Presidential Candidate Barack Obama Backs Federal Decriminalization — “I think the war on drugs has been a failure, and I think we need to rethink and decriminalize our marijuana laws.”

Washington, DC: A newly discovered video of a 2004 appearance at Northwestern University by Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama, in which he calls for the federal decriminalization of marijuana, was posted online today by The Washington Times. In that appearance, Obama states, “I think the war on drugs has been a failure, and I think we need to rethink and decriminalize our marijuana laws.” Obama continued, saying that while he supported decriminalization, he did not support the full legalization of marijuana.

In contrast, Senator Obama appeared to oppose decriminalization in a 2007 Democratic primary debate when MSNBC moderator Tim Russert asked candidates who opposed then-candidate Senator Chris Dodd’s support of decriminalization to raise their hands. In the video, Senator Obama is seen hesitantly raising his hand halfway before quickly lowering it again.

When asked about the two different answers, Senator Obama’s campaign stated that he has “always” supported decriminalization, and that Obama misunderstood the question when he raised his hand in the debate. In that same statement, Obama’s campaign reiterated the Senator’s opposition to full legalization, but said that an Obama administration “will review drug sentences to see where we can be smarter on crime and reduce the blind and counterproductive sentencing of non-violent offenders.”

“It appears Senator Obama, alone among the major candidates for the presidency, has the courage to state the obvious: it is time that we stopped treating responsible marijuana smokers like criminals,” said NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre. “According to a recent CNN/Time Warner poll, 76% of the American people agree with Senator Obama, as well as the 48 million Americans who smoked marijuana last year.”

Democratic rival Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign stated that she opposes decriminalization. On the Republican side, Senator John McCain opposes decriminalization, while former Utah Governor Mitt Romney opposes both decriminalization and physician-recommended access to medical cannabis.

For more information, please contact NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre at (202) 483-5500. The Washington Times story, along with video of the two appearances referenced above, are available online at: