Drug Policy

Obama's Drug Habits

|

Barack Obama is attracting praise for his candid discussion of youthful drug use and even for his adult cigarette habit, both of which are said to humanize him and offer a welcome contrast to the sort of robotic overachiever—cough, Al Gore, cough, John Kerry—who has been planning his presidential campaign since grade school. If authenticity really does help you get elected, of course, more politicians will learn to fake it. But taking Obama at face value, it is indeed refreshing to hear a politician admit that he used illegal drugs and enjoyed them, rather than stonewalling à la Bush or lying like Clinton. Likewise, the senator's willingness to smoke in front of reporters suggests he is not utterly consumed by what other people think of him. Yet Obama's drug habits still follow the conventional narrative of sin and redemption. He calls smoking pot and snorting cocaine "dumb" "mistakes" leading down a road to "the final, fatal role of the young would-be black man" as a "pothead" and "junkie." And he reportedly has given up cigarettes, "except for the occasional lapse." I'm still waiting for the politician who is an unrepentant pot and tobacco smoker.

[Thanks to Gary Larson for the Dallas Morning News link.]

NEXT: Dustbin of Literary History

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Outstanding post Jacob. I have nothing to add but do want to give a hearty – HEAR HEAR

  2. I don’t think anyone will care. This is a non-story if there ever was one, although I bet the nanny staters beat the poor guy into quitting smoking so he doesn’t set a bad example for the children.

  3. Dude – where’s my constituency?!

    Sorry . . .

  4. Didn’t Clinton smoke cigars and without denying it?

  5. [Thanks to Gary Larson for the Dallas Morning News link.]

    A new daily comic would have been nicer.

  6. In othe Obama news, CNN has launched a two year apology series for airing a “where is Obama?” graphic during a story about UBL. They have apologized to the Senator several times already.

    Rush Limbaugh speculates that they will begin apologies to UBL shortly.

    thedifferentphil,

    Clinton had a human humidor and did not apologize either, not that one should be expected to for that.

  7. How does one become a young “would-be” black man? Does doing drugs change ethnicities?

    This sentenance doesn’t make sense to me (perhaps I’ve done too many drugs), am I missing something?

  8. sentenance=sentence

  9. Um, Jacob,

    God forbid someone publicly admits regret for their past drug using days. I’m as against the drug war as anyone, but drugs aren’t exactly unqualified goods.

    Your posts have become parodies of themselves. Not everyone shares your affinity for fucking their minds and bodies up.

  10. thedifferentpill:

    That’s different – those were special, “hand dipped” cigars.

    andy: your words sound like the “I’m normally in favor of free speech, BUT…” style.

    note what Jacob writes here:
    “But taking Obama at face value, it is indeed refreshing to hear a politician admit that he used illegal drugs and enjoyed them, rather than stonewalling ? la Bush or lying like Clinton.”

    Not bad. And:

    “Yet Obama’s drug habits still follow the conventional narrative of sin and redemption.”

    Both of those statements are fine. And I’m sure glad to see that you don’t fuck up your mind and body. (Grin: that’s why you’re in good enough shape to fuck up Dan T., were he ever to show himself (from the other Obama thread)).

    But I really am lost with where Jacob’s post is a parody?

    It seems that Obama’s behavior (sin and redemption game) is much more of a parody.

    thanks,
    VM

  11. “I’m still waiting for the politician who is an unrepentant pot and tobacco smoker.”

    I’d be happy for a politician who openly admitted his addiction to poltical power.

  12. OK, maybe Obama is following the “conventional narrative of sin and redemption,” but that doesn’t mean he’s necessarily being disingenuous. Tons of people look back and shake their head at their past drug use.

    Jacob seems to be so attached to ending the drug war that any negative comments about drugs (especially pot or tobacco) are taken by him as full endorsements of the drug war, or at least that’s how he makes it seem. He’s like some black activist who takes any criticism whatsoever of blacks/black culture as “racism.”

  13. Oh. What is your take on the WoD?

  14. I flat-out will not vote for a smoker, regardless of any virtue they might have. It sets a bad example.

  15. “I flat-out will not vote for a smoker, regardless of any virtue they might have. It sets a bad example.”

    Please tell me you are being ironic.

  16. andy, you might have a point if he were speaking of someone who managed to ruin their life while using drugs, but we’re talking about someone who became a US senator, so talking about how evil the drugs are/were would be ludicrous.

