Washington Post: Furor Over an Obama Puff Piece

From today’s Washington Post’s Reliable Sources:

It was only a matter of time before someone combined a certain memorable image of a young future president with a jokey twist on his campaign slogan … to come up with a message that Barack Obama definitely did not approve.

The folks at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws got there first. For their annual conference poster, they took an old photo of cool-dude college freshman Obama puffing away — on a regular cigarette, mind you — and tweaked it just ever so slightly to fit their message: “Yes We Cannabis.”

Think it might be a problem for the president (who opposes legalization)? It’s really a problem for the photographer. Lisa Jack, an Obama classmate at Occidental College, snapped the image in 1980, one in a series of photos that never saw the light of day until she debuted them in Time’s 2008 Person of the Year issue. She had no idea her photo had been appropriated by NORML until we told her Tuesday.
“They do not have my permission,” said Jack, a psychology professor in Minnesota. These photos “are absolutely not to be used in this way. … I really made a grand effort to do this properly, and I’m very irritated. If I’d wanted these to be used for political purposes, I’d have sold them to Hillary years ago.”
NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre cheerfully acknowledged the lift by artist Sonia Sanchez, who summoned the psychedelic aesthetic of ’60s rock posters. “With very little adulteration, she placed what appears to be a cannabis cigarette” in the president’s hand, St. Pierre said. But she made few other changes: Obama “almost made the photograph for us.”
Everyone who attends the September conference in San Francisco will get a poster; NORML is also selling them on the Web ($25 for an 18-by-24-inch with St. Pierre’s autograph, $15 without). Can they do that? St. Pierre admits they didn’t get permission, but “our lawyers thought it was adulterated enough to comply with the fair use laws.”
We’ll see. Shepard Fairey made more dramatic changes to the Obama photo he turned into the now-famous “HOPE” collage — but he’s still embroiled in bitter litigation with the Associated Press, which owns the original image. The AP accused him in federal court of “blatant copying.” And yes, Jack has already called the lawyers for Getty Images, which oversees her photo’s copyright.
Jack, whose photos now have a gallery show in L.A., grudgingly admits “it’s really cool” that the images are already iconic enough to steal. She’d love to see Fairey do a work-up on them — with permission, of course.

A brief history about the series of Obama photos is found at The Huffington Post.

0 thoughts

  1. So we are going to try to get the government to pass laws for marijuana by pissing off the head of the government. This is a sound plan.

  2. Obama is a hypocrite! I don’t think he realizes how many lives he is ruining with the “war on drugs”. Needless to say, he won’t get my vote in the next election.

  3. So hilarious. I wish though that Obama would publicly make a statement. A positive statement. Somthin like ‘leave NORML alone i kinda like the poster it makes me look bad ass.’ Then all would be well.

  4. Hahaha she’s that pissed about her little photo? She not likely hasn’t seenall the Photoshop work fine with his face for the past 9 months has she? What a tard. (added by Mobile using Mippin)

  5. Well, Obama thought legalization was funny. Does he also laugh because he didn’t get caught?

  6. Sweeeet. I’ve received my copy of the poster with artist signature last week. It really is awesome. I wanted to donate to NORML and thought the poster would be a nice gift. I can’t attend the NORML convention in September b/c I’ll be in BASIC at the time. This was my way of showing support.

  7. Everyone should buy two posters, one to hang in your smoking room and the other mail to the White House.

  8. Hahaha I wonder what Obama is gonna say when he sees this pic (did he see it yet?) LOL. Damn I want to buy one but I dont have enough money right now. But i did not know that was actually green in the dobbie? but anyways I think everyone should see this pic!

  9. Love the poster, love the idea. I’ll get two posters, one without the signature so I can throw darts at the person in it.

  10. haha, you gotta admit, it DOES look like he’s smoking a joint. Just the way he’s holding it and how his eyes are squinted

  11. Yeah, Obama is a hypocrite! Never got my vote and never will get my vote. He is screwing this country almost as bad as baby Bush!

