White House Press Secretary thinks “professional left” who criticize Obama “ought to be drug tested”

That "professional left" is what some might call "your base", Mr. President, and they think you should legalize marijuana.

Washington political news outlet The Hill reports on the recent “professional left” remarks made by the Obama White House’s press secretary Robert Gibbs.  Gibbs was expressing frustration at progressive activists who are complaining that the president hasn’t lived up to campaign promises on a number of issues.

The press secretary dismissed the “professional left” in terms very similar to those used by their opponents on the ideological right, saying, “They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality.”

“I hear these people saying he’s like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested,” Gibbs said. “I mean, it’s crazy.”

Over 850,000 of these people will likely be arrested this year and branded "criminal" for the rest of their lives.

I don’t disagree that comparing Obama to Bush is crazy; Bush could push the exact bill he wanted through Congress and Obama can pronounce “nuclear”.  It’s the “drug users are crazy” slur, the “drug test” variant of the “what have you been smoking?” that offends me.  It’s that joking about these drug tests that ruin thousands of lives is a response from an official addressing the disappointment in the president felt by the people who voted for him.  Considering the vast majority of people who use “drugs” are using cannabis and the tests for “drugs” most often find cannabis metabolites, he’s talking about us, the 22 million* Americans who will use cannabis this year.

Full disclosure: I am one of the “professional left”** and attended that Netroots Nation conference Gibbs is obliquely referencing, representing NORML on a marijuana policy panel.

Republican, Democrat, we still get arrested. (We still have another year worth of George Bush data to collect.)

But NORML is a non-partisan organization, just as arresting marijuana consumers is a bi-partisan shame (4.9 million under Clinton, 6.2 million under Bush, but Clinton’s overall increase in the annual rate was +90% from beginning to end of his term while Bush’s was +17% between 2001 and 2008; we still await the 2009 final year arrest numbers which chronicle the marijuana arrests from the year before… think of the graph as “arrests up to 2009”, not “arrests up to and including 2009”.)

Gibbs said the professional left is not representative of the progressives who organized, campaigned, raised money and ultimately voted for Obama.

Legalization is actually pretty popular right now. More popular than the President and Congress.

Well, we know what President Obama and Robert Gibbs think of those of us who “ought to be drug tested”, especially us online activists in the “professional left” who helped get him elected.  We’re chuckled at when we suggest legalizing marijuana (see videos below), even as more than half of America on some polls – not just Left Blogsylvania – are beginning to think it is a damn good idea and California is voting on the issue this November.

Legalization is more popular than the Congress and the President – who once, like us, was just one bust away from being “Barry the Drug Criminal” for life – so maybe equating our criticisms of government to drug-induced psychosis isn’t the smartest political move.

One marijuana arrest in their past would have indelibly altered the lives of 41% of America, including these three fellows.

This is not to ignore the millions of cannabis consumers who find themselves on the right side of the aisle, the Libertarians and true small government, personal responsibility, states rights Republicans, who we count as our ideological allies in ending adult marijuana prohibition.  There are 102 million of us who’ve tried cannabis, including the last three presidents and eight of fifteen of the last major party candidates for president and vice president.***  Right now, our issue is the only thing on which members of the Tea Party and the Netroots Nation can agree on.  Somebody is going to get wise and start courting our votes.

* Remember these are numbers from a government-sponsored survey where an anonymous pollster surveys random strangers by telephone to ask whether they currently are violating state and federal law… so you might want to adjust upward a bit.  For comparison’s sake, there are more adults in America who will smoke pot this year than there are adult African-Americans in this country.

** And yes, I would be satisfied with Canadian health care, thank you very much!  My insurance premiums went up 24% this year!

