Obama used to be a huge stoner, which makes his current war on pot extra insulting

Although Barack Obama’s dabbling in drugs has long been known, yesterday brought some new tidbits about just how big of a pothead the 44th U.S. president was in his youth.

Buzzfeed’s Gavon Laessig got his hands on an early copy of David Maraniss’s Barack Obama: The Story and posted some choice excerpts. Turns out Barry wasn’t just a casual pot smoker. He and his friends smoked so frequently they called themselves the “Choom Gang”:

As a member of the Choom Gang, Barry Obama was known for starting a few pot-smoking trends. The first was called “TA,” short for “total absorption.”

and:

Along with TA, Barry popularized the concept of “roof hits”: when they were chooming in the 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:

Barry also had a knack for interceptions. When a joint was making the rounds, he often elbowed his way in, out of turn, shouted “Intercepted!” and took an extra hit. No one seemed to mind.

What a loveable scamp Barry was! And just like all pot smokers, he went on to be a dangerous criminal who needed to be locked up for many years so he wouldn’t infect the rest of society. Oh wait, he went on to become president, where he has not only failed to curb the War on Drugs, but actively ramped it up.

After promising in 2008 that he would leave medical marijuana to the states, he has enacted a crackdown on dispensaries that far exceeds anything his Republican predecessor ever did. As Rolling Stone reported a few months ago, the multi-agency crackdown has busted growers who operate in full compliance with state laws, “vowing to seize the property of anyone who dares to even rent to legal pot dispensaries, and threatening to imprison state employees responsible for regulating medical marijuana. With more than 100 raids on pot dispensaries during his first three years, Obama is now on pace to exceed Bush’s record for medical-marijuana busts.”

Remember, this isn’t even busting the dealers on the street corners (although that has continued unabated under Obama anyway) but going after the completely above-board medical marijuana sellers in the 16 states where they are legal under state law. There are 12 other states considering medical marijuana legislation as of this month; if those states vote in favour, it would make Obama’s ongoing crackdown a war against a majority of American states.

“We’re not at war with people in this country,” Obama’s drug czar Gil Kerlikowske said in 2009. Well, there’s a new memo circulating around the office, and the war is back on!

Although Obama’s war against medical marijuana is particularly odious, the larger War on Drugs has continued without a hiccup since he took office.

In 2010 (the last year for which full stats are available) drug charges were by far the leading cause of arrest, with 1,638,846 arrests recorded by the FBI. Of those, 46 per cent — almost half — were for simple possession of marijuana. Even a person’s first arrest on marijuana possession can lead to a full year in prison. And if you’re selling the stuff you can look forward to up to five years on your first offence.

The excerpt’s from David Maraniss’s book were met yesterday with all sorts of hilarious headlines such as “Inhale to the Chief” and “The Audacity of Dope.” The press largely see the pot issue as the obsession of a fringe element of society, treating it as a joke. When Obama held an internet town hall in 2009 for which people submitted and voted on questions, the top question was about legalizing pot. Predictably, Obama and a room full of clapping seals supporters laughed it off as though the mere suggestion was ludicrous. It took comedian Jimmy Kimmel at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner to make the point directly. “Marijuana is something that real people care about,” Kimmel said.

He’s right. And it’s not just a few “real people” but a majority of them. A new Rasmussen poll that came out last week shows 56 per cent of Americans now support legalization and regulation similar to alcohol.

In Canada, support is even higher at 66 per cent in favour of legalizing/decriminalizing pot. But as long as the U.S. continues its senseless crusade against marijuana, Canada is likely stuck with prohibition we well. Especially since the Get Tough on Crime™ government of Stephen Harper just increased punishment for drug offences with its ridiculously title Safe Streets and Communities Act, and since the Conservatives could potentially be in power for another decade, a change in America’s approach to drug enforcement is one of the only avenues to change. After all, the reason Jean Chretien’s decriminalization bill didn’t go through in 2003 was largely because of American opposition, but there’s no reason it couldn’t work the other way around.

Barack Obama is in re-election mode, so the likelihood of his administration suddenly changing tack is pretty slim, but pressure could build as more and more Americans come to their senses. Besides, even Obama should know that pot brings people together. In fact, he acknowledged it in his own memoir Dreams From My Father:

I had discovered that it didn’t make any difference whether you smoked reefer in the white classmate’s sparkling new van, or in the dorm room of some brother you’d met down at the gym, or on the beach with a couple of Hawaiian kids who had dropped out of school and now spent most of their time looking for an excuse to brawl. Nobody asked you whether your father was a fat-cat executive who cheated on his wife or some laid-off joe who slapped you around whenever he bothered to come home. You might just be bored, or alone. Everybody was welcome into the club of disaffection. And if the high didn’t solve whatever it was that was getting you down, it could at least help you laugh at the world’s ongoing folly and see through all the hypocrisy and bullshit and cheap moralism.

The hypocrisy and bullshit sure seem pretty evident at the moment.

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