  12. Well Obama’s admitted HIS felony and advocated medical marijuana use, and now that he’s in office shown little if any interest in persuing these matters. The posture should have medical implications installed.

  13. Hey, I bought a couple of these posters too.
    Outstanding ! Destined to be a collectible for sure.
    Grow and Give,
    Spread your seeds freely,
    Get politically active.

  14. Obama laughed off the online questions about legalizing cannabis. He thinks it’s no big deal, a joke. Let him laugh off the whirlwind this causes, if it has any legs in the mainstream media at all. Ain’t got no legs, nothing but a thing! We all are waitin’ for you to modernize the country on this, too. I understand Obama can’t make this his main priority, but he can get over on the prohibitionists on this by keeping the public option in health care reform and allowing it to lead to the rescheduling of cannabis, the plant, and its legalization, because the feds in this administration are respecting the states’ rights of states that do allow cannabis. Future scenario: If it’s legal medically in the state, can be prescribed, the public option will pay for it, even if the private health insurance policies you get through your employers refuse. The corporate insurance companies such as Blue Cross Blue Shield and so on will have to jump on board, can be made to via litigation. Right now prohibitionists are likely trying like hell to strip legislation of the public option, even if they normally would favor it. You can bet they’ll try to get an exclusion for cannabis as medicine somehow if a public option does become law.
    The time is not yet right to plaster this poster on billboards all over the country.
    On a different note, can we get the government to let up on Marc Emery? That’s just a waste or more money. Another shatterd life…

  15. Keep up the good work! If we(the movement for legalization) can’t get the message out with equal, honest, and truthful debate. Then this is a good way to do end-run around all of the hypocrisy in the media (seeing how it was in the “Washington Post”). Maybe this and other ideas like this can bring NORML and other organizations into the forefront. Time to start working on more ideas like this one. Unfortunately all of these “baby steps” are and have been taking a REALLY, REALLY long time. What is it? 73 years of red tape? Funny how the zionist pigs in Washington can’t see that the criminals have been trenched in so deep that legalization is the answer. We should make posters or at least altered pictures of all the members of the House as well. I believe that would get there attention. Don’t you?

  16. SUPER!!! Anything we can do to get some light on our issue. The enslaving of almost a million humans yearly. Because they killed someone? No they were in their home relaxing after another hard day at work. All to insure corporate profits as long as they kick back millions to our representatives…Keep focused people we can do this!!

  17. Money may not grow on trees, but pot grows on weeds. Due to prohibition pot is worth a lot. You can practically grow money from seeds!

  18. Obama realizes full well how many people the War on drugs is hurting,but he also knows where the money is,and most of our legislators are just as corrupt as their counterparts in Mexico. It would be interesting to find out how much the cartels,drug and anti-drug and big pharmacy is paying to keep marijuana illegal.
    And too who.
    Sent him a health reform plan,told him he should expand the governments pot farm in Mississippi,and the government could furnish the medical marijuana,since they already send people medical marijuana to several individuals that they have been providing pot for the last 40 years.

  19. ditto, he has lost my vote with his views on marijuana once president. he will not win re-election. problem is i despise all the republicans except Ron Paul!
    # John Says:
    August 5th, 2009 at 9:33 am
    Obama is a hypocrite! I don’t think he realizes how many lives he is ruining with the “war on drugs”. Needless to say, he won’t get my vote in the next election.

  20. obama has to get over it if he gets pissed about the portrayal of him. especially considering he smoked cannabis quite a bit.
    i just wish a reporter would ask him which of the 4…tobacco, alcohol, pharma, & cannabis pose a greater HARM ON SOCIETY. Rank in order please mr president.

  21. or has he considered why HEMP was first made illegal…with the role of the Duponts, Rocefellers, WR Hearst and all his tree farms. follow the money.
    cannabis actually got implicated with hemp originally. a racist ad campaign was perfect for the times and they were able kill 2 birds with one stone. keep following the money now BIG PHARMA’s on board.
    keep following the money…and Americans/humanity’s “odd” given desire to try taking some sorta product to slightly alter their state of being. now HEMP remains ILLEGAL because of Cannabis, sorta a switcheroooo.