*** The admitted / strongly suspected (Danforth, we’re looking your way…) marijuana users are italicized:

1992 Clinton / Gore vs. Bush / Quayle
1996 Clinton / Gore vs. Dole / Kemp
2000 Bush / Cheney vs. Gore / Lieberman
2004 Bush / Cheney vs. Kerry / Edwards
2008 Obama / Biden vs. McCain / Palin

93 thoughts

  1. Holy Smokes! Mr Gibbs, Mr O. shame on you. Your ignorance on the subject is embarassing. Please feel free to do a little research beyond the “required by law” statement of no support of the legalization of marijuana. Cowards. Fruit Loops, Doritos, Little Debbies.. marshmellow pies, picture yourself on a boat on a river… with marmalade skies…


  2. All of these officials want to trivialize the whole legalization question like it’s not a big deal. It is a big deal. I think they laugh at it so the lies don’t have to slip through their teeth so coarsely. Taxation and Regulation is the only way to properly control marijuana consumption, but that steps on way too many industrial and political feet to be a voluntary option by the government. It’s becoming clearer and clearer to me that the American people themselves are going to have to vote to end the cannabis (and eventually all drug) prohibition, the rest of these guys are stuck in red tape, egg shells, and dollars.

    The videos infuriate me. I voted for Obama, carefully based on his politics and promises, and my main support for him was because of his views on legalization. Now? Screw him and his limited vocabulary.

  3. Excuse Me? I don’t think so. None of us have declared “war” on you. However, the Constitution might have a little something to say about that idea. We all have special interests, just because it isn’t the same as yours, doesn’t …(tharr be more)mean it’s invalid. Why don’t you ask people if they want their sons and daughters in a war we haven’t tried to win? Get a percentage on that will you? Or how about the wasted time and energy it took before any work was done in the gulf. And speaking of the gulf, how are you planning to fix that anytime soon? People who depend on being able to work at their craft and pay their bills, for instance. It would seem to me that you have far more pressing things to worry about rather than testing activists for pot. After all, legalizing it stands to make someone a lot of money. Personally, I’d just as soon see that becomes its own area rather than grouped with either alcohol or tobacco, it’s not in the same category, not too mention the medical help it provides patients with too many diseases to name here.

    I will tell you right now that I am sorely displeased with this, as it is hardly what was promised by this party of individuals. There is ample reason to doubt here and justifiably an action to create general discord amongst those who voted in this last Presidential election.

  4. Remind me why the President’s opinion is worth… well anything? He’s a figurehead and a spokesman… for the people; shouldn’t he leave his personal opinions at the door?

    Kennedy didn’t say ” I choose to go to the moon in this decade…” he said “we”… as in the majority of America.

    Mockery of such a popular subject is only going to enrage us further. Of course everyone in the room is going to laugh at Obama’s remarks and applaud him… they’re in the room with the President! With his staff and security no doubt! Being filmed no doubt! Who, with any sane mind, is going to boo the president to his face? Do it, I D.A.R.E you. Haha, ah puns. Now that is something you can laugh about.

  5. whatever the comparisons, obama is not walking the walk.

    same pentagon chief as bushie, same dea, plus the goldman banker $cam$ and so forth.

    all looks like major busllsh!t to me.

    such a shame ’cause obama looks like he has a heart and sure could use some herb.

    now if he would only rollllll a phatty on prime time.

  6. Mr. Gibbs made a similar remark when a well-phrased, polite question came up for President Obama in an early online Town Hall forum, before they stopped having them, no doubt because of questions such as this they didn’t wish to answer.

    During his tenure as Press Secretary, Mr. Gibbs has continued the long line of professional spokesdouches holding the office.

  7. Gibbs’ glib tripe intentionally infuriates and insults.

    Yet it’s the prohibitionists own tongues that dig their graves, shrouds themselves in darkness, cuts themselves to shreds, continues to cause their drunken stupor, spits on God, and proves to God they are not worth having ANY authority after Judgement Day.

    Obama could have stood up to the McCarthyism that is the Evil Religion of Hate (Drug War), but instead he cowed and bent down before it, “all hail Drug War!”

    I’m President Obama, “My Drug Use Was No Big Deal. Yours Should Get You Prison Time!”

  8. hmm the funny thing is every 4 to 8 years a man who is the leader of the free world Lie’s about marijuana and how he used it to keep its use unfree and then to take away the people’s freedom in the land of the free

  9. Obama obviously feels he cannot lead us out of the failed policy of punitive prohibition. Just as with the end of alcohol prohibition in 1933, Roosevelt privately wished for the people of the United States to make ending alcohol prohibition impossible for him NOT to do, because of the volume of their voices and the sound reasoning behind their argument. Experienced marijuana smoker Barack Obama privately wishes the same thing of the American people today. President Obama knows he won’t get any support for health care and economic reform from the Right if he makes a public call for the legalization of drugs. Your president needs you to raise up your voice in opposition of punitive prohibition and to vote in favor of regulation, control and taxation of all drugs including marijuana. Make it politically impossible for Barack Obama to speak/vote against regulation of drugs. Politicians follow the votes, so please get out and vote in November 2010.

  10. Obama is the same bullshit as Bush, the puppet masters who control this planet just put a black face on the new world order, its all a big fat joke, the sooner everyone realizes this, the sooner you’ll understand why they never let marijuana be legal. WAKE UP

  11. Mr. Belville,
    I think it is also important to mention that as a result of our prohibitionist policy, and imprisoning so many of our citizens, we as a nation are spending more money to imprison our citizens than we are educating them (based on the education budget). This travesty is, in part, a result of our over inflated anti-drug budget.

  12. I see the point of this post but I can not say that I find any offense in Gibbs’ comment. How often do we say, “you did/ said what? uh, were you high?” or “what are you smoking?” to each other? Though I agree 100% on the gravity of the truth behind drug testing and how it has ruined the lives of many responsible Americans, I feel that getting offended over Gibbs’ comment for that reason is reaching and a bit nit- picky. President Obama hasn’t been in office that long, yet, everyone is ragging on him to clean up the massive mess that the Bush Admin. left behind with the snap of his fingers. He may be “historical” but he’s not magical, you know what I mean? For anyone to compair him to Bush, well, I’d say they were smoking crack. I think pot smokers wouldn’t even fit into that comment. Gibbs probably didn’t even think about the fact that testing weeds out the MJ smokers mostly. Good grief. I say just keep moving forward with the movement and dont stop to get offended by silly comments. We have a lot of work to do.

    [Russ responds: You and I joking with each other in the context of two tokers asking, “were you high?” is a lot different than the spokesperson for the president saying so on the record about his party’s base.]

  13. I find it interesting that “they” try to make a joke out of any discussion of legalization, and imply that people in favor of legalization “stuffed” the ballot box as if such a thing was “cheating”. I would not consider it cheating in this case, I would consider it a sign of just how serious people are about the issue. Over 800,000 people arrested in a year is not something to laugh about. Thousands of people killed in Mexico every year is not something to laugh about. One sad aspect of this whole rediculous situation is that we keep voting these same idiots into office year, after year, after year. Come November we need to hand out some pink slips.

  14. yeah…it’s all TOO true. It becomes more difficult to believe in the destination of legalization. I think being a closet criminal is my destiny. My life has had a number of negative moments due to this plant we enjoy.I am resolved to live quietly and just continue to push from the sidelines. We don’t have enough money to fight the moralists now. If California fails to pass prop 19 it could be another twenty years before sweeping change. Until then, save your seeds and hide your weed.

  15. WarBama is so disappointing. Gibb is saying exactly what the Preez thinks…we thought he was a Reagan just like Clinton…but he is a NIXON, and watch where the drones/collateral murder at the Mex-US border start landing…

  16. These kind of statements just show how out of touch with the base the president actually is. I thought things would be different when he got elected but the same “games” are being played with people s lifes as before. It makes me feel like John Stewart and I just want to ” Give Up”. Sad Day

  17. I’ve wonder what Robbert Gibbs been drinking, because those remarks sounded like an alcoholic’s rampage?

  18. hi obama, i voted for u . so hows about u take care of your voters and legalize . that is why i voted for you and, along with man others, and put u in office. so u can use common sense and legalize marijuana.

  19. I think we should drug-test Congress. No warning time; just let’s see what’s flowing through the blood of our duly-elected representatives.

