Cannabis News Marijuana Policy Project
  Obama: Decriminalize Pot
Posted by CN Staff on January 31, 2008 at 06:38:45 PT
By Jen Haberkorn, The Washington Times 
Source: Washington Times  

cannabis Washington, DC -- Last fall during a nationally televised presidential debate, Sen. Barack Obama hesitantly raised his hand and joined with most of his Democratic rivals to declare that he opposed decriminalizing marijuana.

But as a candidate for the U.S. Senate four years ago, Mr. Obama told Illinois college students that he supported eliminating criminal penalties for marijuana use or possession, according to a videotape of a little noticed debate that was obtained by The Washington Times.

"I think we need to rethink and decriminalize our marijuana laws," Mr. Obama told an audience during a debate at Northwestern University in 2004. "But I'm not somebody who believes in legalization of marijuana."

Asked about the two different answers, Mr. Obama's presidential campaign said he in fact has "always" supported decriminalizing marijuana as he answered in 2004, meaning the candidate mistakenly raised his hand during the presidential debate last fall.

That position leaves Mr. Obama as the lone presidential candidate among the four leading challengers in either party who supports eliminating criminal penalties for marijuana. Mr. Obama's chief rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Hillary Clinton, opposes decriminalization, Clinton campaign spokesman Phil Singer said.

On the Republican side, the campaigns for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and Arizona Sen. John McCain did not respond immediately to questions. But the Marijuana Policy Project, which advocates decriminalization, says both Republicans have told its supporters they oppose that move, including in medical cases.

When asked by The Times about decriminalizing marijuana, the Obama campaign at first dodged the question. "Senator Obama does not believe in legalization of marijuana, but agrees with President Bush that long minimum sentences for first-time drug users may not be the best way to occupy jail space or heal people from their disease," Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor said.

Eventually, the campaign said he has always supported decriminalizing the drug and that, as president, Mr. Obama "will review drug sentences to see where we can be smarter on crime and reduce the blind and counterproductive sentencing of non-violent offenders, and revisit instances where drug rehabilitation may be more appropriate."

Mr. Obama's differing answers on marijuana are among a half-dozen conflicts between positions he took while running for Senate in 2004 and those he now articulates while running for president, a review of debate tapes shows. Other conflicts range from ending the embargo against Cuba to providing health care for illegal immigrants.

The Times obtained video footage of the public debates from a variety of sources, ranging from open sources such as YouTube to political operatives who oppose Mr. Obama's presidential campaign or his Senate bid four years ago in Illinois. Mrs. Clinton's campaign, for instance, recently released footage on its Web site of a 2004 speech in which Mr. Obama spoke about universal health care.

Check back for a full report on Mr. Obama's conflicting positions in tomorrow's editions of the newspaper.

Source: Washington Times (DC)
Author: Jen Haberkorn, The Washington Times
Published: January 31, 2008
Copyright: 2008 News World Communications, Inc.

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Comment #29 posted by FoM on February 01, 2008 at 05:21:37 PT
I am so sorry you missed the debate. They didn't mention anything about our issue. CNN isn't as aggressive as MSNBC is with asking questions.

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Comment #28 posted by Hope on January 31, 2008 at 21:52:51 PT
The debate
Was anything said about the issue... medical or otherwise?

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Comment #27 posted by FoM on January 31, 2008 at 20:32:53 PT
Oh I understand now. Clinton's brother not your brother.

Excerpt: President Clinton, who tried to avoid the stigma of smoking marijuana by saying he never ''inhaled,'' tells Rolling Stone magazine that people should not be jailed for using or selling small amounts of the drug.

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Comment #26 posted by fight_4_freedom on January 31, 2008 at 20:29:05 PT:

Sorry FoM
I should have been more That's the rolling stone interview with Bill Clinton right before he left office. That's Clinton's brother that had the cocaine addiction.

Sorry for not being more clear.

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Comment #25 posted by FoM on January 31, 2008 at 20:19:33 PT
You lost me a little on your one comment. Who are you talking about from Arkansas?

I'm glad about your brother and I understand what you are saying.

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Comment #24 posted by fight_4_freedom on January 31, 2008 at 20:12:36 PT:

I'm sure you're right and we will find out the truth very shortly from one of those organizations.

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Comment #23 posted by fight_4_freedom on January 31, 2008 at 20:10:46 PT:

If in fact Obama does support his original view on
decrim, let's see if Hilary starts to attack him. Because if she does, at the same time she will to be forced to attack her own husband for sharing that same view. Remember this interview Clinton did while he was still in office?

Do you think that people should go to jail for possessing, using or even selling small amounts of marijuana? Is that appropriate?

I think, first of all - We're not publishing this until after the election.

I understand that. I think that most small amounts of marijuana have been decriminalized in some places, and should be.

We really need a re-examination of our entire policy on imprisonment. Some people deliberately hurt other people, and they ought to be in jail because they can't be trusted to be on the streets. Some people do things that are so serious they have to be put in jail to discourage other people from doing similar things.

