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. Chris, Middletown, CT

    Its funny – some people say they like Obama's "honesty" (me too) – then they say they might support a Clinton run too? How important is honesty to you anyway?? I'm a Republican – and if Giuliani doesn't get the nomination and Obama does...he will have my vote (and other Republicans I have spoken with) – Hillary won't have the support of her own party...Obama is refreshing honesty in a sea of Clinton(lies)

    November 25, 2007 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  2. David, Raleigh NC

    If that didn't hurt him how about the fact that he has had and still has real estate holdings with a local chicago orginized crime suspect. Look it up, they own property beside one another.

    November 25, 2007 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  3. Regence Contractor, Austin TX


    The above comment shows your true colors: You are a right wing KKK white supremist religious fanatic who's masquerading as a Democrat.

    November 25, 2007 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  4. PSK Lakeside, AZ

    Sometimes I like to read other's opinions before I send in mine- this time however I'm just going to say it off the top- I truly respect a man that can tell the truth WITHOUT hedging, without sugar-coating it. MANY of us have tried things in our youth that we regret now. That's life-live, and hopefully, learn. What this shows me, however, is that Sen. Obama is not trying to lie himself out of a potentially harmful revelation. I for one, have been looking for honesty in politics for a very long time. Thank you, Sen. Obama, for holding yourself up to a higher standard by admitting your mistake.

    November 25, 2007 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  5. Bob Montclair NJ

    In this era anyone who does not have "skeletons" in their closet must be a bit strange. They did nothing wrong in their past? We are human! So Barack smoked some weed. What are they about now? Who cares if he smoked some weed years ago. Not me but then I am not voting for him. T
    What is amazing about politics right now sad is that the Dems so hate Bush and these are the best they can throw against him? Sad!

    November 25, 2007 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  6. Charles Lalor Clarksville TN

    Mohammad,LA. The kind of guy that says that and runs for president is called honest. The last time a president admitted that he screwed up was JFK. What a breath of fresh air, so to speak!

    November 25, 2007 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  7. Mark

    To state that he is ashamed of it is no less vote pandering than Clinton's idiotic remark.

    I guess we should all be ashamed if we smoked pot or drank in high school and college, had sex in the back seat of our cars or diddled our girlfriends under the bleachers during the football game. Oh the SHAME...

    Refreshing would be if a candidate told someone who asked to mind their own business and stop asking irrelevant questions.

    November 25, 2007 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  8. Dennis, Mount Airy, Md

    Obama is a for real, for real candidate. We are all aware of the many inconsistencies in the lives of our public heroes and heroines. We still lie to our children, and forget that these very lies, caused us, to experiment with these very substances. Isn't it time for truth in the majority of Americans? Are we yet able to handle the truth, or do we still need the directors of the fbi and the military to lie to us, so that we can not tell the truth to the public. Obama did!!! Both Clinton did??? George Bush did!!!! and I did!!!! and you????– who can you really be honest with? Who can America really be honest with? I salute Obama, he is the best of what America is. He is the promise of America fulfilled. Let us elect a true American - who embodies in himself what this country was intended to be when the leaders signed the many documents, that stated their beliefs that one day we would rise up and live out the true meaning of the words, "...we hold these truths ...that all men (women) are (were) created equal and they are endowed by their Creator, with certain, inalienable rights..."

    November 25, 2007 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  9. Case, Norfolk VA

    For those of you who called Obama a "buffoon" for admitting this..what would you rather him do? Lie, dodge the question? You all would have tore him to sheds had he done that. This is forward thinking..It denies the Rebublicans an angle in the general election..Giuliani realized that and capitalized by applauding Obama, gaining political cover for his own history.

    November 25, 2007 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  10. A.S., Tamarac, FL

    Gosh folks...most are either bashing Obama for smoking, or bashing him for admitting it... grow up already. And just cause he tried pot when he was younger, doesn't make him a "drug addict"...get real. I may not be a big fan of his, but give the man a break!

    November 25, 2007 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  11. TDL Falls Church, VA

    "The high-minded man" (no pun intended) "must care more for the truth, than for what people think." Aristotle

    Kudos to Obama for displaying integrity, when he responded to the inquiry regarding medicinal marijuana.....and that integrity is more important than the "rightness" or "wrongness" of those mistakes that he might have made as a young man-didn't we all make mistakes as young impressionable people....

