President Obama smoked pot in high school. Why is he against legalizing marijuana?
A new biography details Barack Obama's use of marijuana in high school and college, not unusual for a young man at that time. As president, Obama has taken a tougher line on drug use, including marijuana for medical reasons.
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And of course the Woodstock era in which the parents of today’s teens grew up – the 1960s and 70s – launched a new public attitude about marijuana. “If you can remember the 60s, you weren’t really there,” goes the old joke, variously attributed to comedian Robin Williams or singer Grace Slick of The Jefferson Airplane. Who of a certain age can forget "White Rabbit?"Skip to next paragraph
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But back to Obama, who falls between the two generations. What’s his attitude as an adult toward marijuana?
Speaking at Northwestern University in Chicago in 2004 he said, “In terms of legalization of drugs, I think, the battle, the war on drugs has been an utter failure and I think we need to rethink and decriminalize our marijuana laws.”
“But I’m not somebody who believes in legalization of marijuana,” he said. “What I do believe is that we need to rethink how we are operating in the drug wars, and I think that currently, we are not doing a good job.”
As president (and perhaps as the father of 13- and 10-year olds), he’s taken a tougher line.
The administration’s National Drug Control Strategy, issued last year, states: “Marijuana and other illicit drugs are addictive and unsafe especially for use by young people. The science, though still evolving in terms of long-term consequences, is clear: marijuana use is harmful. Independent from the so called ‘gateway effect’ – marijuana on its own is associated with addiction, respiratory and mental illness, poor motor performance, and cognitive impairment, among other negative effects.”
On medical marijuana, the strategy states:
“Despite successful political campaigns to legalize ‘medical’ marijuana in 15 states and the District of Columbia, the cannabis (marijuana) plant itself is not medicine. While there may be medical value in some of the individual components of the cannabis plant, the fact remains that smoking marijuana is an inefficient and harmful method for delivering the constituent elements that have or may have medicinal value…. To date, the [Food and Drug Administration] has not found smoked marijuana to be either safe or effective medicine for any condition.”
Obama’s “drug czar,” Gil Kerlikowske (Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy), points out that most adult males arrested on misdemeanors and felonies test positive for an illegal drug, including marijuana, at the time of their arrest – ranging from 64 percent in Atlanta to 81 percent in Sacramento.
Mr. Kerlikowske (the former police chief of Seattle) advocates a “third way” between legalization and strict criminalization – a focus on treatment and prevention.
It’s the kind of thing the teen-aged Barack Obama probably didn’t think about when he was hanging out with “The Choom Gang.”