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. Bob

    Understand the difference between illegal and criminal.

    Illegal means people like Eric Cantor and Chris Dodd and Steve King and Charlie Rangel wrote a law.

    Criminal acts can be perfectly legal. Take what happened on Wall St. We are told little can be done because nothing they did was "illegal" even though we all know that what they did was criminal.

    Murder is a criminal act and is wrong. If we never bothered to write a law against it, it would be legal. Would that make murder right or any less criminal?

    15 years ago, it was "illegal" to receive local channels (NBC, CBS, etc) on a satellite mini-dish (with a few exemptions) because a law was written to protect the interests of the cable companies from the new found threat of DirecTV. Does that mean it was criminal to do it then? What about now when millions get NBC from a dish?

    Smoking pot is illegal. It is not criminal.

    Putting people in jail for doing

    March 26, 2009 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  2. T.O.

    I agree with Obama on this one. Legalizing marijuana would not help the economy, bc people would actually stop buying it. When will people learn that once the government gets involved with a business, the products cost more and the quality of the product lowers.

    March 26, 2009 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  3. Nate

    I agree with Obama here for now and here's why. If we are to legalize marijuana the decision shouldn't be made under pressure for tax revenues. This decision should be made based on it's overall impact on society. Studies have shown that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol or cigarettes but there's a lot of other issues with legalization.

    Furthermore, I think the idea the that this will raise a lot of tax revenue is blown out of proportion. Marjuana is a weed and grows just about anywhere. It's easy and cheap to grow and obtain right now. If the government taxes it and regulates it, thus raising the price and reducing availability, why wouldn't people just continue to get it from other people. They can't stop it right now and certainly if you change the laws around it, the penalties for possessing and growing it become more lenient therefore encouraging more people to do so. So rather than people going to a store to buy it and contributing to state and federal revenues ,they grow it themselves and the black market continues to flourish. The more regulations you put on it the more likely it will remain a black market drug. The less regulations you put on it the more it's available- and there's no way people will allow marijuana to be easily available to everyone. But legalizing it in any way will do that. I just don't believe it will be easy to regulate. The only real revenue stream you'll get will be from savings in prisons. That may be enough.

    March 26, 2009 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  4. A better place

    Think about why alcohol is legal and then think about why marijuana is not. I would like to here some explanations.

    March 26, 2009 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  5. John Q. Public

    "Pot" is a multi-billion dollar a year industry, whether you like it or not. Right now, the people reaping the benefits of this "economy" are drug lords and their affiliated cartels in Mexico and other areas around the world. At this point in time there is a huge surge in violence in the region as a result of our "War on Drugs" whih threatens to topple the Mexican government. We can continue to turn a blind eye to this multi-billion dollar industry, keep spending billions locking people up for it's recreational use, fueling these murderous drug cartels with the money to continue terrorizing their citizens, spending billions to fight these cartels, law enforcement, etc.. OR, we can legalize, tax, and regulte. This will generate billions in annual revenue and save billions annually by decreasing the budget of those agencies fighting it. Be realistic, this isn't "Half Baked" and not all "Pot heads" are lazy, unmotivated, un-productive members of society. They're your doctors, lawyers, police, business owners, etc.

    March 26, 2009 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  6. Adam Hoyle

    I have not heard one good reason as to why Marijuana should not be legal. The old argument that its bad for you is stupid, I can list lots of things that are bad for you but still legal...Alcohol comes to mind. Marijuana would not only make money but it would free up money so cops could spend more time getting serious drugs off the streets. Its a no brainer for Marijuana to be legal, especially if Alcohol is. Obama knows this but he didnt want to take heat from the public against a drug less harmful than Alcohol.

    March 26, 2009 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  7. rick61

    Whoa. Dude. It's like, totally about pot. And the economy and stuff. But, like, pot will totally fix that.

    March 26, 2009 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  8. Scott AZ

    It would be hard to regulate marijuana since anyone can grow the plants just about anywhere and advoid the taxes, which is why I believe it's the number one reason that government have not legalized it years ago.

    March 26, 2009 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  9. dave

    I doubt that decriminalization of pot would create "millions of jobs" . The tobacco industry doesn't even have 1/2 million.

    March 26, 2009 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  10. mike

    I am a war vet. and i think,MR.Obama is doing more than i can remember any other president has done, i mean before, when the new pres. was in office you never saw him or heard a word of what was going on. At least now we have a man willing to stepup to the plate and tell it how it really is,and going out and doing something instead of doing,--- as his past predisiosiors.We all have to understand change dosen't happen overnight,but it takes time and effort among all,I recall a phrase WE THE PEOPLE what happened did we loose sight of everything,by falling back and only thinking about me,and not use. FOR IT IS WE AND USE who make this place we call home.P.S don't forget we crawl before we walk. UNITED WE STAND DEVIDED WE FALL that was something that was instiled im me when i went to fight for my country, I know I'm just a speck on this earth but if more of us were on the same page we just might see the big picture.untill we allmeet again GOD BLESS US ALL

    March 26, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  11. Mike

    Obama said off-handedly at the town hall. "I don't know what that says about the online audience."

