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. Allison, NH

    Pete, Des Moins, Iowa:

    If my son came back from college telling me that he had been drinking and taking drugs – I would be dissapointed. But, I would also be proud of him for being able to come to to me to talk about it. Would I think my son was a looser or a joke – NO!!! Kids do stupid things – that is Obama's point. He was young and made mistakes. Kids think that they are invincable at that age – its not UNTIL you've made a few mistakes (and learned from them) in your life that you can truly call yourself an adult.

    November 26, 2007 10:30 am at 10:30 am |


    November 26, 2007 10:31 am at 10:31 am |

    the real essence of the story is all about honesty. no one is perfect,but some are liars.

    November 26, 2007 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  4. Linda Carpenter, Phoenix, Arizona

    c.mon, Senator, Marijuana is way safer than alcohol, which many people use – abuse mostly, to fight off stress and become dangerous to others. It has been ridicuous that for years, pot is a criminal offense while drinking is acceptable.

    It is one of the biggest cash crops in our nation. It might make snese to tax it and regulate it, just like the legal but unsafe drug, alchohol

    November 26, 2007 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  5. JC, Topeka, Kansas

    I would like to point out that the use of drugs of any type, a DUI at any time within a persons youth are grounds to deny enlistment in the armed forces of the United States. The use of drugs of any type other than those prescriped by a doctor or avaiable over a US drug store counter are grounds to deny an inidividual a security clearance.

    The exception to these rules appear to be for holding of the highest office in our nation, President. It appears that while we hold the trust of the nation high in one hand we are willing to overlook youthful failings in the other.

    Personnally I grew up in the 60s and 70s, everyone one was doing it, not. That was not an excuse then and is not excuse now. Illegal drugs are illegal, period. If I grew up in an age of open drug use, and choose not to use illegal drugs, nor abuse alcohol that was my choice and I choose to obey the law.

    I am tired of politicains coming out and saying I did drugs of any type and partied hearty as a youth, therefore because I was young you must forgive me, no I do not have to forgive you, you broke the law, you were inmature and irresponsible and now you want me to forgive you and to support you to be President, I don't think so. As far as I am concerned the use of drugs should eliminate an individual from holding office, why should I put my trust in someone that has shown regardless of age poor judgement of this nature.

    Now it seems to me that we have a problem if we have a past President who tried it and did not inhale, a current President who used drugs and has DUI convictions (but hes born again, had he behaved himself he would have had no reason to be born again) and now a front runner who says I smoked and I inhaled, but I was young, no excuse.

    If these are the best this nation has to offer, I pity our county.

    November 26, 2007 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  6. justdeb

    You "GO" Barak...You've got my vote!


    November 26, 2007 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  7. Brandon, Tampa, FL

    I have a incredible amount of respect for Barack Obama, but this just raises it up even more for me.

    He's the only truly honest presidential candidate I've seen in a long time.

    Go Obama.

    November 26, 2007 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  8. Jr., California

    We don't need a drug-addicted thug in the White House.

    November 26, 2007 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  9. David Columbus, OH

    Drug Addict Thug?

    Thug because he's black? Drug addict? Bush used to snort coke and was an alcoholic.

    November 26, 2007 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  10. Val Davydov, Agawam, MA

    "there are few and far between that never smoked weed.."

    Posted By The Truth

    So, The Truth, you are proud by the fact that there are more of those that smoke weed? You are pathetic.


    November 26, 2007 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  11. Betty, Hiawii

    Most of you writing comments have sorted pasts. Obama is not saying it's okay to take idiotic of all of you to think that. Most of your rebellious kids are doing more than just smoking....can you say deviant SEX ! Please get a grip, OBAMA is as qualified as any one of the big liers running for office. I don't trust any of them especially the REPUBLICANS...we gave them total control and look at what they did and continue to do, they are a bunch of theives. Not only will our grandchildren have to pay off the national debt but their great grandchildren will have to do the same. This country is completely messed up!!! Only GOD can get us out of this mess... OBAMA 2008!!!

    November 26, 2007 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  12. Stacy Blake, Boise, Idaho

    How can you hammer on the guy for being honest? Clinton smoked dope too, he just lied about it. Bush was a drunk coke-head. But come on...these are people who grew up in the 60's and 70's! Obama is not flaunting his drug use...I'm sure he would prefer not to talk about it. But when someone asked the question, he chose to be honest. Hellllo...has anyone read Dreams From My Father? He lays it all out in there anyway; it would be idiotic for him to lie about it at this point. I can't believe you people are getting all worked up about pot he smoked as a teenager 25 years ago! It obviously didn't effect his brain too much; he was the first black President of the Harvard Law Review! What a novel concept...a President who is smart and honest! Romney's response is classic Washington: Don't speak the truth if it's ugly. Just smile and wave while the country collapses under the weight of more lies and corruption. Hope, action, change...GO OBAMA!

    November 26, 2007 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  13. monica, georgia

    We don't need a drug-addicted thug in the White House.

    Posted By Jr., California : November 26, 2007 11:16 am
    Wow do you know how stupid you sound. He tried drugs many many years ago. He only spoke about it because he was asked about it specifically and choose to be the only politician to be honest about it.

