The Choom Gang: President Obama’s pot-smoking high school days detailed in Maraniss book
By Natalie Jennings,
Political blogs went to pot on Friday.
The Internet is buzzing after the Washingtonian published a review of Washington Post associate editor David Maraniss’s forthcoming book “Barack Obama: The Story,” including an excerpt about President Obama’s high school clique and their favorite pastime.
Let’s just say jobs weren’t the president’s first green initiative. The group of friends smoked marijuana frequently enough to nickname themselves the “Choom Gang.”
But enough of my bad weed puns. Here’s what other blogs are writing about the excerpts.
Yahoo: Bill Clinton he was not.
BuzzFeed has a handy “User’s Guide To Smoking Pot With Barack Obama” compiled from excerpts in Maraniss’s book.
Time’s post is titled the “Audacity of Dope.”
And NPR has “Inhale to the chief”
ABC’s Jonathan Karl reminds us Obama has previously written about his drug use:
In his 1995 memoir “Dreams of My Father,” Obama writes about smoking pot almost like Dr. Seuss wrote about eating green eggs and ham. As a high school kid, Obama wrote, he would smoke “in a white classmate’s sparkling new van,” he would smoke “in the dorm room of some brother” and he would smoke “on the beach with a couple of Hawaiian kids.”
He would smoke it here and there. He would smoke it anywhere.
Conservative outlets are especially having fun with the new fodder.
Since you stuck around this long, here are a few of the high-interest excerpts from Maraniss’s book:
Maraniss notes that Obama spent a lot of time at the Punahou School in Hawaii with a “self-selected group of boys who loved basketball and good times and called themselves the Choom Gang. Choom is a verb, meaning “to smoke marijuana.”
“As a member of the Choom Gang,” Maraniss writes, “Barry Obama was known for starting a few pot-smoking trends.”
One of those was: “Total Absorption” or “TA”.
“TA was the opposite of Bill Clinton’s claim that as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford he smoked dope but never inhaled,” explains Maraniss. If you exhaled prematurely when you were with the Choom Gang, “you were assessed a penalty and your turn was skipped the next time the joint came around.”
One of Obama’s old friends at the school, Tom Topolinski, told Maraniss: “Wasting good bud smoke was not tolerated.”
Obama helped popularized the concept of “roof hits,” as well, writes Maraniss.
“When they were chooming in a 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.”
Maraniss also says Obama was known for his “Interceptions”: “When a joint was making the rounds, he often elbowed his way in, out of turn, shouted ‘Intercepted!,’ and took an extra hit.”
Maraniss notes that Obama, looking back later in life on those days, made it sound as though he was hanging out with a group of misbegotten n’er-do-wells, what he called “the club of disaffection.”
“In fact,” Maraniss writes, “most members of the Choom Gang were decent students and athletes who went on to successful and productive lawyers, writers and businessmen,” Maraniss writes. One notable exception was Ray, the group’s pot dealer who, known for his ability “to score quality bud,” would years later be killed by a scorned gay lover armed with a ball-peen hammer.
Maraniss notes that Obama, in a high school yearbook, acknowledged the hippie drug dealer, Ray, who sold the Choom Gang pot, but didn’t acknowledge his own mother.
“Thanks Tut, Gramps, Choom Gang, and Ray,” Obama wrote, “for all the good times.”