Washington Post: Furor Over an Obama Puff Piece

  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director August 5, 2009

    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.

    63 responses to “Washington Post: Furor Over an Obama Puff Piece”

    1. Mcdohl says:

      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. John says:

      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. General-Jake says:

      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. Rob dizzle says:

      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. Joel: The other Joel says:

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

    6. David says:

      I love this poster and I hope to see it plastered EVERYWHERE around the country very soon!

    7. adle1984 says:

      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.

    8. JAY says:

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

    9. Nick says:

      haha thats nice =) i might buy one of those posters 😮

    10. Vladimir M. Ortega says:

      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!