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. Dan Kramer

    Mitt Romney is such a fake. I'm so sure he's Mister clean...give me a break. I'd rather have someone who knows what their talking about than a sheltered Mormon running the country.

    November 25, 2007 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  2. RunningWater

    Black Americans are trip. This is yet another cynical example of a missed opportunity on their part. Remember how Blacks supported Clinton throughout his impeachment, even caressing him as the "First Black" president?<–I want to barf. Now they should all flock to Obama but they aren't, why is that? Now I'm going for the Doctor Ron Paul but that has nothing to do with my Blackness just my views on taxes and The Constitution. I would vote for Obama or Guiliani if Ron Paul wasn't around. I'm just going for character. Guffaw when they say Clinton has more experience. If they are measured by years, then yes. But if you measure by
    intelligent decision making then she lacks experience. Sheesh! I've been at my job 20 years do I deserve to be CEO? Even I don't think so.

    November 25, 2007 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  3. PollM, Dallas Texas

    Do you agree with Mitt Romney's statement that Obama's comments set a bad example for young people?


    November 25, 2007 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  4. Tim, Charleston, SC

    Are the people who bash Obama for smoking the same ones defending and listening to Limbaugh?

    November 25, 2007 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  5. James, Kansas City, MO

    If anything, I think this admittance makes Obama over qualified for the job of the top leader of this country. He represents more people than the straight edge hard cores do.

    November 25, 2007 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  6. Nick, Chicago IL

    WHO CARES??? I can't believe would even run this headline on their front page. Probably 80% of people in Obama's generation, politicians and lawmakers alike, tried marijuana. This isn't heroin. This isn't LSD. This has no significant impact on his ability to be president. That this might be a serious consideration for voters is sad. You would think that our advanced society could focus on more pertinent and significant issues. Get over it CNN. And get over it those of you who fantasize that none of the Republican candidates (or Democrat for that matter) have ever smoke marijuana. Stop fooling yourself just because it didn't make headlines.

    November 25, 2007 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  7. A W, St. Louis, MO

    Yeah Obama!! Finally an honest answer from a politician.

    November 25, 2007 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  8. andy, WA

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

    There are many things you don't understand, Mr. Obama, and the above is the least important.

    But this is 'good' strategy, talking about your drug experience is a good way to keep voters away from the real questions.

    November 25, 2007 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  9. Ryan, Toronto, Canada

    It's so GREAT to see a politican being honest about their past!

    On a more important note, I think we should ask the candidates and ourselves if we consume/d Coffee, Alcohol, Tobacco Chocolate, etc. A lot of the substances that we consume can be harmful in someway to our bodies. Alcohol & Tobacco being the most harmful by far! See the studies on the amount of deaths caused by Marijuanna compared to THOSE two 'legal' substances. Politicians tried to stamp out Alcohol consumption to 'Save the Children' and look what happened. You had a massive underground market that ended up breeding corruption in politicians & law enforcement & allowed organized crime to flourish.
    Now we have many other less popular substances like marijuanna that our governments criminalize and try to eradicate. Guess what is the biggest money maker for organized crime now? Marijuanna! World governments' (including my own) draconian laws are perpetuating organized crime and corruption in our respective governments. Police & politicans have a vested interest in keeping these substances criminalized because millions of your tax dollars go to their districts & States to fight the War on Drugs. These tax dollars could be better spent on catching real criminals like robbers, murderers, fraud, & many more other important areas. This money could also be spent on rehabilitation of people who are addicted to highly addictive and more harmful substances like Alcohol abuse, Tobacco, Crack, Heroin, Blow, and certain prescription or over the counter medications. You COULD also use that money towards helping people get themselves out of poverty, which would likely decrease the demand for some of these more harmful substances to begin with.

    Wake up everyone!

    I look forward to hearing from all the 'you are a left wing nut' bashers! Pull your self righteous heads out of the sand. Maybe all you compassionate conservatives could SHOW some COMPASSION and help out your fellow citizens instead of throwing them in jail!!!

    Friend from up North


    My government is just as bad!

    November 25, 2007 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  10. Linda, Edmond, OK

    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!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    November 25, 2007 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  11. bruce from syracuse, new york

    wait sec: isn't it "the point" to smoke sometimes just because "you're really tense". he's "open" to medicinal marijuana for people in pain from say cancer, but not if you use it to "relieve the pain" from tension say if you're the caregiver for this patient, like i was recently as my beautiful wife lay dying from complications with multiple sclerosis. so please please please, vote for ron paul as a personal favor to me and others like me! thanks

    November 25, 2007 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  12. Jake S, South Orange, NJ

    For so long, Politicians have been telling us what we want to hear, not the truth. Here, Obama went out on a limb and admitted that he's made mistakes. Romney is practicing classic politics, saying that admitting to doing drugs, even though Obama dclared that it was mistake, sets a bad example, that the truth should be swept under the rug. If Romney believes that the public doesn't want the truth, then I wouldn't trust him to be my President.
    I think Obama's move won't encourage kids at all. Obama is a smart, well-liked and respected man in the youth community, if he comes out and goes, "look I did it, don't make the same mistake as me" that will resonate much more than someone claiming to be perfect trying to tell the kids it's bad. Obama speaks from experience, while health teachers speak from the textbook. The Bible says that a truly repentinent sinner is more holy than a man who has never transgressed, and I see a parallel to made both in politics and in fighting drug use

    November 25, 2007 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  13. Jessica, Kokomo IN

    So Romney prefers lying instead of admitting the truth? At least Obama is honest about the whole thing. I implore those criticizing Obama for being a "druggie" just because he tried pot to tell us about their own immaculate, mistake-free adolescence.