  20. I tend to agree with Ty Palmer (#9),with a great amount of political cowardace thrown in for bad measure. As a California voter, I passionately believe that NOW is the time to make our statement with that YES vote!
    Those “I gots mine”, tossed SALAD jerks (thanks Russ Belville), need to be isolated like a virus. Anti Prop. 19 dispensary owners need to be boycotted! The lie that we should “wait for a better bill” is an insidious virus! Expose it! Isolate it!
    There is a perfect storm of circumstances NOW for even non-imbibers to vote with us. There is more truthful info available than ever, unlikely allies (clergy, law enforcement, conservative, liberal, science community, MEDICAL community), a financial crisis, a prison overpopulation crisis, etc… In my 55 years, I have NEVER seen such a consensus, or such momentum! DO NOT miss opportunity when opportunity knocks this loudly! The BILL IS ON THE BALLOT NOW! VOTE YES!
    Football season is upon us, let’s try an analogy with Prop. 19: We’re at their 20, and it’s 4th and goal. Do we say “Let’s give them the ball and wait for a better chance to score”, or do we put some freakin’ points on the board?! Think about it! What???!!!
    Do NOT let the perfect be the enemy of the good! Vote YES NOW! And BOYCOTT those greedy dispensaries that lie that they care for us (cannabis nation).Keep telling the truth! Let’s get this done now.

  21. Exactly, whom wants war; people like Obama and Gibbs. They think they are so smart when if is obvious that the plants in this world have benefits; they just want everyone to buy their cars they have stock investments in while they destroy the planet and they do not have my vote next election if the world even survives. HE failed our country that is reality and Gibbs has been brainwashed to call plants drugs because it is the easy way out. the laws dictate that people like us don’t matter to our government and it is discrimination because their ignorance is destroying this country and making people whom have different views; and it has been studied that the government laws are WRONG but they keep doing it anyways because they LIKE TO hurt people. They ignore the reality because then people may actually be free to learn and grow and not get worse like it has become because then the only thing that matters is wearing a suit; having a government job and hating their citizens so they don’t have to care or see reality. VICE pres lied to the world saying American citizens want the war. DO not vote for them ever again anywhere.

  22. Dumb Shit.. does he do drugs? OF COURSE. He knows how they work. But judging is wrong… so what you lookin at?

  23. The President said that legalization of marijuana wouldn’t be good for the economy. If he really believes that, than it truly shows how apt he is to handle this recession. It’s not like there’s evidence of Marijuana related jobs appearing in Med States, and it’s not like industrial hemp has any usefulness. I would’ve liked an explanation of a statement so bold.

    Maybe he is afraid that if it’s legalized than people won’t need to buy all those expensive pharmaceuticals anymore. So they won’t want free health care so bad.

  24. Well, it’s gotta be hard for Obama to look you in the eye and say “Marijuana is illegal so we can arrest and harass blacks and mexicans.”

    That’s a pretty difficult truth.

  25. Robert Gibbs, Robert, Robert, Robert

    You really need a vacation, something bad. This faux-pas against the Left has to go away on vacation, and something else will undoubtedly fill the news. We should start looking for his replacement if he persists down this line of reproach against us in the future. Let’s say the stress got to him and the White House insider echo chamber. We know legalization is NOT a slam dump like war in the Middle East was supposed to be. The people want the revenue and jobs from cannabis because the big business fat cat lawyer lobbbyists’ corporations are sure as hell not coming up with the jobs. If you say A you also have to say B and the rest of the alphabet. You take the good with the bad. The Republicans can use some of the revenue for all I care to keep some of their precious Bush tax cuts for the rich.

    If you had a cogent argument against the Left you would not lose your cool. You got nothin’ so had no grace under pressure. It happens to everyone at times, now go on vacation and get your head screwed back on right.

    If not, we’re not going anywhere but you are going back to your non-White House job, hopefully before Obama leaves office if you do this again, I say. People are sick of wasting money on pot prohibition. You’s ain’t comin’ up with the jobs, and neither are your rich buddies and big business.

    Wiens brood men eet, diens woord men spreekt.

    Whose bread you eat, it’s his words you speak.

    Now get a move on full legalization!

  26. I will willingly submit to a drug test at the request of anyone in a position of authority, including Mr. Gibbs, if they will submit to a polygraph test. I’ll pay for theirs and they can pay for mine, and we all reserve the right to make the results of those tests public. I’m always available at your earliest convenience; when is good for you Mr. Gibbs? I didn’t think so. Prohibitionists are not only hypocritical, pathological liars, they are also cowards.