But a lot of people are in prison today because they have drug problems or alcohol problems. And too many of them are getting out - particularly out of state systems -without treatment, without education, without skills, without serious efforts at job placement. There are tons of people in prison who are nonviolent offenders - who have drug-related charges that are directly related to their own drug problems.

Should we be putting nonviolent drug offenders in jail at all? Or should we put them in treatment programs that are more fitting?

I think it depends on what they did. You know, I have some experience with this. My brother - whom I love and am immensely proud of - kicked a big cocaine habit. His habit got up to four grams a day. He was lucky to live through that - and if he hadn't had the constitution of an ox, he might not have.

I think if he hadn't gone to prison - and actually been put away, forcibly, somewhere - it is doubtful that he would have come to grips with it. He was still denying that he was addicted, right up until the time he was sentenced. So I'm not so sure that incarceration is all bad, even for drug offenders, depending on the facts. I think there are some -

Well, right now, what I'm trying to get at -

Let me finish. I think the sentences in many cases are too long for nonviolent offenders, and the facilities are not structured to maximize success when the people get out. Keep in mind - ninety percent of the people that are in the penitentiary are going to get out. So society's real interest is to see that we maximize the chance that when they get out, they can go back to being productive citizens. That they'll get jobs, they'll pay taxes, they'll be good fathers and mothers, and they'll do good things. And I think this whole thing needs to be re-examined. Even in the federal system - these sentencing guidelines

Would you do away with mandatory minimum sentences?

Most judges think we should. I certainly think they should be re-examined. And the disparities are unconscionable between crack and powdered cocaine. I tried to change that. The Republican Congress was willing to narrow but not eliminate them, the theory being that people who used crack were more violent than people who used cocaine.

What they really meant was: People that used crack were more likely to be poor - and, coincidentally, black or brown. And therefore not have money. Those people that used cocaine were more likely to be rich, pay for it and therefore be peaceful.

We need a serious re-examination with the view toward what would make us a more peaceful, more productive society. Our imprisonment policies are counterproductive. And now you have a lot of places where, before the economy picked up, prison building was the main source of economic activity and prison employment was one of the big areas of job growth.

Do you think people should lose access to college loans because they've been convicted of smoking pot? Which is now a law.


Do you think that we need a major rethink of what these drug-sentencing laws are?

Not just drugs. I think we need to look at: Who's in prison? What are the facts?

I don't believe, by and large, in permanent lifetime penalties. There's a bill in Congress today that has bipartisan support - that I was hoping would pass before I left office, but which I feel confident will pass in the next year or two - that would restore voting rights to former prisoners after their full sentences have been discharged. And they wouldn't have to apply for a federal pardon to get it.

I changed the law in Arkansas when I was attorney general. I changed the voting-rights law in 1977, to restore voting rights to people after they've served their sentence. And my state's one of the relatively few states in the country where you do not have to get a pardon from the governor to register to vote again. Or from the federal government, for that matter. Keeping them with a scarlet letter on their foreheads for the rest of their lives, or a chain around their neck, is not very productive.

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Comment #22 posted by FoM on January 31, 2008 at 20:06:38 PT
John Tyler
I think that NORML and MPP have every right to contact his campaign and ask for clarification because of the two different articles. Maybe they will. It's over the word decriminalize and what it means to us compared to drug court. What is the difference is what I would like to know.

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Comment #21 posted by John Tyler on January 31, 2008 at 19:41:39 PT
Obama, let us know
This is very confusing. Is he on our side or not? Maybe he is on our side and just blowing smoke to confuse the prohibitionist that would be sure to jump on his case. If he canít come out and say it yet, at least his people should send out some signals that he is cool. Something that will get by those that are unaware. Perhaps he could have a news conference in San Frisco at 4:20. If he and his staff help us we could help him in a historic first.

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Comment #20 posted by FoM on January 31, 2008 at 19:39:39 PT
I hope so too. He believes in drug courts for sure. I wonder if President Carter will talk to him about the marijuana issue. I wonder if Carter regrets not following thru on decriminalizing marijuana. He likes Obama. If this turns into an issue because of the article we might get attention.

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Comment #19 posted by fight_4_freedom on January 31, 2008 at 19:21:40 PT:

I just hope his campaign's
first response is how he really feels himself. I don't see how they could have got something like that mixed up.

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Comment #18 posted by FoM on January 31, 2008 at 19:13:49 PT
Just a Comment
This updated Washington Times article really upset me but I thought about it and sometimes controversy causes questions to be answered. So we might here more about it now.

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Comment #17 posted by fight_4_freedom on January 31, 2008 at 19:12:27 PT:

So much for saving that last little bit of green
for tomorrow. I can't believe this. I should have known it was too good to be true. God I hate the media.

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Comment #16 posted by FoM on January 31, 2008 at 19:04:25 PT
Now The Washington Time Says
Excerpt: When confronted with the statements on the video, Obama's campaign offered two explanations to the Times in less than 24 hours. At first, Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor said that the candidate had "always" supported decriminalizing marijuana, suggesting his 2004 statement was correct. Then after the Times posted copies of the video on its Web site today, his campaign reversed course and declared he does not support eliminating criminal penalties for marijuana possession and use.