    November 25, 2007 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  14. Val Davydov, Agawam, MA


    Enough is enough! You should know the bounderies if you are running to be president of our country. Shame on you.

    November 25, 2007 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  15. Elizabeth, New York, NY

    Politicians are so quick to paint marijuana as a villainous and dangerous drug. Younger generations see it more as a common, non-addictive recreational drug, and a much less dangerous alternative to cocaine or heroin. No wonder Obama seems to strike a chord with young adults; I'm glad he doesn't pretend that marijuana is something to be ashamed of when it's become so common in our society.

    November 25, 2007 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  16. DeLynn of AUSTIN

    Mitt Romney is a cokehead.

    Good for you, Barack.

    But for all of you people seeking a truthful president, I suggest you look into Ron Paul. That man BLEEDS truth!

    November 25, 2007 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  17. bob Rochester NU

    I truly admire Mr. Obama honsesty. all politians should look to his example.

    November 25, 2007 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  18. Jake S, South Orange, NJ

    To clear something up about Clinton's impeachment, a total of 0 Democratic Senators and 3 Democratic Representatives voted for Impeachment, significantly less than half.

    I support Obama over Clinton, but I still like to make the truth known

    November 25, 2007 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  19. Dan, TX

    This is an old story, it is only CNN trying to show that Obama is honest.

    Instead they should focus on his health care, education, national security and other plans, that are sophisticated and clearly laid out in his speeches (that can be read on his campaign web site) and the issues pages on his web site. This is the best candidate for president on either side and I'll take Obama's experience and judgement over any other candidate running for president.

    Obama '08

    November 25, 2007 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  20. Sis, Oak Park, IL

    Obama is honest and I respect him for that. What I can't respect is voters who don't want a real candidate who is honest but a false image of a candidate. Someone who says I did not inhale or I don't have any faults or that I did not have sex with that woman. C'mon, it is not the candidates fault at that point, it is the voters. So either we will get more of the same this campaign or we will vote for real change we can believe in with Obama.

    November 25, 2007 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  21. Connie Anger aka Kapogianes, N/A, Canada

    Senator Obama:

    You coming out about your experimentation in your youth is an inspiration to all people young or old. I done similar experimentation myself and letting others know that even the best fall at times – is a normal process of life long learning.

    Good luck in the Presidential race.

    Ms. Connie Anger aka Kapogianes (divorced)

    November 25, 2007 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  22. Leo, Knoxville, TN

    First off, to those of you that agree with Romney, you must not have voted for Bush right. With that stance, why would one find a man that had recieved a DUI in his younger years to be a more acceptable president? If you want to maintain the attitude that we should elect the perfect human being for president, then don't just focus your critisizm on Obama. Also, note that Obama labeled his past experimentation as a "mistake". How does the youth of America translate that into "marijuana must be OK for me"?
    Also, to MATT from Coral Gables, saying something is a "mistake" does not necessarily mean one feels it is morally wrong. Obama's "mistake" could very well have been the mistake of making the juvenile decision to break the law without recognizing or considering the risks involved.
    There are alot of reasons why a canditate for presidency doesn't want to shout support of legalizing marijuana to the roof tops, political suicide being one of them.
    To those that are pleased with Obama's honesty. This shouldn't be a big deal. We should not be overjoyed at the concept of an honest politician, we should expect it. On the other hand, we should not be surprised to hear the honest answers we don't always want to hear. Perhaps politicians in general would not feel as much the pressure to lie or misguide if voters were more reasonable in their judgements. If we stop falling for their games, they'll have no reason to play them.
    To those of you that refer to Hilary and Bill Clinton as if they are the same entity, I just want to remind you that Hilary is not responsible for any of the decisions that Bill made in his presidency, good or bad. If you think Bill was a good president, that alone does not signify that Hilary will be a good president. Likewise, if you feel that Bill Clinton was a bad president and determine Hilary's aptitude as a president by his actions, at least keep your misguided opinions to yourself.
    On the other hand, it is ignorant to say that Hilary would govern our country without ever recieving guidance from her husband. In truth, if you choose to support Hilary, you have to accept Bill as an influence.

    November 25, 2007 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  23. Juanito, Washington, DC

    LOL...let me get this straight....Obama is being bashed by some here because he was honest about what he did 30 years ago with marijuana? Ok...these same people would be bashing Obama if he had said "I didn't inhale."

    You clowns are hilarious. He was asked a question, and he gave a direct and honest answer. How that is something to be attacked for is beyond me.

    November 25, 2007 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  24. John

    George Bush did coke, looks like obama doesnt have the experience necessary to be president.

    November 25, 2007 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  25. Winton Long, Yoakum, Texas

    In my opinion, Obama did the right thing. He told the truth, and didnt even stretch it. Now, if we could get all politicians to get off of their "High" horses, we can make an honest selection on who should hold any office. By going into a little detail, he confirms that he is telling the truth. Nothing more. Nothing less. I think NO Less of Mr Barck Obama. I think he will make a great Vice President to Hillary Clinton.

    November 25, 2007 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
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