  27. The Government can’t even keep drugs out of jails that are surrounded by police. With all the money and resources that the DEA has they still haven’t stopped the drugs from getting into this country. How many more innocent people have to be killed before we as a nation say enough is enough? The war on drugs has been a failure from the start. It has always been about controlling people not drugs. Humans have used drugs since the beginning of time and it will be that way until the end of time, no law will ever stop that fact. I wonder what would happen if we took all the money that is used for fighting the drug war and put it in the health care system?

  28. obama is a puppet to the new world order criminal war crime murder lier dictatorship that blew up the twin towers as well like building 7 came down free fall as well -eugenics and control -john holdren the white house science sar wrote a book called eco science -and in this book it tells how they will poison the water =fluoride, food=GMO ,air =chemtrails and the rest of things to depopulate the planet and sterilize people through vaccines and the rest of atrocity -talks about a planet dictatorship of control and brain washing!And these maggots are in the top of banks governments-corporations and military and main stream media.there goal is to have a cashless society were every one has a world bank micro chip implanted and mind controlled and your every move tracked .a mad science dictatorship of above the law .All you have to do is look this book up and you will see -these things are coming out into the open now as the war criminals push there control grid agenda as they lie and twist every thing to fool the public !

    [Russ responds: *sigh* If only I had my conspiracy theory bingo card ready, I would have just won.]

  29. And as these eugenic dictators get away with these huge crimes and treason -People get locked away in prison for a plant =cannabis .A plant that helps fight cancer you can go to jail for .People better WAKE UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  30. This is now in the mainstream media. Ed Shcultz is doing a large segemt on this issue on MSNBC as I write this.

  31. I could not believe this – I hope everyone heard Michael Moore and Keith Olbermann comments on Countdown last night.

    I helped fund the successful election of Obama. Since he took office, he has refused to have the JD prosecute war crimes from the Bush Administration, including Cheny’s public confession of war crimes, he has protected wiretapping activities, he has not closed Guantonamo, he has escalated war in Afghanistan, he scoffs at those who would use marijuana instead of alcohol, he starts political discussion at the center which takes a right turn, he coddles republicans who have nothing to offer and allows watering of any relevant legislation, …….

    I wished him happy birthday last week. He should fire Gibbs yesterday, but it will not happen. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

    I receive 5-10 e-mails per week from the DNC, Obama, etc. asking me for money to fund the ‘fight against republicans’ I gave enough in 2008 so that if all of us 13 million supporters did the same, he would not have to raise a dime for 2012.

    I am hoping to stay alive long enough to be on the medical marijuana progarm where I live.

    We should all support NORML – nothing is presently in the works in Washington to address this ancient illegal prohibition.

  32. Call me optomistic, but I believe Obama is far more liberal in regards to his stance on marijuana than he is letting on. His strategists are telling him it’s too risky politically for him to push to legalize marijuana in his first term with conservatives already claiming he is a super-duper-radical liberal to get the moderate votes. He’ll need to show his more conservative side between now and 2012. Besides, the way the support for marijuana is increasing rapidly, by 2012 he’d be crazy not to do it.

    The problem of course is, will he get a second term?

  33. Lastly, just let me add–before we start thinking that Republicans are the ones who are pro-marijuana, consider that they’re the ones who have historically supported increased drug penalties. It was a Republican who disbanded the federal medical marijuana program.

    If you don’t believe me, look at the penalties for marijuana offenses in conservative states like Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. And then look at the penalties in more liberal states like Maine, Massachuesetts, Oregon, and California.

    [Russ responds: It’s a wash. Democrats brought us the mandatory minimum sentencing and the drug czar’s office. I’d also have you look at the penalties for marijuana in Oregon. While there is medical, and decrim up to an ounce, once you go over that ounce, you’re a felon. It takes a three ounces to be a felon in my conservative home state of Idaho and a pound to be a felon in uber-conservative Utah.]

