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Obama talks smoking weed with college students

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Barack Obama has been partying like a rock star since he left the White House.

He has spent the last few months kite-boarding with a billionaire off the coast of a private island, hanging around on a superyacht in Tahiti with more billionaires and rock stars and megacelebrities and, we’re assuming, furnishing his five homes spread across the U.S.

But you know Barack Obama: He just can’t stay out of the spotlight. And so, on Monday, Mr. Obama showed up for his first big event since leaving office in January. He participated in a discussion with students at the University of Chicago, where he was once a visiting professor teaching constitutional law. The avuncular Mr. Obama sat cross-legged on stage with a half-dozen young people, musing about life, politics — and smoking weed.

“I would advise all of you to be a little more circumspect about your selfies,” Mr. Obama said to laughter (even though he was known to take a LOT of selfies).

“If you had pictures of everything I’d done when I was in high school, I probably wouldn’t have been president of the United States,” he said.

And then he segued into his days as a pothead in a group called the Choom Gang. Lest you forget, David Maraniss’ biography “Barack Obama: The Story” details Mr. Obama’s days of smoking marijuana with his friends in Honolulu.

Mr. Obama’s friend Mark Bendix often served as chauffeur in his Volkswagen minibus, known as “the Choomwagon.” The group of teens would head off to Mount Tantalus, where they parked, “turned up their stereos playing Aerosmith, Blue Oyster Cult and Stevie Wonder, lit up some ‘sweet-sticky Hawaiian buds’ and washed it down with ‘green bottled beer’ (the Choom Gang preferred Heineken, Becks, and St. Pauli Girl).” Good times.

Mr. Maraniss writes that Mr. Obama was a champion weed smoker. “When they were chooming in a car all the windows had to be rolled up so no smoke blew out and went to waste; when the pot was gone, they tilted their heads back and sucked in the last bit of smoke from the ceiling.”

And Mr. Obama inspired the goal of “Total Absorption,” or “TA.”

“TA was the opposite of Bill Clinton’s claim that as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford he smoked dope but never inhaled,” Mr. Maraniss wrote. When it was your turn to hit the joint, if you exhaled early, “you were assessed a penalty and your turn was skipped the next time the joint came around.”

So it was interesting that on Monday, Mr. Obama warned kids not to photograph themselves too much because “everything’s searchable.”

Recalling his autobiography “Dreams From My Father,” Mr. Obama said, “Because I had been pretty honest about the struggles I went though as a young man, uh, when I ran for office and there was some big reveal about, ‘Oh, the guy smoked pot,’ it’s like, ‘Yeah, no, it’s in my book,’” he said to laughter and applause. “I, I, I, and, and, and, I, I learned from that, I, I, I didn’t sugarcoat it. I didn’t suggest that somehow it had been, uh, you know, something that I recommend for everybody.

“But that’s what teenage kids did at that age when I was where I was growing up. Not everybody. Some were wiser than me. I wasn’t that wise.”

Ah, but Mr. Obama was there to make sure that young people know they can smoke weed — and still become president. It worked for him, right? Such a good role model.

• Joseph Curl has covered politics for 25 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent at The Washington Times. He also ran the Drudge Report as morning editor for four years. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter [email protected]

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC.

Barack Obama has been partying like a rock star since he left the White House.

Barack Obama says marijuana should be treated like ‘cigarettes or alcohol’

In exit interview, US President says drug should be treated as public-health issue

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In an “exit interview” with Rolling Stone magazine, President Obama said that marijuana use should be treated as a public-health issue similar to tobacco or alcohol and called the current patchwork of state and federal laws regarding the drug “untenable.”

“Look, I’ve been very clear about my belief that we should try to discourage substance abuse,” Mr Obama said. “And I am not somebody who believes that legalization is a panacea. But I do believe that treating this as a public-health issue, the same way we do with cigarettes or alcohol, is the much smarter way to deal with it.”

Mr Obama has made comments to this effect before. In a 2014 interview with the New Yorker magazine he said that marijuana was less dangerous than alcohol “in terms of its impact on the individual consumer.” More recently, he told TV host Bill Maher, “I think we’re going to have to have a more serious conversation about how we are treating marijuana and our drug laws generally.”

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In the Rolling Stone interview published this week, Mr Obama also reiterated his long-standing position that changing federal marijuana laws is not something the president can do unilaterally. “Typically how these classifications are changed are not done by presidential edict,” he said, “but are done either legislatively or through the DEA. As you might imagine, the DEA, whose job it is historically to enforce drug laws, is not always going to be on the cutting edge about these issues.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration recently turned down a petition to lessen federal restrictions on marijuana, citing the drug’s lack of “accepted medical use” and its “high potential for abuse.” Congress could resolve the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws by amending the federal Controlled Substances Act, but it has declined to do so.

Marijuana legalization advocates have been frustrated at what they see as Mr Obama’s unwillingness to use his bully pulpit to advocate for their cause. “It would have been very helpful if he had taken more concrete positive action on this issue before it was almost time to vacate the Oval Office,” Tom Angell of the pro-legalization group Marijuana Majority said in a statement. “That this president didn’t apply pressure on the DEA to reschedule marijuana this year will likely go down as one of the biggest disappointments of the Obama era.”

There is little disagreement on either side of the legalization debate that personal marijuana use should be treated primarily as a public-health issue. Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), the nation’s leading anti-legalization group, says that it “seeks to establish a rational policy” for marijuana use and possession that “no longer relies only on the criminal justice system to address people whose only crime is smoking or possessing a small amount of marijuana.”

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But there is vehement disagreement over what such a “rational policy” would look like. SAM advocates for a policy of decriminalization of marijuana use, but not full-scale commercial legalization. Groups like the Marijuana Policy Project, on the other hand, are pushing for the creation of Colorado-style commercial marketplaces where it is completely legal to buy, sell and consume marijuana.

Mr Obama has been hesitant throughout his second term to push for one approach or the other. His Justice Department has created a policy explicitly allowing states to legalize marijuana as they see fit, but he has made no effort to alter the strict federal prohibition on marijuana that complicates any effort to create a legal nationwide marijuana industry.

Pro-legalization advocates are worried that the current Justice Department policy of noninterference on marijuana legalization could be reversed by an incoming Trump administration stocked with harsh critics of such legalization. Donald Trump himself has said that the matter should be left up to the states.

In the Rolling Stone interview, Mr Obama hinted that he may be more vocal on the issue once he leaves office. “I will have the opportunity as a private citizen to describe where I think we need to go” on marijuana, he said.

In exit interview, US President says drug should be treated as public-health issue