    Should we be blaming the drugs for his current position?

  17. If authenticity really does help you get elected, of course, more politicians will learn to fake it.

    Isn’t that what Bill Clinton already did? Of course, it’s also exactly what I think Obama is himself doing.

  18. Just because something doesn’t ruin your life doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to do it. Hitting your thumb with a hammer won’t necessarily permanently incapacitate it, but it sure is painful.

  19. I wouldn’t vote for anyone who didn’t have “youthful indescretions.” Ned Flanders is not my ideal Presidential candidate.

  20. Uh-oh. Now I’m going to get attacked for supporting the War on Hammers.

  21. But what about a middle ground? The drugs neither saved nor ruined his life. They weren’t a sin, they were merely an activity of his youth that didn’t continue into adulthood.

    You don’t have to praise or damn drugs to tell the truth about them.

  22. Why do you hate hammers? Oh – Jesus was a carpenter. You hate hammers. Ergo: you hate Jesus. You’re the one Bob Smith has been warning us about!

    🙂

  23. He feels his experiences with drugs were ultimately negative, and he expressed that. How do you know that’s not the truth?

  24. It may be the truth, it may not, but right now it’s the only narrative the voters will accept, so it’s nearly impossible to make that judgement based on what we know.

    Who knows? Maybe Clinton really didn’t inhale, but I doubt that story, too.

  25. I feel my experiences with alcohol were almost completely negative, and have no trouble stating it – this doesn’t mean I am in favor of a war on booze. Same for several, erm, non-over-the-counter pharmaceuticals.

  26. Andy,

    James Earl Carter III uses hammers for photo ops and I really dislike him even though I really like hammers!

    Perhaps there is a therapist someone can direct me to see about this bizarre set of positions that I can keep in my mind at the same time?

  27. What kind of a person writes their memoir at age 34?

  28. “What kind of a person writes their memoir at age 34?”
    Mozart shoulda…

    🙂

  29. I feel my experiences with alcohol were almost completely negative

    This makes me so sad for you.

    What kind of a person writes their memoir at age 34?

    The kind who becomes the first black person elected head of the Harvard Law Review. Apparently some publisher thought his life experience might be interesting to somebody.

  30. Pot, fine, but cigarettes?

    You are hoping to put government power in the hands of someone who knows he is performing a suicidal acts, but doesn’t try, or even want, to stop, just to be persnickity.

    Yeah, someone bullheaded who does harmful things just to show the naysayers who’s boss. Jacob, were you a Bush voter?

  31. joe, it is my pleasure to inform you that your Troll Club membership application has been reviewed and accepted. Your membership card should be arriving via USPS in 8-10 business days.

    Juanita, Jane, Ted and myself welcome you and we hope you enjoy the TC!

  32. Whatever, troll.

  33. “What kind of a person writes their memoir at age 34?”
    Mozart shoulda…

    LOL!!! That was truly inspired, Moose, old boy.

    Yours was pretty good too, joe but the Nordic Ruminant has set the bar to high for you.

  34. Obama is the perfect example for non-nanny statism: most people who use _____ can handle it. No need to punish others.

    drugs, tobacco, alcohol, big macs, guns, porn.

  35. andy,
    You too are just parroting the “drugs are bad mmmkay” line. The fact is that many times many more people use drugs without ruining our lives. Many of us find them life enhancing, our lives are made better through responsible drug use. Using drugs responsibly, any drug (I’m looking at you joe) should not be universally accepted as a character flaw. Jacob and I are waiting for the day when a politician can state publicly “yes I use drugs. I find them helpful in leading a fulfilling life”.

  36. “Many of us find them life enhancing, our lives are made better through responsible drug use.”

    Nobody’s life was ever enhanced through weed or coke. If you think yours has been, you need new hobbies.

    I’ll concede that some drugs can be beneficial, but y’all are barking up the wrong tree.

  37. Thanks Warren, andy may as well work for the nodcp with an attitude like that. And come on Rich, “almost completely negative”? I can’t even imagine how that could be true. Are you forgetting to count the experiences you’ve had with girls that have consumed alcohol?

  38. “Thanks Warren, andy may as well work for the nodcp with an attitude like that.”

    And you may as well be a loser with an attitude like yours. Oh, yeah… that’s right.

  39. I’m not the one tossing around bogus moral judgements, asshole.

  40. andy, would you be interested in an application too?