    November 25, 2007 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  12. Jenny , Dallas, Texas

    I am an old "hippie" who smoked amd made my share of mistakes that I tell my grandchildren not to make. I have a relative who smokes for pain and he is dying. If only it had been legal when I was younger maybe my mother would not have suffered so badly before she died...I mean to use medicinally. The media has always looked for DIRT on someone and that is what is happening to Obama for being truthful and honest. Now, leave it alone...let it die... and go on with the campaign. Thanks Obama for not lying and I see no where you have condoned drug use behavior for our children today!

    November 25, 2007 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  13. Jeff, Va Bch

    Good on Obama! Finally a politician that isnt hiding flaws. Everyone has something we arent proud of from our past. We know we'll get a straight answer from Obama. Unfortunately we also know (but somehow accept) less than the truth from the Clintons (both Hilary and Bill). What gives? We know we are/have been lied to and still allow the Clintons to do so. You can almost see Hilary looking for acceptance as she speaks. Time for a change in the Whitehouse!

    November 25, 2007 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  14. Cheryl Fontaine - Lake Stevens, WA

    It's amazing how many holier-than-thou "never did marijuana" ranters don't mind taking a sip or thirty of scotch or popping a few pills because they're "really tense" and "need a drink."

    What hypocrisy.

    November 25, 2007 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  15. Jim, Irmo, SC

    Come on CNN, this is old news. He wrote about this years ago in a best seller. Someone, in a post earlier, said that he seems fixated on it. No, but CNN sure is. And what's with that headline? Why not revamp the article to include something more substantive about the event and have the title be something like Obama answers questions about medicinal marijuana. Is a little evenhandedness too much to ask? We get it, you guys are going to be nicer to Clinton, but stop making me want to change the channel.

    November 25, 2007 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  16. truebob hollywood FL

    Don't Smoke pot. Don't want my kids to smoke pot. Don't think pot is a threat to our way of life, and should not use up so much of out social, legal, and financial resources. Legalize it, empty the jails of the stoners, and do some real police work, please.

    November 25, 2007 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  17. JB Boston MA

    Dennis from AK-

    Like it or not, this is an issue that you are going to have to deal with. To think your daughter is unaware or isn't questioning drug use is naive. 85% of people in the US have tried pot. Some of those 85% are very successful people, some of which will eventually meet your daugher. So, the fact is, not all past or present drug users are in the gutter. Your job as a parent(like it or not) is to explain the pros and cons and hopefully she will be smart and safe in her decisions. But to blame Obama for addressing these issues is similiar to being mad at the sun for rising in the morning. Ignoring the truth doesn't make it any less true!

    November 25, 2007 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  18. trifilio.worcester,ma

    He just got my vote

    November 25, 2007 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  19. Bea, Canada

    Yes Obama smoked pot and did inhale and then went on to be editor of the law review at Harvard no less, a United States Senator, an author of two best selling books and now a Presidential candidate. He is the epitome of the American dream and honest to boot – what's not to like??

    P.S. Also, he got into Harvard on his own merit not riding on anyone's coat-tails.

    November 25, 2007 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  20. Bonnie O., Raleigh, NC

    Now the differences between Mr. Obama and all of the rest of the sad, sorry candidates running for President will start to be evident. There's no "politi-speak" when Obama talks.

    It's so refreshing to have an honest man run for office.

    Obama '08!

    November 25, 2007 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  21. tom, ny, ny

    Some people actually applaud his druguse. seems like his supporters are pot-head as well.

    "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."

    November 25, 2007 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  22. kathy harper, hgtn. Ind.

    YOU ROCK OBAMA!!!! i appreciate his HONESTY, something new and refreshing! i think Barack is a very MORAl and decent family man that really wants to make a difference for his country... Kathy Harper, hgtn. Ind.

    November 25, 2007 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  23. Brian, San Ramon, CA

    I agree that most of us committed indiscretions when young and these should not be held against us if we grow wiser with age. But Obama has a problem. Whether it's cocaine, marijuana, alcohol, or tobacco – this guy has always needed chemical assistance to face the day. He's a smart man with a weak psyche.

    November 25, 2007 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  24. Jose

    So according to Mitt, we're supposed to hide things instead of maybe trying to tell the younger generation – it may not be the best and smartest thing to do. That's those good ol hate filled conservative values for you that enjoy murdering people but don't like the truth!

    November 25, 2007 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  25. Chris, Fairfax, VA.

    I'm confused by the posters here who are claiming that Obama is the one bringing up this issue when it was clearly brought up in questioning. True, the other candidates aren't bugging Obama on this fact, but the media is.

    As for his "that was the point" response, well that just made me laugh out loud. He's still my favorite candidate.

    November 25, 2007 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
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