For those who have just joined in reading the NEWS, you may be asking yourself how we are different. For one thing, take our current president. Many in the medical marijuana field back in 2008 were holding their breath for hope and change. They weren’t smoking the weed before they drank the kool-aid. Though the NEWS had yet to form much like the 420Nurses, the staff here was never a believer. However some smoker groups and leaders may still hold out. We hope to correct that with this files report.

Recently President Obama caused quite a stir when he told the New Yorker’s David Remnick in an interview that he doesn’t believe marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol and that it’s “important” to allow legalization efforts in several states to proceed.

But according to the White House, the frenzied reaction to the president’s comments was much ado about nothing.

“No, the president’s position on these matters hasn’t changed,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said on Wednesday when he was asked whether President Obama’s comments reflect a shift in drug enforcement policy. “When it comes to marijuana use, he made clear that he sees it as a bad habit and a vice and not something that he would encourage…but there’s no question that we’ve applied our drug laws in a way that’s been counterproductive.”

In the interview published Sunday, the president said he was troubled by the racial and socioeconomic disparities in the application of drug laws.

“Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do,” he said. “And African-American kids and Latino kids are more likely to be poor and less likely to have the resources and the support to avoid unduly harsh penalties.”

Carney underscored that point on Wednesday, saying the “experiment” in pot legalization currently underway in Colorado and Washington States may clarify a much-needed conversation about drug laws – but that doesn’t mean the president necessarily stands behind those legalization efforts.

“He’s talking about the issue of the disparities in our prosecution of our drug laws that an experiment like this may be addressing,” Carney explained. “He’s not endorsing any specific move by a state, he’s simply making an observation. His position on these matters has not changed.”

In the Honolulu of Obama’s teenage years marijuana was flourishing up in the hills, out in the countryside, in covert 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 were readily available.

A self-selected group of boys at Punahou School who loved basketball and good times called themselves the Choom Gang. Choom is a verb, meaning “to smoke marijuana”.

the choomwagon

Obama 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.

When you were with Obama and his pals, if you exhaled precious pakalolo (Hawaiian slang for marijuana, meaning “numbing tobacco”) instead of absorbing it fully into your lungs, you were assessed a penalty and your turn was skipped the next time the joint came around. “Wasting good bud smoke was not tolerated,” explained one member of the Choom Gang, Tom Topolinski.

Obama also had a knack for interceptions. When a joint was making the rounds, he often elbowed his way in, out of turn, shouted “Intercepted!” He then took an extra hit.

In a section of the yearbook, students were given a block of space to express thanks and define their high school experience. Nestled below Obama’s photographs was only one line of gratitude:

Teen Obama photo

“Thanks Tut [his grandmother], Gramps, Choom Gang, and Ray [his drug dealer] for all the good times.” A hippie drug-dealer made his acknowledgments; but his own mother did not.

Their favorite hangout was a place they called Pumping Stations, a lush hideaway off an unmarked, roughly paved road partway up Mount Tantalus. They parked single file on the grassy edge, turned up their stereos playing Aerosmith, Blue Oyster Cult, and Stevie Wonder, lit up some “sweet-sticky Hawaiian buds” and washed it down with “green bottle beer” (the Choom Gang preferred Heineken, Becks, and St. Pauli Girl).

In Dreams from My Father Obama wrote he ‘got high [to] push questions of who I was out of my mind’. When they told him he was blood-related to Dick ‘How About a Shot and a Beer’ Cheney, he knew who he was then, a white man.

PT Rothschild

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