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. Jim, Columbus, OH

    By the drug use criteria, at least 50% of the population of the U.S. is probably disqualified to run for president (which may not be a bad thing...). I think what Obama is saying is that in this day and age, the drug use criteria is no longer hugely relevant. I suppose the voters will decide on that. Obama is certainly more honest than Bill Clinton and that is too his credit. In the end, however, he is just not the most qualified candidate.

    November 25, 2007 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  2. richmond\

    Clintons always want to have it both ways. I tried marijuana(nod to liberals) + didn't inhale(nod to conservatives) = win the presidency. Hillary applies the same formula, but some people are getting wise.

    November 25, 2007 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  3. Richmond, VA

    Clintons always want to have it both ways. I tried marijuana(nod to liberals) + didn't inhale(nod to conservatives) = win the presidency. Hillary applies the same formula, but some people are getting wise.

    November 25, 2007 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  4. MR AMERICA - USA

    Pot is far less harmful than cigarettes and is as American as...MR AMERICA. To the "medical experts" on here that say "oh it's so bad for you, more tar than cigarettes..." Get your facts straight. It's not true. That's Phillip Morris talking, the same people that said milk was worse than smoking, Ad Nauseum.
    Pot really is a mild drug and if booze is legal and controlled and taxed, so should marijuana. As far as Obama, he was honest that he smoked it, big deal, move on. The negative nellies on here weren't going to vote for him anyway, so of course they jump at a chance to rib him on this issue. At least Obama didn't plant that question!

    November 25, 2007 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  5. john reynolds, madison, wisconsin

    come on Obama...you keep saying that you're ready to be LEADER of the country...TAKE A DEFINATIVE STAND and come out in full support of LEGALIZATION...or are you just a politician like the rest?

    November 25, 2007 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  6. Sam, Lutz, FL

    If anything, that makes me want to vote for Obama even more. It shows he admits his past mistakes and is not afraid to confront them again when asked. That shows courage and leadership.

    What have we seen with CNN's beloved Hillary? Dodging questions and flipflopping.

    Obama 2008.

    November 25, 2007 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  7. Mo, Baltimore MD

    I have never done drugs and I wish to see them eliminated from the experience of America's youth. If there is one candidate able to further that goal, its Senator Barack Obama. Obama's honesty is a welcome change to the political scene. Politicians that parse words and speak out of the both sides of their mouth have done more damage to our social fabric than those that admit their mistakes and stand as examples of honestly and good judgment.

    November 25, 2007 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  8. mwk p town florida

    yeah thats what we need a one time muslim turned christian. a one time drug user now doesn't use it anymore. he cant make up his mind what he is or who he wants to be. is he white or is he black? America can not afford this type of misleadership. flip flops belong in the sand whith the other alqueda operatives. send mr.Barack Osama packing.

    November 25, 2007 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  9. LQ ROCHESTER MN

    I don't even think it should be an issue. Like others have said, who cares what a grown man or woman did in high school or college? I'm a different person than the person I was then; I hope he is.
    But obviously some people must think it is important b/c this question is always asked. He spoke the truth – the whole point of smoking weed is to inhale.
    He spoke the truth and isn't that REFRESHING!!! He did not condone it which is what that parent should tell his daughter. He did it, it's not something he is proud of, he admitted it.
    Let's move on to important issues.

    November 25, 2007 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  10. Matthew Sutton, Medford, Oregon

    Has Hillary ever inhaled?

    Or does she get credit for Bill's experience in not inhaling?

    When is someone going to ask Hillary these same questions?

    Its only fair that ALL candidates face the same questions

    November 25, 2007 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  11. Sheree New Orleans, LA

    Good for you- Honesty is the best policy. You are showing young people that just because you are HUMAN – your life and career is not over- and you can still ACHIEVE great things.

    November 25, 2007 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  12. Ralph, Miami, Fl

    Conservatives have only driven us to war, inflation and division over the past decade. Obama is honest and it's invigorating.

    I'm from Florida. I'll vote for him and my dead grandfather will vote for him and no one will find the chad.

    November 25, 2007 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  13. John, Cape May, Nj

    Evrybody brings up pot but he admits he used cocaine when he could afford it.This guy sounds like a phony, growing up in those TOUGH SLUMS OF HAWAII!

    November 25, 2007 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  14. BaileyGal65

    You gotta admit, this man is HONEST.

    November 25, 2007 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  15. Tammy Twin Lakes, WI

    Hmmmmmm-honesty, that's a "new one". This just strengthed my vote for him. Unless he was a junkie, this piece of news was really a waste of time.

