Obama narrated his experience with marijuana in his book, Dreams of My Father. Feelings of alienation and the burden of expectations drove him to experiment with drugs for a short period of time.
“I had learned not to care. I blew a few smoke rings, remembering those years. Pot had helped, and booze; maybe a little blow when you could afford it. Not smack, though-Micky, my potential initiator, had been just a little too eager for me to go through with that. Said he could do it blindfolded, but he was shaking like a faulty engine when he said it. Maybe he was just cold; we were standing in a meat freezer in the back of the deli where he worked, and it couldn’t have been more than twenty degrees in there. But he didn’t look like he was shaking from the cold. Looked more like he was sweating, his face shiny and tight. He had pulled out the needle and the tubing, and I’d looked at him standing there, surrounded by big slabs of salami and roast beef, and right then an image popped into my head of an air bubble, shiny and round like a pearl, rolling quietly through a vein and stopping my heart….
Junkie. Pothead. That’s where I’d been headed: the final, fatal role of the young would-be black man. Except the highs hadn’t been about that, me trying to prove what a down brother I was. Not by then, anyway. I got high for just the opposite effect, something that could push questions of who I was out of my mind, something that could flatten out the landscape of my heart, blur the edges of my memory. 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...
I had tried to explain some of this to my mother once, the role of luck in the world, the spin of the wheel. It was at the start of my senior year in high school; she was back in Hawaii, her field work completed, and one day she had marched into my room, wanting to know the details of Pablo’s arrest. I had given her a reassuring smile and patted her hand and told her not to worry, I wouldn’t do anything stupid. It was usually an effective tactic, another one of those tricks I had learned: People were satisfied so long as you were courteous and smiled and made no sudden moves. They were more than satisfied; they were relieved-such a pleasant surprise to find a well-mannered young black man who didn’t seem angry all the time.
Except my mother hadn’t looked satisfied. She had just sat there, studying my eyes, her face as grim as a hearse.
“Don’t you think you’re being a little casual about your future?” she said.
“What do you mean?”
“You know exactly what I mean. One of your friends was just arrested for drug possession. Your grades are slipping. You haven’t even started on your college applications. Whenever I try to talk to you about it you act like I’m just this great big bother.”
I didn’t need to hear all this. It wasn’t like I was flunking out. I started to tell her how I’d been thinking about maybe not going away for college, how I could stay in Hawaii and take some classes and work part-time. She cut me off before I could finish. I could get into any school in the country, she said, if I just put in a little effort. “Remember what that’s like? Effort? Damn it, Bar, you can’t just sit around like some good-time Charlie, waiting for luck to see you through.”...
“A good-time Charlie, huh? Well, why not? Maybe that’s what I want out of life. I mean, look at Gramps. He didn’t even go to college.”
The comparison caught my mother by surprise. Her face went slack, her eyes wavered. It suddenly dawned on me, her greatest fear.
“Is that what you’re worried about?” I asked. “That I’ll end up like Gramps?”
She shook her head quickly. “You’re already much better educated than your grandfather,” she said. But the certainty had finally drained from her voice. Instead of pushing the point, I stood up and left the room.
Dreams of My Father, Barack Obama
Obama’s position on marijuana has change over the years. In 2004, he stated his support for decriminalization, but not legalization.
In terms of legalization of drugs, I think, the battle, the war on drugs has been an utter failure and I think we need to rethink and decriminalize our marijuana laws but I’m not somebody who believes in legalization of marijuana. What I do believe is that we need to rethink how we are operating in the drug wars, and I think that currently, we are not doing a good job.
January 21, 2004, Northwestern University
However, the 2011 National Drug Control Strategy released on May 11, 2011 notes that,
“Marijuana and other illicit drugs are addictive and unsafe especially for use by young people. The science, though still evolving in terms of long-term consequences, is clear: marijuana use is harmful. Independent from the so called “gateway effect”—marijuana on its own is associated with addiction, respiratory and mental illness, poor motor performance, and cognitive impairment, among other negative effects.
Despite successful political campaigns to legalize “medical” marijuana in 15 states and the District of Columbia, the cannabis (marijuana) plant itself is not medicine. While there may be medical value in some of the individual components of the cannabis plant, the fact remains that smoking marijuana is an inefficient and harmful method for delivering the constituent elements that have or may have medicinal value. As always, the FDA process remains the only scientific and legally recognized procedure for bringing safe and effective medications to the American public. To date, the FDA has not found smoked marijuana to be either safe or effective medicine for any condition (see more on medical marijuana below).
The Administration steadfastly opposes drug legalization. Legalization runs counter to a public health approach to drug control because it would increase the availability of drugs, reduce their price, undermine prevention activities, hinder recovery support efforts, and pose a significant health and safety risk to all Americans, especially our youth. Many “quick fixes” for America’s complex drug problem have been presented throughout our country’s history. In the past half-century, these proposals have included calls for allowing the legal sale and use of marijuana. However, the complex policy issues concerning drug use and the disease of addiction do not lend themselves to such simple solutions.”
On medical marijuana, despite the controversy of the DEA and IRS’ aggressive policies towards Californian marijuana related facilities, it appears that Obama’s personal position on the subject remains unchanged. “My attitude is if the science and doctors suggest that the best palliative care, the best way to relief pain and suffering is through medical marijuana, then that’s something I’m open to and because there’s no difference between that and morphine when it comes to just giving people relief from pain. But I want to do it under strict guidelines.”
November 24, 2007, Obama speaking to supporters during a campaign stop in Audubon, Iowa;