    Really? They were probably high when they voted for you.

    March 26, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  12. jeffrey L

    This issue is the elephant in the room nobody in the white house wants to touch right now, it's obvious the U.S. drug prohibition is a failure and is the main reason mexico is seeing so much violence. I say legalize all drugs and take away the black markets. tax and regulate them, and punish drug abusers who violate REAL laws not just laws that take away our personal freedoms to put anything we want into OUR bodies.

    March 26, 2009 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  13. Bryant

    I have said for years this would help bring money into the country. I am 19 and don't smoke anything or do any drugs but have seen a lot of people "high." I think it would be best to set it up like a hunting permit. Make people fill out forms to qualify for a permet to carry and use marijuana, and have limits on how much each peroson can carry. Have a regular users permit for a small amount, with a larger permit for stores and "sellers." They could also charge to grow, say a $100 per ten plants that way they could limit the ammount per company. If anyone is over there limit they can do as they do everything else, take the excess and slap them with a heavy fine. The effects of marijuana are similar to drinking and a lot better for you than tabaco. There are allready hundreds of thousands of people who do it and more people might do it if it was legal because of the ease of obtaining it. 100,000+ people at say $50 a year plus a 10% tax on it would be a lot of money, money which this country is short of. Plus all the good that would come out of reduced number of court cases from possesion and possably free up some room in an overcrouded prison system.

    March 26, 2009 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  14. Truth went out of style when?

    Hmm... it's incredible that Obama could sound so intolerant. First we laugh at "retards" and now we laugh at users of herb?

    Good Obama... I voted for you before. Certainly won't again. You will be surprised how much your support will dry up by 2012.

    Americans are tired or lies and abuse.

    March 26, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  15. Bronx Mike

    Wow....I'm a bit upset but I understand the reasoning. Oh well, maybe after he gets re-elected.

    March 26, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  16. Paul

    To Peter E-

    Plenty of pot users have jobs.

    March 26, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  17. j


    The amount of racism that your comment is dripping with is surprising. I didn't think inbreds could work a computer.

    March 26, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  18. Global Hemp

    How about states such as North Dakota who have industrial hemp legislation? Where farmers can apply for and receive a state permit to grow industrial hemp, but the federal DEA is opposed to permits for industrial hemp (though ironically the DEA does issue permits for growing marijuana at the University of Mississippi).

    So, if North Dakota law allows for growing industrial hemp, Attorney General Eric Holder's statement should allow for the DEA to issue permits to ND who have applied for permits, but have been delayed and turned down.

    More information on industrial hemp at Global Hemp website.

    March 26, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  19. Todd

    Florence – Marijuana is not an addictive drug. Get your facts straight before you voice your opinion.

    March 26, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  20. David

    I guess it's time for the prohibition of alcohol again.
    If these drunks would stop calling in sick with a hangover, that would help stimulate the economy.
    If they'd stop getting scerosis of the liver that would also help the economy.
    If drunk drivers would stop killing people, I'm sure that would help the economy.
    If they'd stop beating their wives, and going to jail. That would save alot of money.

    March 26, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  21. Fidel

    Even if he was for it. In the first 4 years it would be political suicide to suuport this now. Maybe if he is re-elected near the end of his term. That is unless the petrochemical industry gets to him

    March 26, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  22. Clay

    Obama's answer only demonstrates that he's as much in the pocket of big oil, timber and synthetics as all of the politicians before him. It also demonstrates a complete ignorance of the benefits the hemp plant could have for everyone, from food to fuel, textiles, medicines, paper, the list goes on. Obama is truly a disappointment.

    March 26, 2009 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  23. Jenifer

    It's definitely time. I know plenty of people that work the 9-5 grind and go home and light one up to relax. Much safer than alcohol or cigarettes. There's really no good reason for it to be illegal to begin with.

    March 26, 2009 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  24. Nate

    Florence- For the record- Marijuana is not physically addictive. Coffee and cigarettes are more addictive than marijuana. Somehow people believe Oxycontin, Vicoden or Fentanol are less harmful. They may be legal but they are extremely dangerous narcotics. There is no comparison between these pharmaceutical legal drugs and marijuana.

    The only conceivable way you could overdose on marijuana is eating a tremedous amount- you're more likely in that case to die of a bowel obstruction.

    March 26, 2009 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  25. Chelsey

    I was extremely upset that the president ignored the demand of the American people on this issue. While it may be the easy thing to do, politically, dismissing this issue as a joke is wrong. It is a legitimate issue and deserves a fair debate in the public arena. We cannot continue to wage a silent war on the American people. You cannot pick and choose where to apply the constitution.

    March 26, 2009 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
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