    November 25, 2007 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  16. Josh, Prescott, AZ

    I have nothing but respect for Mr. Obama, at least he has the integrity enough to speak out about what he has done in his past. I think he should be applauded because now it won't come out if he is in fact elected and create a shadow over him. The public could not be mad about it because he didn't lie or skate around the truth he came out and said yes I did it, and yes it was a mistake.

    November 25, 2007 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  17. Larry, SF CA

    Finally some honesty. Romney on the otherhand thinks you should lie about your life for the public good.

    November 25, 2007 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  18. Mark, Las Vegas NV

    Glad he's at least honest about it. And he may really think that it was a mistake, but I think he's just pandering to both sides. Marijuana should be legalized and taxed for the following reasons, in no particular order:
    1. It will create revenue. And to all those who claim it is a gateway drug, alcohol takes that spot. So shut it, right?
    2. It will allow it's genetic brother Hemp back on the market and create a bumper cash crop for the US.
    3. It will cut down on the amount of weekend and domestic violence in this country. Nobody gets stoned and then gets into a fight.

    I say we should limit alcohol consumption. Any road fatalities cause be marijuana will be lower than those caused by alcohol. Worst case, same numbers.

    November 25, 2007 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  19. Richmond, VA

    "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.

    November 25, 2007 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  20. Elizabeth, Superior, WI

    Dennis from AK: Tell your daughter to put down the pot and learn to read with comprehension. He said it was a MISTAKE. MISTAKES are usually BAD THINGS that people REGRET DOING and WOULD NOT DO AGAIN if they could go back and fix it. If everyone in this country would teach their children the importance of education and how to think for themselves, we wouldn't have to worry about stupid crap like this.

    My parents both tried pot as teenagers and both gave it up and went back to regular cigarettes – yep, those lovely rolled tobacco-based items produced by the tobacco industry – because the CIGARETTES did more for them than pot did. I CAN'T smoke ANYTHING even if I wanted to – I was born with lung problems because my mom smoked CIGARETTES while pregnant with me.

    Instead of badgering candidates about what they tried based on whether it was illegal or not, why not badger candidates on habits they have/had that are harmful to themselves and others around them? Not only smoking cigarettes, but speeding, driving without a seat belt, driving after only one or two drinks or producing an excess of non-recyclable garbage per person in their households?

    November 25, 2007 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  21. Jack, Atlanta, GA

    STOP REPORTING THIS. STOP REPORTING THIS. STOP REPORTING THIS. FIND NEWS. THIS ISN'T NEWS. CNN, QUIT BEING A BUNCH OF TOOLS.

    November 25, 2007 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  22. 82nd AIRBORNE Put the "ICAN " IN American K-TOWN GERMANY

    I think what the whole of society fails
    to realize about this man is that he admits to not being the perfect person let alone the Saviour of our society as some previous presidential candidates
    have tried to portray. Obama is a man
    nothing more nothing less so I accept his short comings along with his recent commitment to honesty above everything else which is hard to find in present day society. If there is a perfect politician who has not made
    any bad decisions in their youth, let him or her cast the first stone!!
    And the argument that by admitting to taking drugs encourages young people to experiment with drugs is a crock!
    Each one teach one, Obama has just taught a nation of children that no matter what short comings you might face in life don't be afraid to tell the truth about them, because your experiences might help keep someone else from traveling down the same path.

    November 25, 2007 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  23. scott osman, glen rock PA

    hang on – this is an important issue, this is about the state's rights/voter's rights. if the voters of a state decide to decriminalize pot, the fed's should not override the decision. republicans tout states rights when it comes to "abortion" or other issues but you can't have it both ways.
    our country needs real change. the war on drugs must end! stop putting our fellow citizens in jail for drug use, people need counselling and support not jail. and let's send the real criminals to iraq instead of america's best

    November 25, 2007 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  24. Truman, Memphis, TN

    Hey JB from Boston,

    I don't they'll ever learn. Unfortunately, our current society and familiarization with keywords like accountability are becoming more and more fictional than ever it seems. I can't blame someone else for the actions that I do!! That's simply absurd! And if i am blessed to be a parent one day, it is the foundation of morals and values that i would teach to my children to become not just good Americans but good people PERIOD, because it is MY JOB to raise MY children, not the teachers, entertainers, politicans, or TV/media. Sadly, if we were to remove the blinders, maybe some of us will face reality of what is going on around us.

    November 25, 2007 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  25. kata

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

    experience? with what? being a first lady? phhhhh.

    November 25, 2007 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
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