November 26th, 2007
08:39 AM ET
10 years ago

Obama: Yes, I inhaled—that was the point

Obama discussed his past drug use Saturday.

AUDUBON, Iowa (CNN) - Earlier this week in New Hampshire Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama spoke candidly about his past experimentation with drugs and alcohol in high school, and on Saturday—after a question on medicinal marijuana—Obama was prodded a bit further and asked whether or not he had ever inhaled.

"I did," the senator from Illinois said to light applause. "It's not something I'm proud of. It was a mistake as a young man."

The question was a reference to a line made famous by former President Bill Clinton who, while admitting to trying marijuana, said he did not inhale.

"I never understood that line," Obama continued. "The point was to inhale. That was the point."

On the campaign trail on Saturday, GOP White House hopeful Mitt Romney said Obama's earlier comments set a bad example for young people.

"I agree with the sentiment that nobody's perfect and most of us, if not all of us, in our youthful years have engaged in various indiscretions we wouldn't want to have paraded in the front of a newspaper," the former Massachusetts governor said in New Hampshire. "On the other hand if we're running for president, I think it's important for us not to go into details about the weaknesses and our own failings as young people for the concern that we open kids thinking that it's ok for them."

On the issue of medicinal marijuana, Obama said that if the "best way to relieve pain and suffering is through medicinal marijuana," then it's something he's open to.

He added it would concern him much more if people were allowed to grow their own to use whenever they were simply "feeling really tense" and "needed a joint."

-CNN Iowa Producer Chris Welch


Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Iowa • Race to '08
soundoff (494 Responses)
  1. Ginger Lee, Northern Utah

    Mitt Romney calls Obama irresponsible for admitting the truth...I respect Obama all the more for it, in fact if it weren't for some issues I have with his GLBT stance, I'd support him more than I do Edwards and Clinton at this point. But I more than support him for VP.

    November 25, 2007 03:44 am at 3:44 am |
  2. Bernie Moore-Knowles - Papa'aloa, Hawai'i

    Obama is a breath of fresh air with his honesty. I respect that immensely about him.

    Obama in 2008

    November 25, 2007 04:07 am at 4:07 am |
  3. FV, Tampa, FL

    You're a tweeker! THAT's the point.

    Hillary has so much more experience and brains over this guy it's sick.

    November 25, 2007 04:45 am at 4:45 am |
  4. mT

    Yea, you wouldn't want all the bars
    and stores and gas stations to not be able to sell all their beer and booze if, heaven forbid, "if people were allowed to grow their own to use whenever they were simply "feeling really tense" and "needed a joint."

    November 25, 2007 04:58 am at 4:58 am |
  5. alan St Louis MO

    HE ADMITS===HE know what responsibility and truth is This is the fresh air Washington DC needs not more lies and Spin from the Clinton.

    Get Clinton admit to her faults or miss deed during her life time

    She have you believe she as holy as the POPE and live sin free.
    The sad truth the HARD LEFT LIBRAL NUT CASES EAT IT UP LIKE CANDY

    Was it the CLINTON who destroyed the Democrat party during the 1990s
    Was it the CLINTON who was impeached by the house of congress with over half of the Democrat defecting and voted yes to impeachment.
    Was it the CLINTON who dived the Democrats party against it self. And to this date is still trying to recover from the damage.

    AND the CLINTON suppose to bring UNITY to the people?? They cant keep their own party united LOL.

    JOE BIDDEN AND OBAMA 2009

    November 25, 2007 05:34 am at 5:34 am |
  6. Diamond

    Sorry Ginger. Obama is not running for VP. A Vice President Obama is not something you're going to see in your life time.

    If Democrats trust his leadership, they will vote him to lead the ticket. If they want to nominate another candidate who VOTED FOR THE WAR BEFORE HE/SHE WAS AGAINST IT, then good luck to the Party. The Republicans already have experience running against and beating such a candidate.

    November 25, 2007 06:09 am at 6:09 am |
  7. Francine, San Jose, CA

    I always appreciate that Obama, unlike most other politicians, is willing to admit to his mistakes openly. (It is well known that other politicians, including Clinton, Edwards, Bush, Dean, Gore, Kerry, and others did drugs, but they typically respond with a 3/4 denial when asked.)

    November 25, 2007 06:23 am at 6:23 am |
  8. Jeremy

    This guy is a buffoon. So what's the moral of the story? Instead of giving his plans for America, he is fixated on whether he inhaled or not. We have heard it before, please move on, address the issue that you couldn't articulate time and time again, in the debates.

    November 25, 2007 06:27 am at 6:27 am |
  9. mark wilkes barre pa

    Alan St Louis MO,,,,, Got to say I have not heard a democrat as honest as you in some time,, I wasn't aware that half the dems in congress voted yes to impeach clinton. All I ever hear as a republican is how my party is to blame for eveything that happens in the world or the inafectiveness of the dem party to get there points across and sell them to america. Its good to hear from honest americans like yourself even if my politicl views are different then yours. thanks

    November 25, 2007 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  10. Mohammad, LA CA

    Obama's an idiot. What kind of a guy admits he smoked pot..and then runs for president? All I can say is, I can't believe I wasted some $200 in donations a former druggie!

    November 25, 2007 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  11. ANDROLOMA, Commerce City, Colorado

    Cannabis. To legalize or not, that is the question. If those who do not imbibe aren't affected, then it can be safe to assume that the continual illegalization of marijuana profits only engrained corruption. Those advocates for the status quo must admit no first-hand knowledge of the substance; therefore, also admit to the ignorance and corruption which keeps our free nation woefully unenlightened.
    Know cannabis, know peace. And so on.

