March 26th, 2009
04:12 PM ET
6 years ago

Obama: Marijuana is not a good strategy to spur economy

(CNN) - In a statement that's sure to disappoint many of those who submitted questions to President Obama's virtual town hall meeting, the president made clear Thursday he does not support legalizing marijuana as a means to spur economic growth.

"I have to say that there was one question that was voted on that ranked fairly high, and that was whether legalizing marijuana would improve the economy and job creation," Obama said off-handedly at the town hall. "I don't know what that says about the online audience."

"The answer is no, I do not think that is a good strategy to grow our economy," Obama said to laughter from the town hall participants.

Some of the most popular questions submitted to WhiteHouse.gov in several policy areas were pot-related. Among the top questions was one sent in by a user named "Green Machine":

"Will you consider decriminalizing the recreational/medical use of marijuana(hemp) so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and a multi-billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?"

Attorney General Eric Holder said last week federal agents will seek criminal charges against marijuana users only when both state and U.S. laws are violated, a shift from the Bush administration's policy. The decision would effectively end raids on registered medical marijuana providers in the handful of states that have moved to legalize the drug's use for medicinal purposes.\


Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (279 Responses)
  1. Greta

    I strongly support legalization of marijuana completely. Obama shouldn't have laughed off the idea. What's the matter with him? He's supposed to be able to think outside the box.

    It is a complete waste of taxpayer money to bust potsmokers and prosecute them or pay for their rehab or incarceration. And, it's a pretty harmless form of recreation. It's safe than alcohol and just as prevalent. Legalize it and tax it, and use the criminal money for other things. It's good for the economy and it's just stupid that it's illegal.

    Wake up and smell the ganja, folks.

    March 26, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  2. Simmy

    Now I understand some of the negative comments that appear on this blog.

    March 26, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  3. tyler w

    peter e, you are one of the biggest tools ive ever come in contact with on one of these. grow up, i know hundreds of pot users far more succesfull than you'll ever be.

    March 26, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  4. Michael Schulze

    This may not be the time to legalize, but I do think it as something to consider for the future, and am glad that he did not say that it would never be on his agenda. As Green Machine commented, it would cut many Mexican Drug Lords at the knees, help to formulate regulations that could actually do some good (Putting the drug dealers in Pharmacys rather than street corners), and stimulate the economy, but there are several other reasons why we should consider it. My first and foremost reason has much to do with many peoples attitude towards government. To ruin someones life who has harmed nobody, nor their property, is not only immoral, but unjust. I've known several decent people whose worlds were crushed simply becuase the possesed marajuana, many of which have held a permanent vendetta against police throughout the rest of their lives, and were turned from constructive college students, to

    March 26, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  5. jw

    Just look at the economics, it is a sure way to bring money into out economy. It will save money that is spent in the legal system, it will make more room in jails for real criminals. It will control who uses it better by controlling who can uy it. It will get rid of the violence and keep it away from the gangs and cartels who do sell it now. It will also give the farmers a real good cash crop and something that can replace the tobacco fields. It is no worse than alcohol and a whole lot of people use it already. What is the downside to legalizing it?

    March 26, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  6. tony

    I see what you are saying BB. but completely legalizing it charles? has even more capability of abuse. if you put an age on it? has that stopped underage children from obtaining alcohol and cigarettes? we would have children younger than we do already smoking that garbage. here's a concept address the vices we already have control over. raise cigarette taxes more raise alcohol taxes more. hit people with 2000 dollar fines for possesing marijuana that raise auto insurance much like a speeding ticket. people contrary to popular belief will not want to do something that is going to cost them an arm and a leg at a time like this. parents would take a much more pro active role in their children if they knew they would be footing the bill.

    March 26, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  7. Chris

    Also there is no clear-definitive evidence of marijuana being physically addicting, nor for that matter psychologically addicting, hallucinogens rarely are.

    I find it amazing that taking low level amphetamines like your Tylenol, etc. or ingesting caffeine, or an SSRI for depression (tantamount to ecstasy in its effectiveness in releasing serotonin). Those are all have addictive qualities, both physically and psychologically, but that's fine. You people really should research before spouting off what you don't know, nor understand. There is far worse out there that is legal, then this illegal weed.

    March 26, 2009 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  8. Matt

    Seems like all Obama wants to do is bail out banks and huge companies like AIG further corrupt our country. Let them fail. Isn't that what the whole purpose of a free-market economy is??? The ones that don't make it go under, and the ones that do well stay afloat??? Why are we wasting OUR money on companies that are failing for a REAL reason???

    March 26, 2009 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  9. TheBear

    Hey Florence:

    Try talking to people addicted to alcohol or gambling or tobacco. All are legal and the government makes huge profits off them. So much so now that they couldn't replace those revenue streams.

    It's ridiculous not to make marijuana legal. All that does is increase violence in your nation among the drug gangs and take away a badly needed source of revenue from your government.

    March 26, 2009 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  10. TheTiger

    Aspirin kills over 7,000 people per year and nobody complains about that! What's wrong with this country is that we are all hipocrites! CRy and complain about poor starving people and war in other countries but don't even dish out 2 nickles to help our own!!!! Think about that!

