March 26th, 2009
04:12 PM ET
12 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 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. BB

    I see the ban on marijuana to be our own modern day version of prohibition. I do not use it, nor have I ever, but nearly everyone else I know does (including college students, firemen, and elementry school principals). Making it illegal has not made it taboo or hard to get.

    March 26, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  2. Emil, Franklin, TN

    Sure glad that we have a President who gets laughs even on the Jay Leno Show. How blessed we are!

    March 26, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  3. Charles

    It's dissapointing to see the President, who claims to be "open-minded", laugh off such a suggestion. While I dont personally believe an all out legalization would benefit America, this is something that should at least be considered and discussed as it has potential to bring in millions of tax revenue. President Obama treated this as a joke and derrided online viewers as some metephorical "stoners". What a shame.

    March 26, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  4. Sharon LV

    Osama's not legalizing marijuana? pretty sure he will legalize crack cocaine

    March 26, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  5. Mike

    I was surprised at the number of very similar pot-related questions. It felt like a coordinated effort by someone to get this one issue highlighted. I was pleased, though, that the President chose to address it - it showed that he really was paying attention to the results of the online question-gathering! And I think he answered it correctly.

    While prosecuting pot smokers or possessors is not high on my agenda, neither is decriminalization or the tremendous political distractions that would bring. The only move that I think is easy and supportable is the one that Holder has already taken, to have the Feds back off on those following state laws regarding pot for medical purposes. I think we've hit the right balance here.

    March 26, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |

    I think the presiden is so right, it is the wrong timing for the country to legalize weed, because most people are going through a tough time and are depressed, so chances of being hooked on this drug are high. My advise to green machine is talk to people who are addicted to this drug and find out how it has stimulated their house economy.

    March 26, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  7. Peter E

    If these pot users put that pot down and got up from their computer and started actually working THAT would stimulate the economy!

    March 26, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  8. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    Good answer. We are transgressing through some difficult times--legalizing drugs for recreational use--it will only add to the difficulty–that is a one way street with no comeback for redemeption.

    March 26, 2009 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  9. Eric

    How is it not an effective strategy???

    March 26, 2009 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  10. KBrown

    "I don't know what that says about the online audience."
    It says that we are practical people. I'm not a person that does any drugs and I can still see the benefits of legalizing marijuana. Not only would it boost the economy by creating jobs, but the government could impose taxes on it, we would stop sending millions of American dollars outside the country every year that are supporting a lot of the drug violence in Mexico. It would clear up a lot of space in prisions and jails across the nation, also saving taxpayers money. And more importantly it would make it harder for underage kids to get ahold of. When I was underage, had I wanted any drugs, there were half a dozen people I knew I could call to easily get anything I wanted. Alcohol however was a completely different story. Because it is regulated by the government and legal it is much, much more difficult for kids to get their hands on alcohol than marijuana right now. If marijuana was legalized and controlled like alcohol and cigarettes, it would be much harder for kids to get their hands on.

    March 26, 2009 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  11. Shannon Wadding

    The legalization of Medicinal marijuana is a power left to the individual States.

    March 26, 2009 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  12. Dave C - NJ

    Of course it should be legal. It may not be a good way to "stimulate the economy" but it should still be legal.

    I would like him to answer the question of legallity, not just if it's part of the economic plan.

    We all know the truth though...he would love to have it legal but he is scared of the backlash, pure and simple.

    March 26, 2009 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  13. Greg Domino

    While I agree with the President on the first question, this is not the #1 question from the legit marijuana community. (i.e NORML) I have never heard of this question from any smart marijuana user, nor is it the question on minds of users for example, on Obama's website. Of course that question would get laughed at, its like asking if beer is going to improve the economy... it's a waste of time and I don't understand why Obama didn't answer the REAL question.

    The true question, which should have been asked, is the second you mentioned about the regulation, age limits, etc from GreenMachine. This would surely get no laughs from educated people on the subject, as it surely will make a millions, if not billions of tax dollars.