    November 25, 2007 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  12. Independent in IA

    I'm curious to know WHEN he smoked pot...if it wasn't perhaps when he was between the ages of 6 and 10 giving him his profound insight into foreign policy...or when he was in high school and college where he admits to being a screw-off.

    November 25, 2007 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  13. Dave, Palm Springs, CA

    ... Why does the press care write about candidate trivia? How about health care? Economy? Why not about more on Huckabee's radical ideas?

    November 25, 2007 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  14. Michelle D./Atlanta, GA

    I can't even believe this is an issue anymore. It's a sign of the times. Everyone has made mistakes, and some still ARE "experimenting" with drugs – legal and otherwise.

    What the point IS here is that he was open and honest. You won't see that in many candidates from either party. You have to respect him for that.

    I doubt I would vote for him anyway, but his past experiments with drugs and alcohol are not what's affecting my decision. It's his platform.

    November 25, 2007 08:05 am at 8:05 am |
  15. Matt, Coral Gables, FL

    The problem with Obama here is that he thinks he was wrong to use marijuana, and that he would only support medical marijuana if it was the "best" choice. I wonder what he would say that if marijuana had been legal at the time when he used it? He is allowing others to be his arbiter of morality, he is basing morality on legality, and he is pandering to the status quo here. Using marijuana is not any more morally "wrong" than drinking alcohol, and he should call out the people who are questioning him with their apparent moral superiority.

    November 25, 2007 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  16. jw, canadian,ok

    Bill didn't inhale and Barack calls it a mistake of a young man – well, you're both lying. Bill inhaled and you enjoyed all those joints and truth be known, probably still do.
    I'm with Willie Nelson on this one, legalize it and tax it.

    November 25, 2007 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  17. Tony/g.c. Missouri

    TO ALAN/St. Louis....

    First off, i feel out of the candidates available, Hillary is our best choice for DEM.
    Yes, I agree that Bill had some issues, and did some things that he should not have. However, look at the big picture. He nearly eliminated the national debt to it's lowest point in decades, unemployment was at a 20 year low, and he WASNT looking for a war somewhere.
    Bush eliminated everything that was accomplished, in less then a year, and turned them around the wrong way by over 300%. We are paying huge amounts for fuels now, and they arent going to change that since they are all making millions from their shares of oil.
    I'm tired of our troops dying for him, and tired of our leaders supporting other countries when we have millions here that need help....
    Do they make the other countries fill out forms to see if they Qualify for aid???? I Highly doubt it... Lets elect someone who CARES about the citizens of THIS country!!!!!

    November 25, 2007 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  18. Lee, Des Moines, Iowa

    Obama has given an excuse, and yet to apologise. Romney is right that Obama has set a poor example for our young kids, and should not deserve the highest office of the land.

    What enrages us is that typically a celebrity involved first takes the stance: “It’s none of your business.” When that line doesn’t work, he or she tries to make excuses, “I was drunk/stoned/conned/didn’t know that blah, blah, blah . . .”—fill in the blanks. When those excuses don’t calm the waters, the person finally comes out with a belated apology. Life goes back to normal. We once again buy the person's music, or see his movies, or go to his ball games, or elect him or her to office.

    November 25, 2007 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  19. Daniel, NY

    Meanwhile, Obama polls very poorly in a new general election poll of Kentucky, while Clinton defeats ALL Republicans! link.

    November 25, 2007 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  20. Eric Stephenson Clinton, illinois

    I respect Barak's honesty,and I don't feel that it shows weakness. Nor do I believe that he is condoning marijuana use to our children. He admits that it was a mistake.And I believe he even gives hope to our young that a mistake does not ruin your life or your future.

    November 25, 2007 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  21. Klaus, NY

    Jeremy :

    He was asked a question. A politically tough question. The same question that Clinton gave the now infamous "I didn't inhale" line to, and which was a precursor to the lying days ahead.

    Obama was open and candid, while also statting his regret, as he has already done before.

    That's the kind of leader this country needs. One who is unafraid to confront tough issues and can give a straight answer to the people.

    Now that is the one true quality of leadership that the MRS. clinton severely lacks. Oh, and pray tell what experience exactly is she yapping on about?

    November 25, 2007 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  22. Dan, Frederick MD

    I can give him credit on actually answering the question in a straight forward and HONEST manner. How many of us can say we did not make the same mistake as a teenager? At least he didnt try to pass it off with an obvious spin like Clinton or just a bold faced lie like Bush.

    November 25, 2007 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  23. Axel, RKDA, California

    So he admits that he inhaled. Big deal... Who cares?

    November 25, 2007 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  24. jack, ny, ny

    Obama is as clear as mud. He started the controversy and achnowledged the controversay and end the controversy. SO in the entire thing HE IS THE ONLY PLAYER. I don't see clinton pointing finger at him on this. Over he is just attention seeker pretending to be honest. Poor amerians are so gullible.

    November 25, 2007 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  25. Drek, Tempe

    Jeremy, please read the first few sentences instead of skimming. Pay attention to the fact he was asked about drug use.

    Also remember, questions are fed, reported or demanded based on many variables. This includes media sensationalism from the parties or reporting media themselves.

    In my call, this is a deliberate approach to differing from the Clinton campaign as someone earlier compared Obama's response to Bill's. It proves nothing because it's an easy call given Clinton's evasive answer.

    Medical marijuana is an easier issue to play with politically rather than, I don't know – jail terms given to people charged with posession (641,108 people, far outweighing the arrests for murder, robbery, etc).

    November 25, 2007 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
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