  41. andy:

    What is your take on the WoD? Or on legalization issues?

    It really does sound, when combining your first post with subsequent ones, that you’re giving the equivalent of the “normally I like free speech, but…” argument.

    Maybe those whose lives have been, um, enhanced with drugs might need new hobbies. But so what? How do you know? Their lives might be enriched. Just because you don’t get enrichment that way doesn’t leave anything. Hypothetically, let’s say I don’t get people who gain enrichment from gaming – besides being the Henry Rollins definition of a decorator, so what?

    [humor] Besides your absolutely disgusting anti Hammer (both MC and carpenter’s) stance, which makes this Moose worry about “teh chidrens”, I do not see how Jacob’s post is as you portray it.[/humor]

    The first paragraph in your 1:01pm post could very well be true. However, as Jacob points out, that’s an expected answer. It’s the answer someone, at this point in time, has to give when talking about their experiences with illegal drugs. It may or may not be disingenuous, you’re right.

    The need to make that sort of statement, however, seems to cloud the discourse around legal/illegal drugs.

    Think of it this way: we get into libertarian arguments where some have to put the standard disclaimer. Obama’s words seem to be the drug user’s disclaimer.

    Warren: how about a politician that simply says, “yes I use[d] drugs” sans disclaimer.

    But we’d have an atheist in the White House and Harvard will win the Rose Bowl before that. Oh – sorry Michiganders 🙂

    “fight the team across the field…”

  42. Eat a dick, Dan.

    Rich Ard, I could let our discussion descend into grade school name calling, but I don’t want it to. Please tell me what you view as “bogus moral judgements,” because I don’t think I made any.

  43. Andy –
    “Eat a dick, Dan.”

    nice! cool. Since he’s allergic to taint, that might be more in his gastronomical area!

    Back on topic: I have to confess that I read the, “you need new hobbies” in the judgmental direction, too. (3:27pm post)

    The thing is, neither of us, as non drug users, can say whether those individuals had positive or negative experiences with their drugs. Maybe they enjoy the experience. Just as the hypothetical gamers or video game people. Or stamp collectors.

    We can be amazed why individuals have certain preferences for leisure time activities, but the suggestion to find other avenues didn’t come across, at least to this citizen, as a “you might like this activity better!”

    Your opinion on the WoD and legalization are important, as you might clear up some confusion there. Since you’ve already expressed your disdain for handworker’s tools 🙂

  44. Nordic Ruminant,

    You asked what my take on the drug war was? Well I invite you to reread my first post:

    I’m as against the drug war as anyone

    Meaning: I am completely against the criminalization of the mere ingestment of any substance.

    I’m not exactly sure it should be legal to manufacture any drug, or distribute it (meth can be very dangerous to make), but perhaps prohibition is more dangerous.

    I’ve had very positive drug experiences (LSD, mescaline, MDMA) but I’ve also had some negative ones (marijuana, cocaine). For this I get on people’s case about using some drugs. That doesn’t mean I want them to go to jail, or think they have flawed characters, merely that I want to let them know that I think they’re using substances that are dead-ends spiritually. Does that make me a nag? Maybe, but we’re all entitled to our opinions.

    What bugs me though is the reflexive defensive posture people around here get when people make any comments about drugs that aren’t overwhelmingly positive. I know we’re fighting an uphill battle but chill out for god’s sake.

  45. Andy, Don’t confuse me with Rich, although I’m sure he’s a nice guy. I bet you are too, but your concern over other people’s hobbies is wrong. If the results of drug use were always negative, I doubt the prices would be so high.

  46. Right – and I asked you several times if that was the equivalent of “normally I’m in favor of free speech, but”. It appears now as if that isn’t the case. Thank you for clarifying that point!

    Also agreed: you’re entitled to your opinions on the matter. You also realize that James Ard felt that you were making bogus arguments with said opinion. We both agree that he’s entitled to his.

    You’ve stated that that’s your opinion and experience with some drugs. Others have different opinions and different experiences. We agree that there’s room for your and their opinions.

    We’re also different, I’ve never tried any illegal drug, so I cannot offer an opinion on the positive or negative experiences you all have had.

    One legalization activist I spoke with (anecdote, not anything beyond it – it is a little relevant here) stated one reason behind his knee-jerk black/white reactions to the drug war (I asked him a question that was very similar to your observation about “reflexive defensive posture” – so we’ve both observed something like that), and it was the “get a life” attitude that others held.

