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. pam Eugene, OR

    I am so tired of the Hillary supporters touting all her experience. She does NOT have any experience. Please tell me just one thing she has acomplished other than being first lady? She has NO administrative experience at all. Please when you talk about all her vast experience, include at least ONE thing she has done or shut up about the "big lie" that she has any.

    November 25, 2007 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  2. john

    Mitt Romney is the one who sets a bad example for young people. Affiliating himself with a religion that allows for multiple wives'. I'm scared to get married b/c he'll steal my wife away. I also heard he practices black magic.

    November 25, 2007 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  3. Jaik , chicago, IL

    The question is whether Americans like honesty or lies from politicians. Bush was a coke head , he lied about it and covered it up. Obama tells the truth and apologises for it. What is a better trait in a president ? If you don't support Obama in this area, then perhaps America doesn't deserve honest politicians.

    November 25, 2007 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  4. Matthew, Chicago, IL

    I respect and appreciate Obama's honesty and candidness in answering this.

    I do wish, however, that America would get over this Puritanistic idea that marijuana is evil. It's not a dangerous drug and in fact has numerous medicinal benefits. $10 billion is spent (wasted) every year trying to enforce the distribution, sale, and use of marijuana. People are always going to smoke it. And you know what? It's safer than alcohol. If you've tried it, you know that.

    I wish a politician would have the courage to support the legalization of government controlled marijuana sales. You know, like alcohol and tobacco, which cause cancer. You know what doesn't cause cancer, and in fact alleviates many of the horrible effects of it?–marijuana.

    I also think they should stop testing for it in schools and athletics, but I know that's a lot to ask. A recent study found that kids (yes, kids) who smoke marijuana perform just as well in school as kids who do not. And in terms of athletics, it's obviously not a performance enhancing drug. Instead of testing for that they should be finding ways of testing for the performance enhancing drugs that athletes take but we still cannot detect yet.

    Get over it, America. This is as stupid as Prohibition. These laws are making drug lords rich and America poor. It's a losing battle that no one acknowledges we're losing. Find ways to make it safe and controlled, like tobacco and alcohol.

    November 25, 2007 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  5. RevRayGreen. Des Moines IA

    "Some of you Republican posters are PATHETIC!!! By Senator Obama's own admission to earlier use of an illegal drug"

    lest not forget that marjiuana has been illegal for only 70 years.

    forget decriminalize RELEGALIZE.

    November 25, 2007 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  6. John Lucas New York

    it is amazing. a short 15 years ago that statement would have sunk him. That is why Clinton said what he said. Did anybody really believe he didn't inhale, that would be doing it half a@#ed. Actually I guess after seeing his half a@#ed administration maybe he didn't inhale.

    November 25, 2007 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  7. Amie, SF, CA

    An honest answer! Love it.

    November 25, 2007 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  8. Regence Contractor, Austin TX

    As with most other laws, drug laws are the most discriminatory against blacks. By Federal law, there is a minumum of 5 years jail for possessing 5 grams of crack cocaine or 500 grams of white powder cocaine. Go to this web site to check: <a href:

    November 25, 2007 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  9. Andy, DeKalb, IL

    How many people out there bashing Obama for admitting this are drunk right now?

    November 25, 2007 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  10. Aunt Betty

    I would be willing to bet my left nut that Hillary,Edwards, and the majority of the other socialists have spent a little time inhaling, so who cares. Bottom line is that liberals are free spirits who are less likely to obey the law. Exactly what we need as President.

    November 25, 2007 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  11. Nancy Ison, Pendleton, KY

    ???but it is okay to brew beer or make wine at home and drink that when you feel tense??? Why not do the sane thing...legalize marijuana and tax it.

    November 25, 2007 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  12. David Evan

    Obama is a great man, and in being honest here about trying pot, he shows his greatness.

    But for someone who claims emphatically to have better judgement, past and present, than his running mates, this critical election is not his time to run.

    Romney's response echoes the Republican goal to elect a plastic saint that does not relate to the real world, and sadly many voters are waiting for some angel to come down from the sky and anoint such as saintly personage for the Presidency.