  34. Yes, it seems to me – that its time for the 22 million pot smokers to speak up – and every one call their local politicians, emails, phone calls, emails, phone calls – donation don’t hurt either folks. Do we need pot lobbyists? shouldnt there already be some?

  35. Ahh yes Robert Gibbs… he laughs because he’s embarrassed and probably can’t comprehend a world with legalized marijuana. He sure was grasping for words to answer questions. This needs to happen more often.

    He’s done stupid crap like this in other press conferences. I don’t think much of the public respect him whether marijuana is legal or not.

  36. If politicians (and that includes YOU,too, Mr. “CHANGE we can Believe in. . .Yes we Can!”!) weren’t so goddamned concerned about getting re-elected and ACTUALLY paid attention to fact, logic and reason, they would see that legalizing cannabis would not only stimulate the economy (which everyone will agree is FAR MORE CRITICAL AND IMPORTANT than any stimulus or healthcare bill), but it would also:
    1. save the tax payers money
    2. increase the “tax paying” workforce (as a result of letting non-violent drug consumers e.g. “offenders” rejoin the ranks of productive society).
    3. it would keep REAL criminals who pose an actual threat to our society in jail where they belong
    4. it would prevent children from gaining access to it 5. and last but not least: it would almost certainly guarantee their re-election. . .which, clearly, is all they really give a shit about anyway.

    Hell, since the politicians are all spineless and scared to death of standing in support of what WE THE PEOPLE want (legalization, regulation taxation), why not just put it on the ballot this November and let WE THE PEOPLE vote on it!? That way the politicians don’t have to actually grow a pair of balls and make a stand that they feel “wouldn’t be appropriate and wouldn’t guarantee my re-election”.

    I can’t wait to see the results in CA after the mid-term elections; particularly to see if the bill on the ballot passes. If it does (and I’m certain that it will), I see very similar legislation on it’s way to every other state in the Union.

    You guys in D.C. need to remember that YOU work for US and YOU WILL do what WE THE PEOPLE expect you to do, and that is pass legislation that WE THE PEOPLE actually WANT!!!!!!
    Keep your fingers crossed. . .

  37. On the one hand I am with those that say to vote out all incumbents, I just wonder what that means, cause anti big government Republicans really mean they are anti big government for businesses, not individuals.

    Secondly, check out this link regarding the fcc discussions on net-neutrality. What is meant by legal content? Who would get to decide what legal content is, and does that mean people may have to pay to discuss views on marijuana legalization because it is currently illegal? So many people are discussing this, and agreeing with either medical or outright legalization, that you have to wonder if the government is attempting to block internet free speech, which would allow them to better advance their lies. Just saying.

  38. The Oval Office is controlled by forces other than the currently elected president. Forces such as the Military Industrial Complex and the members of Skull & Bones. That’s why four presidents failed to stop the genocide in Vietnam when they were fighting for their INDEPENDENCE. America is supposed to be the good guys, instead it imprisons more citizens than any other country and now attacks other countries based on lies? People assume the President should be the leader of the free world, when that is a sham, just setting us up for a new dictator.

    What has happened to SEPARATION OF POWERS?

  39. Your statistics seem a little off…. by millions…

    There are waaaaaaaaay more millions of Americans who use cannabis then that. You are low-balling…

    [Russ responds: Probably. It’s really hard to get an accurate count of people breaking a law. They tend to be secretive. The numbers I provide are from the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health. See my * disclaimer above.]

  40. Obama can’t do anything about legalization, that’s simply it. Even if he genuinely wanted to do so or became vocal about the cause because god forbid someone he loved were diagnosed with cancer and could benefit from the medicine. It’s not a curative for cancer but it sure makes quality of life better, more tolerable.

    It’s not in his control to even discuss marijuana as the president. He simply does not have the power because he is not running the show. Don’t ask Gibbs, Gibbs repeats what he is told to say. Ask Rohm Emmanual and Henry Kissinger who really runs this country.

    [Russ responds: I know you’re talking about what can Obama do politically and saying that the Chief of Staff really is in charge (don’t know what Kissinger has to do with it, though), but legally, yes, indeed, President Obama could end the war on marijuana with the stroke of a pen through Executive Order to reschedule cannabis or de-schedule cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act.]

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