    Probably not the best way to go about it, but when insulted, people tend to insult or go defensive back.

    You did here – you insulted DanT back, and you noted the school yard deterioration.

    They’re not hurting you with their choices of recreation (life enhancement??), and you’re free to roll your eyes whenever people get overly (IMO) excited with every pot reference in the media, but maybe the eye rolling doesn’t help further the discourse on this matter.

    On the topic – Maybe Obama’s regret for using drugs is real. Maybe not. Maybe it’s just the standard line. However, with the current WoD and with the current discourse, we don’t know. The words don’t have any signal quality: they lost their “price” as it were.

    We’ll agree to disagree here, but on gentlemen terms – no name calling.

  47. I say line the politicians up and piss test them all every day. If they fail, then they are immediately withdrawn from the race. It could be like a weigh in for a boxing / wrestling match complete with political smack talk. Pay per view anyone?

  48. “Nobody’s life was ever enhanced through weed or coke.”

    i have a record collection that says otherwise. shit, my life has been enhanced through drug use by proxy!

    “That doesn’t mean I want them to go to jail, or think they have flawed characters, merely that I want to let them know that I think they’re using substances that are dead-ends spiritually.”

    i’d say the same thing about lsd and mdma of course, presuming we meant the same thing by “spiritually” (which we likely do not). i can understand the desire for euphoric evangelism and potential for very strong mindset changes, of course, but a picture of the castle is still a picture of the castle.

    now, hanging yourself from a hook until you pass out…

  49. andy,
    My life has been enhanced by, chocolate, caffeine, marijuana, alcohol, cocaine, Vicodin, LSD, Mushrooms and many other recreational drugs. If you don’t believe that it’s because you refuse to give up your prejudices.

    Nordic
    Wasn’t there a billboard of the Mayor of New York quoted as saying “Yes I inhaled. And I liked it.” But I think some other group put it up and he distanced himself from it.

  50. Warren!

    greetings! This Moose didn’t know that about the NYC Mayor.

    I can assure you that Mayor Ritchie would make the entire 3rd grade class disappear of anyone who would suggest that he inhaled 🙂

  51. Oh I should also add that my life was degraded by tobacco. Don’t get me wrong I loved cigarettes. But I couldn’t smoke them responsibly. I never let my habit get above 2/3 pack a day, but I it was definitely a habit. Giving them up was hard, it took six months and was motivated by having quit my job to pursue my art project.

  52. I’m gonna go out on a limb here:

    I don’t think I’d vote for a current pot smoker for President.

    I don’t have a problem with… well, with just about anybody smoking pot. There are, however, a few exceptions. I don’t want doctors, air traffic controllers, etc. smoking pot regularly.

    I’d hope the market would handle those cases; in the case of the President, my vote *is* the market.

    I just know too many potheads. Say what you like about how innocuous pot smoking is — the people I know who have been regular users have not been very… sharp. And my own experience suggests that, with good enough shit, I ended up feeling dumb and spaced-out for a day afterwards.

  53. “I’d say the same thing about lsd and mdma of course, presuming we meant the same thing by “spiritually” (which we likely do not). i can understand the desire for euphoric evangelism and potential for very strong mindset changes, of course, but a picture of the castle is still a picture of the castle.”

    By “spiritual growth” I mean
    1. Being able to achieve one’s potential as a rational and emotional being
    2. Being able to connect with and understand better other sentient creatures, particularly humans
    3. Being able to connect with and understand better the universe
    4. Understand the connection, including the more subtle manifestations of that connection, between all that is in existence and especially between all living beings

    Certain drugs (as well as other practices) are conducive to the above goals. Other drugs, like cocaine… are not. Marijuana may seem to be, but any supposedly deep insights made while high are only profound because you’re high. If you do have a real insight you’ll forget it very shortly anyway. That’s why I rag on people who do those drugs. It doesn’t mean I won’t be their friends, but I sure reserve the right to try to help them see their behavior more clearly. You may think that’s pushy or whatever, but who here hasn’t tried to convince a loved one to stop smoking? Why do we do that? Because, to us, smoking is not worth the advantages it confers. Likewise, to me, pot and coke are not worth the damage they do, even the small amount done by occasional use.