    Republicans will say all the right things about family values, abortion, national defense, and illegal immigration to get questionable angels or reactive voters to acclaim them. But they will say and do nothing substantive about the real issues that effect family, bringing children into the world, security, and protection of our jobs.

    In doing nothing about the real issues, we now have more people working so many jobs they have no time for family, more women getting abortions for this reason, a huge whole in our defenses because of a war with no cause, and horror show in our work place because of just-on shore labors, H1 legal or not.

    How many Republicans does it take to change the real problems we face? None, because for them there are no other light bulbs that require changing.

    The real question is: how many light bulbs does it take to change a Republican? Apparently there were enough for New York City Mayor Bloomberg to drop out of the Republican party.

    It's time for Obama and Edwards to face the real honesty issue now – neither will win this election regardless of the IOWA voite are just paving a carpet for the Republican's to run us over again.

    November 25, 2007 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  13. Mark, Ann Arbor, MI

    Folks, it's pot. That's all, just pot. You pick a few leaves, dry em out and smoke it. Just pot.

    I've tried it, and statistics say the vast majority of you have tried it. Lest you forget, there is still the lingering question of GW being a coke head and alchoholic at one point.

    November 25, 2007 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  14. Brad, from the great state of Texas

    Mike from STL, I'm a Republican and I admit that used to be a pothead, among other things. Most of you commenters are missing the point– Romney is NOT bashing Obama because he made mistakes years ago. Just like Romney, I question why he did it in front of teens... sure he told them it was a mistake, but kids don't always hear the point adults are trying to make (all you parents out there know what I'm talking about).

    And by the way, just because marijuana isn't AS dangerous as alcohol, cocaine, heroin, etc. does not mean it is not still WRONG to use it. If you guys know anything about addiction, most addicts start out as foolish stoners but escalate their usage of drugs. Consider that before we start shouting about "legalization" (which Obama is wisely not doing).

    November 25, 2007 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  15. Sean

    some of you ask "what kind of guy admits to doing drugs then runs for president?"

    or some of you say that "we dont need a crack head being our president,"


    1. a HONEST president admits he smoked in highschool and LEARNED FROM HIS/HER MISTAKES

    2. inless you forget, bill clinton also smoked marijuana.

    3. mitt needs not speak about obama again... i used to like him until he called Obama "Osama" not onced but twice

    November 25, 2007 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  16. Jo, ATL GA

    To alan St Louis MO

    Dream On. Dude. You are the one living in the past.

    My live was better with the Clinton. Sorry yours wasn't.

    You can stop the train.

    GO HILLARY.....

    as a black man I was hoping for Obama for VP... NO MORE.

    November 25, 2007 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  17. Dan Austin, TX

    Reading these comments is probably the most depressing thing I do on a daily basis. I fear for the future of our democracy if this is the type of political discourse that people engage in. Obama's honesty on this particular issue is admirable. I think he is a very skilled rhetorician, and I am glad that he didn't skirt the issue of "inhaling." Truth be told though... this guy DID vote for Patriot Act II, one of the most horrendous pieces of legislation that has ever made its way through congress. That troubles me very deeply... (and you Clinton supporters shouldn't get so self-righteous. Check out her voting record in the senate).
    As far as smoking pot goes, it SHOULD be legalized for recreational use at the federal level. If Obama had come out and explained the hard science behind the health risks of pot vs. those of alcohol, I'd be inclined to say that we've got a real revolutionary on our hands, but for some reason this country still has some hang-ups about herb. I read a poll once that said that 80 percent of Americans have tried marijuana at some point. If that's true, one can assume that there are a few more closet pot-heads in this presidential lot... (has anyone ever seen those pictures of young Hilary Clinton... the HIPPIE???!!!)
    Pot does have medically beneficial properties, but more importantly, pot is awesome and should be legal. We could grow it domestically which would greatly benefit our economy. And lest the lesser-educated among us forgets, pot, unlike alcohol and tobacco, is non-addictive. LEGALIZE IT!!!!!!!! and vote for Dennis Kucinich.

    November 25, 2007 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  18. Judith

    It is refreshing to hear the truth from someone seeking the WH. Now if someone where to ask Hillary the same question, what might she say? No it was just bill that smoked it.....Or maybe she didn't inhale either....

    At least Obama was honest about it.

