A new book that delves into Barack Obama’s teenage years gives fresh insight into the president’s marijuana-smoking days as a high school student in the 1970s.
It reveals how a teen Obama and his friends formed The Choom Gang – slang for smoking marijuana – in which he invented inhaling techniques and rode a car called the Choomwagon.
In the book, Barack Obama: The Story, biographer David Maraniss calls the future president ‘Barry’ and reveals he ‘was known for starting a few pot-smoking trends’.
One was ‘total absorption’ or ‘TA’, the rules of which stated that if you exhaled early, ‘you were assessed a penalty and your turn was skipped the next time the joint came around’.
Another idea was ‘Roof Hits’ – rolling up car windows to stop smoke blowing out and going to waste.
‘When the pot was gone, they tilted their heads back and sucked in the last bit of smoke from the ceiling,’ Maraniss writes in the book, excerpted on Google Books and due out June 19.
‘Wasting good bud smoke was not tolerated,’ an old school friend told the author.
And if that rule didn’t give enough of an insight into how much Obama loved his marijuana, Maraniss goes on to reveal he was known for his ‘interceptions’ when a joint was being passed around.
BOOK EXCERPTS: BARACK OBAMA THE JOINT INTERCEPTOR
‘In the Honolulu of Barry’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”.’
‘Barry 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 Barry 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.’
‘Barry also had a knack for interceptions. When a joint was making the rounds, he often elbowed his way in, out of turn, shouted “Intercepted!,” and took an extra hit. No one seemed to mind.‘
‘In another 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 one odd line of gratitude: “Thanks Tut [his grandmother], Gramps, Choom Gang, and Ray [his drug dealer] for all the good times.” A hippie drug-dealer made his acknowledgments; 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).‘