users can learn the art of "vape-lighting" i.e. holding the flame far enough below the opening that 385F air enters upon the herb while sucking slow for 19 seconds.

3.  Please, Philip, I must add this: we need to eliminate  PUNITIVE-sounding words like "pot" from the discourse, let's politely address the herb as "herb" or "cannabis" or "(xxx) tokes" as in "Barry used up all the tokes"  or "We have 7 tokes (175 mg) left." 

4.  By the way, the main reason the USA is the world capital of PUNISHMENT today is that Slavery here lasted into the high tech era and, punishment being the mainstay of control over the slaveowner's property, high-tech punishment (and high-tech threats of punishment, as in court paperwork etc.) matured here by the mid 1850's ("Fugitive Slave Laws") and was ready for use in the recent cannabis prohibition era to foil cannabinoid-fueled efforts to free the "niggotine" slaves from secret ($igarette) bondage and bankrupt the "owner"/oligarchs.  


Thu, 05/31/2012 - 10:29pm Permalink

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.