  22. Maybe images on a medium like trading cards to be handed out and sold at rallies, venues, and conferences. News worthy? I think so. G.W. did that with “Iraq’s Most Wanted Playing Cards” right? Do something like: “America’s Biggest Liars” or “U.S. House of NON-Representatives” maybe “Our Elected Bribe Takers”. I don’t know. Looks like you guys’ have a pretty cleaver staff.

  23. I would like to know where and when President Obama did his cannabis smoking. If it was a felony in that state at that time it makes him into a huge hypocrite. So has he ever talked about his felonious acts? Does he think he should have spent time in jail for his crimes or was it OK because he didn’t get caught. That sends the message that it is OK to break the law as long as you don’t get caught. I hope the lady that took the picture realizes how this picture may be used over and over by almost everyone. I think it speaks volumes about the elitist attitude of our elected officials. They think the laws only apply to the rest of us and not them.

  24. When will they finally realize that the only thing dangerous about marijuana is the law that prohibits it?

  25. “Mcdohl Says: August 5th, 2009 at 9:29 am
    So we are going to try to get the government to pass laws for marijuana by pissing off the head of the government. This is a sound plan.”
    This is not a “plan”: this is a way of both promoting NORML (the namesake of this web site/blog) and perhaps bringing to light exactly what the remainder of the people who have posted so far their comments are trying & even lucky to still be able to say in the USA.
    Lighten up & light up, “Mcdohl”: we need more levity in Washington.

  26. Where can I buy one of these? I would REALLY be interested in a T-shirt! Actually (tho that is true,) I always felt that by, say, 2000; recreational drugs – esp.pot – would be accepted as a leisure activity without the risk of an opposing law.
    Let me legally acknowledge my addictions, if need be, & report to a doctor/therapist on a regular basis. I will support myself, as I always have, and pay you for your time and the drugs. Give the overcrowded prisons a goddam break.
    Folks that are going to be Psycho are going to be that way anyway. Why are the “Powers that Be” so un-yielding in their thinking processes? THAT’S crazy thinking to me. Take into account that it is a miniscule # of lawmakers who have never broken the law.
    If Any.
    [Editor’s note: Get the poster here. Get NORML Conference gear here.]

  27. I don’t think Obama is going to get any marijuana consumers vote next election, which means there is a very good chance he will lose.
    he is the worst president we have had in years! at least Bush was entertaining
    F**K OBAMA!

  28. I am NOT gonna mock the man . He’s trying and doing a good job . Be happy he’s in office . If , the McCain brain got in marijuana would still be in the closet & thousands more would be jailed .Obama is out of the closet so be happy for that because progress is being made . Matters toward legalization are made worse by mocking the man . San Francisco , Ca.


  30. I’m usually supportive of the decisions NORML makes. In this case, I’m not. I feel this is propoganda and is a distortion of the truth, regardless of how much pot Obama used to smoke.
    One complaint NORML makes, and one that needs to be made, is that anti-marijuana orginazations manipulate the truth to promote their point of view. Take for instance the Superbowl commerical that tried to show that marijuana smokers are responsible for terrorists obtaining assault rifles.
    Let’s not do what they’re doing. They expect “dope heads” to act in this way, just as the propoganda used to depict marijuana smokers as sneaking the drug into people’s tea and cigarettes. Let’s not submit to this irresponsble propoganda. We don’t need to–the facts about marijuana legalization speak for themselves.
    [Russ responds: Satire, by its nature, is a distortion of the truth. Nobody really thought Jonathan Swift was proposing the Irish eat their babies. We’re not trying to say that Obama supports legalization; we’re highlighting that he doesn’t. We’re mocking his “Yes We Can” chant by responding that when it comes to legalization, “Yes We Cannabis”.
    And indeed, Obama did smoke weed in his youth, I estimate at least as late as 1977 to 1978, if I read correctly his timeline in “Dreams From My Father”, and the Jack picture was from 1980, so it’s not that far from the truth. Also, it helps to educate the viewer to remember that had he been caught like the 872,721 who were caught last year, he wouldn’t be “President Barack Obama”, he’d be “Barry the convicted drug criminal”.]