    I wish uninformed people would not be so quick to judge about this subject, and wish they would read up on it and get their facts straight before debating.

    Marijuana is safer than alcohol and tobacco, fact.

    March 26, 2009 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  14. CATravis

    I don't mind marijuana. I think it's as bad as cigarettes and alcohol in the sense that "they" know its bad for you but let you do it so "they" can tax and profit from it. My state, CA, has spent billions over the years trying to destroy our marijuana empire but in that time production has actually gone up. Statistically, the more the gov spends on imprisoning and destroying pot farms the more pot farms spring up. Your choice America. Once you open that door it will be hard to close.

    March 26, 2009 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  15. Ann

    I totally agree with the President. As clever as some people think they might be, it is not an ethical question – its a question of long term sustainability. Simply put, mayijuana makes you stupid.

    March 26, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  16. jeff

    Over half the people in jail are there for drug related offences.
    If you make pot and hash legal then you can tax it and make BILLIONS upon BILLIONS in tax revenue. Making it legal stops alot of crimes related to selling and buying it on the black market.
    You would spure the agricultural industry as some farms would start to grow it for legal income.

    March 26, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  17. Todd

    Unfortunately President Obama didn't take this question as seriously as he should have. Of course a room of nurses and teachers is going to scoff at this question. But the bottom line here is, there is a huge and fast growing movement of people with common sense that will soon be the majority. Apparently our Government and the Media don't see what all the recent polls are showing them and whats coming soon. CHANGE!!

    March 26, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  18. Rob

    President Obama continues to disappoint America each and every day. Maybe if he would stop trying to please the retards in the GOP, and start paying attention to the American people like he said he would, he might grow a pair of balls and do what needs to be done in this country as he promised!

    March 26, 2009 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  19. Gavin


    Why have you resorted to being politically correct? What are you so afraid of?

    Step up, be yourself, and be BRAVE! We fell in love with you as a country because that's what we saw up until the election. That's what we need now, still, as a country. We need a leader who isn't afraid.

    Please, be that man.

    March 26, 2009 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  20. Brian, OR

    There may be money in weed, but legalizing something that makes people lazy and stupid is probably not the best way to go to help econoomic growth.

    Also, the last time I was at a party where weed was being smoked, most people sat around in a stupor being boring as crap. I'll take a couple of India pale ales and good conversation any day of the week.

    All in all though, I do appreciate Obama's attempts at promoting dialouge between Americans and their government.

    March 26, 2009 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  21. Jase

    I have never touched the stuff never would but seriously just legalize it. We spend billions to fight its import in a system that clearly has not worked. The Mexicans cartels are fighting a war on our southern boarder because of it and seriously what harm does it cause. Who does it hurt. Is it that much worse than tobacco or alcohol. Plus taxing it takes the money out of the drug lords hands and puts it in the hands of government.

    March 26, 2009 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  22. In Houston, TX

    No, it's not...but it could be part of a larger stategy to spur our economy.
    And I know what you guys are thinking. I know the question you want me to answer. And the answer is yes 😉

    March 26, 2009 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  23. barbara miller

    Why no stories on the new, unveiled gop budget – the one that they were delivering in a detailed way today? I do not understand why you're not putting out a story on this???? Ha!

    March 26, 2009 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  24. Tina

    I used to smoke back in my college days. And while I could live without it the rest of my life I do wish we had politicians willing to take up this cause. I guess maybe it should be a state issue. It would be a huge money generator though.

    March 26, 2009 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  25. Fnord-asaurus Rex

    Legalizing the drug trade could kill two birds with one stone. We could keep the money in the US and put a damper on all this Mexican drug war buisness. People are gonna keep using drugs regarless of the law. The most hypicritacal part of the whole thing is the federal govrnment has no problem collecting the tax money from the medical marijuana shops here in California.

    This is just another example of the old way of thinking. Alcohol and tobacco are far more destructive than pot yet both are legal.

    March 26, 2009 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
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