    I’ve never got anyone to quit using tobacco, and I don’t expect to get anyone to stop smoking weed, or shooting up or whatever else they may choose to do. I do factor those things into how much I choose to hang out with a person, and I would never go out with a girl who smoked pot or did coke regularly or who drank heavily for the simple fact that that would put her on a different spiritual plane than me. So it’s not a trivial thing, VM, like “collecting stamps” or being a “video game person ( :] ).” Again, people should be allowed to put whatever they want into their bodies, but let’s not pretend that whatever they do is necessarily on par with crochetting.

  54. If spiritual growth is important to you, then more spiritual power to you. But worrying about spiritual planes tells me that you have way more regrets about your life than I ever will.

  55. Oh, I don’t, sir, I sure don’t.

  56. Fair enough, Andy! I appreciate you taking the time to give your thought out answer!

    thanks! (raises glass appreciatively)

  57. thanks andy.

    i dunno. i know some really sharp people who smoke tons of weed, and some really dumb people, and a whole lot in between. it seems to effect people very differently. the stereotype, which certainly exists in real life in some manifestations, of the ice age stoner type certainly doesn’t help the cause of legalization, to be sure. (i.e. for legalization to live, the pothead must die, etc)

    the same goes for various psychedelics. the core of the person involved seems to matter a tremendous amount more than the actual behavior involved.

    i don’t hang out with certain people who do certain things, for reasons of personal taste and past experience, but at the same time i look at my music collection and can’t help but think the that [random artist] took to make [recording xyz] seems irrelevant to the final project. not that it isn’t tempting to blame trance on e-tards being brainfucked by hippie metaphysics and 16th note arps, of course.

    but i also like sleep (particularly dopesmoker and volume 1), so take that for what it’s worth.

  58. “thanks! (raises glass appreciatively)”

    You’re welcome! (Raises glass in return before filling to brim with more of that smooth Remy… MMM!)

    “the same goes for various psychedelics. the core of the person involved seems to matter a tremendous amount more than the actual behavior involved.”

    True enough. Dumbasses will be dumbasses!

    “not that it isn’t tempting to blame trance on e-tards being brainfucked by hippie metaphysics and 16th note arps, of course.
    but i also like sleep (particularly dopesmoker and volume 1), so take that for what it’s worth.”

    Hmm, not familiar with their work. I think trance music is the scourge of the earth. I’d choose just about any form of death over having to listen to that for an entire evening. *shudders* Give me some drum and bass or some deep house anyday.

    Like your example of how “for legalization to live, potheads must die,” the death of trance music will be the rebirth of the rave scene and the end of the villification of party-goers- or if not, I’ll just be happy it’s gone!

  59. sleep was a legendary stoner rock band.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleep_%28band%29

    dopesmoker is the best 70 minute song you’ll ever hear.

    members of sleep went on to form high on fire and om. om is a kind of drone metal thing and high on fire is a more balls out metal thing. i like blessed black wings from high on fire, but i haven’t heard much from om. supposedly they’re doing a split with current 93 at some point which i will pick up.

  60. Sullum and the people who are backing him are making an argument for drugs that is the flip side of Althouse’s agument on discriination. Her position boiled down to: if you believe racial discrimination is wrong, then you must be for outlawing it. Sullum’s argument becomes: if you are for decriminalizing drugs, then you cannot view their usage as a negative. They both implicity accept the notion that “illegal” and “immoral” are synonyms.

  61. How about just saying..

    YEAH I smoked pot and did some illegal drugs as a youth and may even still indulge from time to time in the privacy of my own home since I find them enjoyable and no worse than alcohol. And if you noticed contrary to popular propagandist beliefs you can indeed use drugs in a casual manner. Also you can become a US Senator. WOW how would that be as a slap in the face of all the ads and BS propaganda thats always told use we would be dead, brain fried or crippled from using any drugs any amount of times.

    We have to take the falicy out of the WoD and show its BS. Pot smokers come in all forms and from all walks of life. Problem is the only ones that seem to be proactive in the fight to legalize are the ones most of the professionals out there that use cringe at seeing. Also the professionals have to fear losing their livelyhoods and the stigma that comes with admitting you smoke pot. Regardless of the fact that they are well respected and do a great job, all that is pushed to the side if your suddenly revealed as a pot smoker and your ostrisized. So these folks are likely to stay in the shadows when they are the ones we need more to debunk the BS.

    Thats one of the many things I hate about the WoD is the piss testing police force the government has created with our corporations to enforce the laws they know are unenforcable.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.