    November 26, 2007 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  14. Havok, Dallas, TX

    "It's not something I'm proud of. It was a mistake as a young man." What part of that does Romney not understand?

    November 26, 2007 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  15. Anonymous

    Lets judge everyne based on what they did when they were 17..................The man gave an honest answer to a question, he tried it, knew it was wrong and did not do it again. Lets next ask him if he looked at Playboy when he was a teenager tried to tried to lie to a teacher in junior high school.

    November 26, 2007 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  16. Les, des moines, iowa

    Obama has lost my vote. He never impressed me, my family or my friends.


    November 26, 2007 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  17. Havok, Denton, TX

    Jeremy, he was ASKED a question about medical marijuana and "prodded a bit further". He was answering questions, straight up, instead of dodging them. Did you not read the article? And Mohammad, if you've voted in any election since the 60's you've probably voted for a former druggie... And to all the people who keep touting Clinton's "experience" – is it her experience running her husband off or reading opinion polls that you're talking about? Or are you talking about her experience practicing a bad, fake southern accent? I probably won't vote for either of them, but I'd rather have a former pothead president who understands the concept of integrity than a psycho you-know-what like Hillary Clinton.

    November 26, 2007 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  18. Leo, VA

    "Gotcha Obama, the point was that you inhaled (just as I suspected). So the point was never about trying to help children avoid the pitfalls of illicit drug use and addiction by highlighting your past problems with them. Glad at least you don't use drugs anymore.
    Posted By Stacey, Chapel Hill, NC : November 26, 2007 9:03 am

    How do you know he doesn't? he might feel "really tense" and needing "a joint" sometime? And if nominated, can you imagine the pressure?

    This is not political honesty, is stupid 'Oprah show' cheap talk.

    November 26, 2007 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  19. Charlotte, NC

    This is America people! I think you would be hard-pressed to find any person over the age of 25 who hasn't at least tried marijuana.

    November 26, 2007 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  20. Bea, Hoboken, NJ

    Wow, so far there are 440 messages on Obama inhaling and snorting pot and coke!!!!

    I thought that the general consensus was that Hillary was the "divisive" candidate.


    November 26, 2007 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  21. Mike STL

    My god. It has gotten way worse since I commented two days ago. Apparently I was wrong and the idiots are coming out of the woodwork for this.

    First off, Brad from Texas, Obama didn't just announce he did it. He was asked. What are you gonna do? Dont answer? Lie? NO! Logically, you answer truthfully and comment on it. He made it clear to those people that what he did was wrong. It was a college. If the kids cant make out right or wrong then the blame goes to the parents for poor oversight. NOT HIM!

    And to the right winged extremists who say Obama shouldn't be forgiven for "doing oh so wrong" by smoking pot, even after admitting it, just remember that each of you has done something just as bad or maybe even worse. Lied to someone? Took candy? Copied a paper? Something!

    So before you blasting him for doing it so many years ago, make sure you aren't a hypocrite in some messed up way.

    There, that should clear up this blog. Now I should only see words of support.

    November 26, 2007 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  22. pat huntington ny

    I don't smoke Pot, but some of my friends do. Some of them actually inhale, while others hold the smoke in their mouths like a cigar. The one's that inhale are typically cigarette smokers. The one's that don't, do not smoke cigarettes. Bill Clinton did not smoke cigarettes. So, it's not surprising that he said he didn't inhale. We know Obama smoked cigarettes, so it's not surprising he actually inhaled.

    If I am not correct on the premises, hopefully some potsmokers can let me know.

    November 26, 2007 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  23. Steve, Lyons, CO

    Frankly, Obama, your answer was as cowardly as Bill Clinton's.

    There's no shame in smoking pot. Pot HAS NO LETHAL DOSE. All illegal drugs kill approx. 10,000 Americans a year.

    Alcohol kills 113,000.
    Tobacco kills 339,000.

    Those are the drugs to be ashamed of, to apologize for. Not marijuana.

    Obama's credibility is shrinking.

    November 26, 2007 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  24. JC Topeka, KS

    While I am all forgivness, I would like to make one point clear, there were many in the 60's and 70's; 80 and 90s that saw no need to "experiment" with drugs that were deemed illegal.

    There were many of us that thought ahead as to future results of experimenting with "illegal" substances. As much as I would like to sit there and pat him on the head and say thats all right we all we young once, I can not. The would be rewarding irresponsible behavior. For all the people that sit here and proclaim its so nice to have a politican come clean, my response is that this nation deserves a politican that does not need to "come clean", this is the office of President we are talking.

    This is not a breath of fresh air, this is just another politican saying see I was a irresponsible youth but because I was a "youth" (anyone younger than you) you must forgive me because I knew no better. Bull hockey, moral and ethical behavior are not learned over night. Breaking the law is breaking the law. Johnny's sorry he stole the car, he was just a youth, Jimmy's sorry he capped the kid down the street hes just a youth, Bobby's sorry he set up a scam hes just a youth.

    But then again maybe he will fit right in after all, it appears he has learned that all he has to say is I am sorry, but I was only a youth.

    November 26, 2007 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  25. RAY La Junta,colorado

    he took a hit and he is a DRUG user. Get real people. One hit does not make you a drugie.

    November 26, 2007 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
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