    March 26, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  11. Michael - Raleigh NC

    Americans are going to smoke marijuana regardless of it being legal. It is the will of a large segment of the popualation to do so. It is America's best interest to get marijuana out of the black market, and into the mainstream population, IT IS ALREADY. Those of you who think that it is not part of you or anyone you knows life are simply the ones that have made your opinions clear to those around you, and the smokers that know you are being smart.......therefore quiet. I don't care so much about the tax revenue as I do about removing the black market situations from every day Americans lives, and removing the possibility of criminal proceedings for folks who simply want to smoke marijuana. If it were legal, a lot of people would injest it in different ways than just smoking, that is simply the most direct and efficient method. Cooking with it would be next, it is a nice spice. Marijuana dealers are simply people who fraternize with trusted friends only, until you get to street pushers and large distributors. Now many who read this are going to say that I am "obviously" someone who smokes. I do not, and have not in a long time. I am a father, and will not again until it is legat here in America. I owe that to my children. But once it is legal, and hopefully America wakes up to everyone's right to the pursuit of happiness, then I will consider it, and admittedly probably would.

    March 26, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  12. Mary

    I know a lady who smokes pot, went to college on scholarship, graduated with Honors and currently owns a half million dollar house. It obviously didn't make her stupid or lazy.

    This someone chooses to smoke a joint rather than drink alcohol because the alcohol made her sick and incoherent.

    I've personally never known anyone to die from marijuana use. I do know several people who have died from alcoholism.

    I find it laughable and clearly old school education to continue this ridicules battle against marijuana.

    March 26, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  13. RNC + DNC = politics as usual

    The best news here is that this will spur strong support for what Obama is NOT. I think both the Green Party and the Libertarian movement just got a shot in the arm.

    Obama is not about being progressive or for smaller government in many ways and this is yet another example.

    March 26, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  14. Over It

    guess he really DOESN'T want to help the economy then. Marijuana is WAY less destructive than alcohol, wjhy don't I hear you people critisizing THAT?!?!

    People that are against the legalization REALLY need to get a grip on REALITY!!! seems they would rather have border wars and crime than a boosted economy and people not thrown into overcrowded jails for something that is NATURAL and SAFE!!

    March 26, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  15. Tom

    To bad we can not get past the stigma of marijuana. It is not just a drug. Hemp can be used for clothes (stronger and more long lasting than cotton with less environmental impact), food, alternative fuel, (hemp seed oil) and paper (saving trees and reducing the cost for newspapers.) People really need to do a little more research. Lets stop wasting tax payers dollars on a drug war that makes us less safe and creates overcrowding in prisons for nonviolent crimes. We Should start creating jobs in a new and potentially huge green industry. Educate yourselves and stop listening the propaganda that has been put out by the government since prohibition.

    March 26, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  16. RICK

    Legalizing marijuana would put so many people out of work, Lawyers, police, DEA, Border patrol, prison guards. They would all be affected.
    I know it would decrease our taxes due to less city payrolls and increased revenue for the government through sin taxes, and decrease cost for cities due to less crowed prisons. wait what was the question again.

    March 26, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  17. stag

    Finally a good decision!!!!!

    March 26, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  18. Jeff from PA

    I do not like Marijuana at all, but it is a lot less dangerous than alcohol and I cannot understand why it is not legal. If the police did not have to worry about the hundreds of thousands of pot arrests each year, then they could focus on the harder drugs, violence, etc. Besides, it costs us 46,000 dollars a year per person that is incarcerated because of pot. We could save billions each year in just not have hundreds of thousands of pot heads in jail and at the same time could bring in about 50 billion in tax revenue each year. That would be enough revenue to begin making Social Security and Medicare safe in the long term.

    Besides, most of the studies that say marijuana is a gateway drug suggest that the reason it is a gateway is because it is illegal, so you have to deal with people that also have access to the harder stuff. Most of the studies also show that alcohol is just as much of a gateway drug and yet it is perfectly legal.

    March 26, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  19. Nathan Rue

    I never figured he would legalize marijuana and has stuck to his guns as far as having the feds back off of states with medical marijuana laws implemented, but to laugh it off as a joke was wrong.

    So much for listening to the people.

    March 26, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  20. Drew

    I think it's important to note also that he didn't actually speak against legalizing it, just that it's not a good strategy to spur the economy.

    March 26, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  21. Anon

    America has the highest drug sales in the entire World. Wake up people..anyone and everyone can get weed if they want to, illegal or not. At least, if it's legal there can be regulations on it. Not to mention, people would probably be more prone to admit they have a problem if their problem wasn't illegal and they would lose their jobs over it.

    March 26, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  22. dustin

    emil: well its better than having a president who was getting lauged at.

    March 26, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  23. JC

    I think we have alot better things to worry about then legalizing pot.

    March 26, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  24. Richard A. Spomer, Alexandria, VA

    However; if everyone really looked at its implication, and how it would be so hopefully at help to curb all of the violence going on at the boarder.

    President Obama, never answered any of my questions about Social Security, Disabilities, Illegal immigration, economical impact to the fore mentioned, Employment, taxing Social Security Disability, and several others directly related?

    March 26, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  25. Clark

    We spend billions per year trying to stop the flow of drugs across the Mexican border, and yet 100s of 1000s of TONS manage to make it across apparently unnoticed each year. We spend billions housing drug offenders in US prisons (70% of the prison population is there on drug related charges). And in spite of all of this, the amount of drugs entering the country is increasing. We need to admit that this policy is not working, and has created a spectacularly funded criminal network that has more money than the US government does, most likely. This is exactly what happened during Prohibition, and the government finally gave up and legalized alcohol again, and the crime syndicates were forced to move on to other prohibited venues. We cannot stop this, obviously, so is it really smart to go broke over it and get everyone killed over it? I am not a pot smoker, but it is a fact that marijuana is NOT addictive and there is not one recorded death EVER from using it...you cannot say the same for alcohol, and it is legal.

    March 26, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
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