    From the sixty's on up through the years marijuana has and is still being used through out this country, with more public officals using it they you can count, aT ONE TIME OR ANOTHER. And it's a question which should die from our election process, marijuana, is not as bad as other drugs out there, and drinking is also a lot worst in many cases.

    I just want someone I can trust in the WH, someone who will work to restore our country liberties and constitution as well as bring our troops home...We need someone to work for America, not give it away to other nations, as we have under Bush/Chaney... Hillary is to much like Bush/Chaney and she is untrust worthy....

    November 25, 2007 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  19. jmaya, iowa

    OBAMA exhibiting nonsense to show his honesty, he is the most disguise poltician. Can anyone believe he doesn't keep record of his state senate and wants to dig others record, shameless guy! He is one of the most opportunist politician who can hide things and still attack others for dishonesty. God helps us!
    For Hillary 08'

    November 25, 2007 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  20. Ayyub, Richmond, Va

    To Richmond, VA on
    "HILLARY is the ONLY Choice for 2008 president! she has the experience…"
    Experience at what? Sleeping with a cheating husband? That experience is not unique.

    OBAMA 2008!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Posted By Linda, Edmond, OK : November 25, 2007 2:09 pm

    So, you're attack not only Obama now but Also the city of Richmond! LOL you Hillary supporters and Republicans sure do have some bad manners. You go around attacking everyone and attack people who aren't even attack you but making a clear and honest point! There is nothing (NOTHING!) wrong with Obama telling the !TRUTH!. If you think the truth is bad it's either you can't handle a politian telling it or you love to lie and hate the truth (A SUPPORTER SHOULDN'T SUPPORT THEIR CANDIDATES LIES!). America what would you rather have TRUTH or LIES!

    Oh, yes I am from Richmond, dudes!


    November 25, 2007 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  21. earl, Ridgefield, NJ

    I've been on his side for a while now. Now I'm definitely going for him. With Washington as corrupt as Chinese safety officials, some frank and open honesty wins voters. I'd go for him over that w**** Clinton. If you're with the people and feel for the people, you're in line with the people's interest. She's nothing but a special interest elitist. I almost willing to bet money that she breaks on all her promises. She'll never have the same legacy as Bill Clinton's economics plan, nor should she'll ever be president. Obama and Edwards catching up to Clinton.

    PS. Don't say that "All I can say is, I can't believe I wasted some $200 in donations a former druggie!" You have a former alcoholic as a president.

    November 25, 2007 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  22. Dave, Cheverly, MD

    Anyone saying they are not voting for Obama because he tells the truth. Was not voting for Obama anyway. This story is the result of s very ssssslow.. News Week.
    This has already been talked about. Get over it as it WILL NOT get traction. Some of us would like to get NEW blogs to disagree about.

    1. Your kid could probably tell you more about drugs then you care to hear.

    2.Your piers/ coworkers probably can tell you anything your kids left out.

    3. Your parents/grand parents (the hippy generation) that now are the senior members in Congress, the Administration and the Senate. Can look over items 1 & 2 above for accuracy.

    November 25, 2007 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  23. Silverspoon, ATL, GA

    Bush did cocaine, and DUI but wont admit, Clinton never inhaled and never had S$@ with that woman, Hilary who used to be Rodham is most experienced because she was Mrs President.... do these people speak a different language than everyone else?

    ell is as it is Obama and lets end the Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton rotten family tree dynasty

    November 25, 2007 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  24. Matt, Philadelphia, PA

    what's the difference if someone is really tense and needs a drink? I don't use and don't care if people do use pot. I just don't think my tax dollars are spent wisely putting those people through the system. Put those dollars towards murder investigations which marijuana use apparently does not encourage.

    November 25, 2007 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  25. Aurora Billings, Plattsburgh NY

    Obama isn't the one making a big deal out of this, it's the half-assed media. And yes, CNN, I mean you as well. So much of this electoral process is dictated by what the media chooses to focus on. At least the question about marijuana wasn't planted (pun intended). Come on. It's marijuana. It's a plant, for god's sake! It's not as though the man is an opium addict or dare I even say, an alcoholic. Hypocrisy, thy home is Washington, D.C.

    November 25, 2007 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
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