The new unauthorized book about President Obama, his family, and his life thus far, “Barack Obama: The Story” contains some very revealing information about the President’s marijuana use as an adolescent. While the President has admitted to using marijuana in his younger years, the book makes it seem as though it was an integral part of Obama’s life.
In detailing Obama’s teenage years in Honolulu, author David Maraniss explains that Obama was a member of the “Choom Gang.” Choom is a slang term with a number of meanings, one of which is “to smoke marijuana.” As a leader in the group, Obama, then referred to as “Barry” by his friends, coined the term “TA,” or total absorption, meaning that you must fully inhale and get the most out of your marijuana-smoking experience.
According to the book, Obama also created the concept of “roof hits.” He and his choom gang friends would hotbox their car, then when all the smoke was gone they would go out of their way to suck in the last of the smoke from the roof of the car.
A member of the Choom Gang explained that “wasting good bud smoke was not tolerated.” If group members didn’t fully let the smoke absorb into their lungs, they were penalized and not allowed to take a hit the next time a joint was passed around.
In an excerpt from the book, Maraniss writes of marijuana’s abundance in Honolulu at the time: “In the Honolulu of Barry’s teenage years marijuana was flourishing up in the hills, out in the countryside, in cover greenhouses everywhere. It was sold and smoked right there in front of your nose; Maui Wowie, Kauai Electric, Puna Bud, Kona Gold, and other local variations of pakololo [marijuana] were readily available.”
Unauthorized biographies are often taken with a bit of skepticism because they have not been reviewed or approved of by the individual they are written about. However, Maraniss says that he conducted thousands of interviews, many of them with Obama’s childhood friends and fellow Choom Gang members, so there is potential that many of the stories are actually accurate.
Tales of Obama’s teenage exploits aren’t shocking, and there are probably plenty of stoners out there who would have wanted to be friends with Barry, were they in Hawaii in the ’70s. The reason the stories are surprising is that Obama has been so anti-marijuana throughout his presidency. DEA raids and strict drug laws under Obama’s administration have put thousands of people in jail. Some of those people were probably teenagers and young adults just looking to get “TA” and have a good time smoking with their friends, just like Barry was.
Drugs were seemingly a large part of Obama’s lifestyle, and the hypocrisy that has been shown during his presidency regarding marijuana legalization is unfortunate, to say the least. As Penn Jillette recently highlighted, if Obama had been arrested and prosecuted under the laws that he supports today, he would never have had the opportunity to be President or live the life that he now has.
Perhaps it is time for Obama to take a step back and acknowledge that marijuana users can be positive members of society (yes, they can even become the President one day) and that the laws he’s enforcing are doing more harm than good to many members of the American population.
“Barack Obama: The Story” by David Maraniss will be available for purchase on June 19, 2012. Maraniss has previously written biographies of Bill Clinton and Vince Lombardi.