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Comment #15 posted by FoM on January 31, 2008 at 13:37:00 PT
Thank you. That was such a smart answer.

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Comment #14 posted by fight_4_freedom on January 31, 2008 at 13:33:26 PT:

Here's a link to the youtube video
of Obama talking about it in 04'. The video from the Post wasn't working for me earlier.

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Comment #13 posted by FoM on January 31, 2008 at 13:16:35 PT
Thanks The GCW
I voted and Senator Obama is still leading.

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Comment #12 posted by The GCW on January 31, 2008 at 13:10:29 PT
My local paper has a poll some C-newser's might be interested in.

Who's your pick for President?

Hillary Clinton

John McCain

Barack Obama

Ron Paul

Mitt Romney


Obama is ahead.

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Comment #11 posted by FoM on January 31, 2008 at 08:41:05 PT
The way I see it is it cost a lot of money to air these debates and they want to cover those who have done well so far. Most people drop out when they aren't getting anywhere with the voters.

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Comment #10 posted by Sam Adams on January 31, 2008 at 08:40:42 PT
F4f, I don't think Obama would work to wipe out the existing state laws. Hell, Bush and Cheney really haven't done anything to wipe out the laws, they've settled for mere harassment. Nor did the SC, including even Clarence Thomas and Scalia. The purposely left the state laws intact.

But we need the new president to call off the DOJ and DEA from raiding and prosecuting in California. Clinton and Janet Reno ordered them to stand down (although they did try to gag the CA doctors), it was Bush and Ashcroft that began the actual raids in California.

The bottom line is that campaign-speak and reality are often totally different worlds! Let's not forget that Bush promised to leave the states alone on medical mJ while he was campaigning. Clinton joked about smoking herb and then MJ arrests nearly tripled under his reign.

At this point Obama sounds a lot better than Clinton or the 2 Repubs on MJ, that's probably the best we're going to do with the major candidates.

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Comment #9 posted by FoM on January 31, 2008 at 08:37:05 PT
More on Senator Obama

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Comment #8 posted by fight_4_freedom on January 31, 2008 at 08:33:43 PT:

Thats one of the main reasons I'm still
skeptical Sam. After 12 years of working so hard to implement these laws, it would be horrible for him to take away all that hard work just because he doesn't want to go down the "slippery slope". And that really worries me because we worked so hard to get this initiative on the ballot and to have him wipe out all those efforts here would be a total tragedy.

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Comment #7 posted by Sam Adams on January 31, 2008 at 08:23:40 PT
it's great that Obama's campaign is still saying he supports decrim, that would be a HUGE step if he does get the nomination. I'm still very wary of the fact the he recently said he's against laws that allow med MJ patients to grow their own. Which means he's against all the laws in the 12 states that actually protect patients.

Tuesday is going to be MOST interesting. Clinton is still leading in most polls, and many think Romney may end up winning.

I still wouldn't formally support any candidate besides Ron Paul and Kucinich, but I'm definitely rooting for Obama out of the 4 candidates remaining.

They were talking about Obama on Bill Maher's show and saying what a great statement it would be to the world if he gets elected - it would be saying that there is still hope for us, we are not the racist, arrogant imperialist monster that everyone thinks we are after 8 years of Bush/Cheney.

I am very afraid that Hilary is going to defeat Obama though. These primaries are mostly Democratic insiders voting, I fear their loyalty to the Clintons. She's done very well so far. We'll know everything by Tuesday night.

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Comment #6 posted by fight_4_freedom on January 31, 2008 at 08:08:35 PT:

I understand to a point
but why even have them on. Ron Paul was cut off in mid sentence a couple of times. Only having a few seconds to respond. Talk about being bias.

At least we know it won't happen tonight, only the front runners are left.

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Comment #5 posted by FoM on January 31, 2008 at 08:00:30 PT
I noticed that too last night. The thing is we are getting down to the end and will be picking who will run in both parties so that is why they probably didn't spend time with RP or Huckabee.

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Comment #4 posted by fight_4_freedom on January 31, 2008 at 07:56:52 PT:

That's what it looked like to me as well
You'd think with all the debates they've had they could have at least let everyone have 30 seconds to respond on this issue. Last nights debate made me sick. They cut off Ron Paul every chance they got. And there wasn't many chances because he barely had a chance to speak at all.

I hope something is said about this in tonights Duel.

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Comment #3 posted by FoM on January 31, 2008 at 07:53:15 PT
It is very interesting. When Senator Obama raised his hand during that debate I thought he wanted to comment but then they changed subjects and he never got a chance to say anything.

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Comment #2 posted by fight_4_freedom on January 31, 2008 at 07:42:11 PT:


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Comment #1 posted by FoM on January 31, 2008 at 06:39:57 PT
Videos on This Link from the Washington Times

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