Opinion: Oops, Obama was for decriminalizing marijuana before he opposed it


This article was originally on a blog post platform and may be missing photos, graphics or links. See About archive blog posts.

Here’s that uncomfortable old video problem again for presidential candidates.

The Washington Times has unearthed a video of a debate in Barack Obama’s initial Illinois campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2004. The debate tape from Jan. 21, 2004, at Northwestern University shows Obama proclaiming the war on drugs an ‘utter failure.’

‘We need to rethink and decriminalize our marijuana laws,’ he said to scattered applause. ‘But I’m not somebody who believes in legalization of marijuana. What I do believe is that we need to rethink how we’re operating in the drug war. Currently, we’re not doing a good job.’


OK. Fine.

But then in a Democratic debate last fall, Tim Russert asked all the party’s candidates if anyone disagreed with Sen. Chris Dodd’s idea to decriminalize marijuana. Obama, standing center stage, was one of several candidates who raised their hand, albeit not very high.

An Obama spokesman told the newspaper the other day that the senator has ‘always’ favored decriminalization as he said in the 2004 debate, meaning he mistakenly raised his hand as an opponent for the national TV audience.

A spokesman for the campaign of Hillary Clinton, Obama’s sole remaining Democratic opponent, said she opposes decriminalization.

-- Andrew Malcolm