  31. Also, I want to quickly add that we should be thankful we have Obama as president. Maybe he won’t legalize marijuana, but at least he’s done something no president has done before–admitted to smoking AND inhaling it. This is a step in the right direction, and who knows, maybe he will reopen the federal medical marijuana program closed by H.W. Bush or promote decriminalization at the federal level later in his term.

  32. You guys should shirts made out of this pic… It will be more of HEADTURNINGS, when people see walking with this shirt down the streets. Come on NORML, theres an idea! If you guys do it I would buy it!

  33. Well it’s no wonder Mr.President definitely did not approve of this Washington Post! In this picture of him, He is smoking a DEATH STICK,”cigarette” Not POT!!!!!

  34. What is the point of using Obama in an image to represent the struggle for ending the pohibition of cannabis? He’s said he is not interested and really, what kind of promises did he make about the whole issue when he running for office? I don’t recall he said anything about confronting the War on Drugs and least of all the war on cannabis. I don’t recall he articulated any point of view on the subject at all. Has anyone read anything said by him or written by him to suggest a point of view on the subject?
    Sure, buy a poster and a tee-shirt to show … what? That you still think he is going to do something, anything?
    [Russ responds: In 2004 Obama referred to our drug war as “an utter failure” and that we need to “rethink and decriminalize our marijuana laws”. In his book he admits to using cocaine and marijuana in his late teens. On the campaign trail in 2008 he admitted that he “inhaled, frequently, that was the point”. When asked about medical marijuana on the trail, he explained that he would back off on the medical marijuana states because federal law enforcement had more urgent matters to attend to.
    The poster’s not for Obama. It is for us. Yes WE Cannabis! It is to motivate our grassroots much like Obama rallied his grassroots with “Yes We Can”.]

  35. I have decided to go public and I hope that you will watch my video, and spread it all over the place!

  36. Russ,
    Thanks for responding to my post. I see your point–if this is merely intended to be a satire, then I take back most of my earlier statements. Also, I fully agree that if he had actually been convicted of marijuana possession, he would make it nowhere near the White House and probably wouldn’t even make it to the Waffle House with a drug conviction.
    Still, I think there are better ways of making this point without manipulating a photograph of him smoking a cigarette into making it look like he is smoking a joint.
    I don’t think we should lose faith in him just yet. He didn’t laugh at the idea of legalizing marijuana; he only laughed at the idea that legalizing marijuana would cure our economic troubles. (It would help though).
    It is my belief that marijuana reform must start with individual states. My state of Ohio has already decriminalized marijuana, but I think that when more states do this Washington will understand that the country is ready for real national marijuana reform.

  37. Mcdohl #1
    We dont need to worry about upsetting Obama, Obama needs to worry about upsetting and betraying the american people who voted for him. Obama ran on change and the people that voted for him believed that change would come. When will it ?

