President Obama recorded a video with the actors who portrayed stoner duo Harold and Kumar to promote the Democratic convention to young voters. But critics of the White House’s drug policy are not laughing.
“The fact Obama uses these characters to joke about this issue while on the other hand continuing to arrest people he’s appealing to is really disingenuous,” Morgan Fox, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, told TPM Tuesday. “As president he conducts more raids on medical marijuana facilities than Bush.”
The “Harold and Kumar” movies are inextricably tied to pot, which is featured or mentioned more or less continuously in each of their three films. At one point, the two characters smoke marijuana with an actor portraying President Bush, who they accuse of hypocrisy for arresting drug offenders.
The campaign film, too, derives its humor from the “Harold and Kumar” franchise’s drug gags. Without naming the characters, it features the two actors looking spaced out, laughing at cartoons and munching on junk food in a dirty apartment similar to the one in their own movies. Press materials promoting the video refer to “Kal Penn and John Cho (of Harold and Kumar fame).”
Obama press secretary Ben LaBolt said Tuesday that the film was meant to appeal to the youth vote by focusing on Penn, a former White House staffer and longtime campaign surrogate. But he declined to directly address the hypocrisy charge.
“Kal’s been a longtime supporter of the president,” he said. “He’s done more work organizing in states, getting college kids mobilized, than anybody else and we’re proud to have him lead our youth efforts”
Drug laws have been a recurring issue when Obama tries to connect to younger voters. A recent interview with users on online message board Reddit generated hundreds of questions about his marijuana policy, although Obama did not address the issue. After receiving a flood of similar questions online in 2009 for an interactive town hall, Obama joked, “I don’t know what this says about the online audience” before restating his administration’s stance against drugs.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.