  38. I’m truly sorry for all those who keep on defending someone who wouldn’t do the same for you, No I’m not. Oh yeah, he’s not that bad. He may not be but the one’s whispering in his ears have their own agenda. Really and who makes those calls? Media? If they don’t care about the truth then what does that say about those who have the “power”? It means that they want us all to be robots that don’t question “authority” to do what we’re told and anytime we call them out on anything they hide the truth. “Do as I say and not as I do.” How about leading by example? Jobs will be cut with the help of big businesses trying to shut us up as well. Theirs a lot of back scratching going on and if you expect people to be happy about it you are mistaken. It’s always at the people’s expense. Just like how their saying that everyone that disagrees with Mr. Pres is a republican that hates everything about him. WRONG! Of course you would support someone if you were getting something out of the deal, duh. Now their calling them mobs. If that were the case then I think they’d have more to worry about than men and women forming in a meeting hall disagreeing with them and speaking out when they hear something they feel is false or smells fishy. We’re not buying it anymore. Wait, yeah we are cause we don’t have a choice. Wow, what a shocker. In the land of the free we can’t even make our own choices. The fact of the matter is that they see people starting to wake up, the wheels are spinning, and the people want their country, what’s left of it, back and either everyone can find a way to get along and help one another or it’s going to be rough times for a lot of people including the shot callers. Don’t know how many times people have to say something. I was expecting a change for the better. Since when is it a crime talking about cannabis? As far as we know their still locking people up for consuming this valuable commodity. It isn’t keeping the corruption from infecting our system at every branch but you go ahead and keep living in that fantasy world. They want us to believe that we can’t change things. Only time will tell. “When the govt. fears it’s people; their is liberty. When the people fear it’s govt.; their is tyranny.” One more thing, this so called transparency promise. It was meant that everything that we hold near and dear will become transparent for them, but everything that they tell us will be because it’s what they want us to know. There’s your transparency. While the big wigs feast the people are the one’s eating the scraps/left overs and cleaning up the mess. Enjoy.

  39. norml, i love you and all, but as a writer and photographer i have to say that it is not cool to steal someone’s copyrighted work.
    [Editor’s note: The ad is a political parody featuring the current (and former ganja smoking) President that employs a play on words from the Obama 2008 campaign, promoting a first amendment event for a non-profit organization. Your opinion maybe that NORML ‘steal’ others’ work, but there is a considerable body of law that persuasively argues otherwise.
    Political satire and parody are as important in civil justice movements as legislation and litigation.]

  40. To Russ, responding to #40: That’s it? Admiting that the Drug War was “an utter failure” isn’t a very dramatic condemnation of the Drug War, especially absent any kind of analysis as to why it is a failure and what should be done as a consequence. If he says that we need to “rethink and decriminalize our drug laws”, then where is the effort in this behalf? It’s been seven months now and nothing has issued from the president’s office regarding decriminalization. And support of “medical marijuana” is only the shallowist kind of confrontation against the war on cannabis. Without the War on Drugs, there would be no “medical marijuana” movement. “Medical marijuana” is a license to distribute within the black market and price of medical marijuana is proof that it is. End the war on cannabis, and “medical marijuana” will evaporate as political movement.
    The poster is not for Obama? But Obama is on it. Obama rallied his “grass roots”, but aren’t you a part of his grass roots? Aren’t the people you are trying to rally the same people as Obama’s grass roots? Please, nobody is fooled. It looks to me like Obama never intends to do anything about the Drug War, but he hopes to keep his grass roots in line with the vain and shallow hope that he will. They are so whipped up that he could probably rely on this false hope to get him into a second term. He ought to deliver some real goods before flattering him further with these kinds of displays.
    When Obama was running for president he never said anything suggesting he would confront the Drug War at all. As it was, Ron Paul had more guts and thought harder about the subject than Obama did. And he was clearly listening to somebody else.

  41. To those saying Obama isn’t that bad, it could have been McCain… this is EXACTLY why we have to choose between a douche and a turd every election. Because you think if it wasn’t Obama, it HAD to be McCain. WAKE UP!
    To NORML: I seem to remember the editors and Ron Paul folks getting in arguments because you were making comments on their posts. NORML editors claimed that not one single politician is the answer, and that Ron Paul is not a viable candidate. NORML claims it is non-partisan and will not favor any political party. Well then WHY THE HELL are you selling yes we cannabis posters??? Sounds pretty one sided to me. Sounds like you do think one politician is the answer. Of course it is the politician that flat out laughed at you and the idea of legalization.
    [Editor’s note: NORML is non-partisan and has published numerous presidential parodies from Carter to Reagan to Clinton to Mayor Bloomberg to John Walters to Bush 2.0…to now Obama.]

  42. I agree with post number 1. I personally think the poster looks great and am going to order 1 but as for making it should fit into the stupid stoner category. You really don’t want to piss off the one person that can end the insane prohibition policy.

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