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. Fnord-asaurus Rex

    @ peter E: Do your reserach. Pot is the number one cash crop in both CA and KY. More than Corn And Soy combined. It's a billion dollar industry. There is also a huge industry built around the consuption of pot. Pipes, papers, cigars, ect. Theres also the hemp industry.

    Do you even know why pot is illegal? It's political, not based on any real evidence of danger.

    March 26, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  2. Engineer in Raleigh

    The drug war is not a joke – we're imprisoning hundreds of thousands of non-violent users. Who are we letting out of jail to keep these people in? Why are so many Americans interested in a nanny state, anyway?

    March 26, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  3. Jarhilda420

    Where is the CNN poll for this topic? I'd like to see that the general public would lean towards. No doubt about it, the tax revenue alone would be tremendous, along with the street violence reduction, stiffer penalties, its already pleantiful in our country as it is. It is easier to get then Claritan, and should be monitored as such, usage would remain the same.

    March 26, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  4. Keith

    It is a shame too. Decriminilization would go a long way to solving the problems with Mexico as well. A great way to take a bite out of the drug lords' profits is to remove the demand for their product by producing it ourselves.

    And this comes from some who is NOT a pot user. I'm just smart enough to realize when a policy has failed.

    March 26, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  5. Kristen

    I do agree that this issue should not be top of mind for the president or his administration. However, I take issue with the two posters who wrongly imply that marijuana users do not actively contribute to society/the economy or are unable to provide for themselves. There are thousands of educated, responsible adults who use marijuana on their own time, in the same manner that one might enjoy a beer while watching the NCAA tournament. These educated, responsible adults hold down decent jobs, pay their taxes, make purchases and contribute to the economy and their communities. You probably know a few of them, and don't know that they occasionally enjoy marijuana in a responsible manner. These educated, responsible adults have the right to ask these questions of their government. The questions are valid and the issue has many sides, both positive and negative, that should be considered and discussed in an open forum like the one that was provided today.

    March 26, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  6. Richard

    I guess its a good laugh when we Americans export Marijuana either from Canada or Mexico to serve them the billion dollar industry instead for our own gains. Sure lets keep taxing the private sector who cares right. I mean proabtion didnt work for alcohol what makes you think that we can stop the flow of marijuana into the country please give me a break. Anyways, lets get to the point there are more abusive in America for alcoholism or addication to pain killers which can lead to death. How many deaths are cause from smoking a natural plant? none- zero so you do the math. Legalize the plant tax it which the federal can turn around and pay our state troopers, sheriff departments, police force, etc. Wait a minute then all those who have been incarcerated for smoking weed would have to be release. Now the system has to find another way to make there money. This is an out rage I still cant beileve people are not allowed to smoke in a peaceful setting. Oh Marijuana is the gate way drug totally nonsense cigarettes are the gate way. The drug cartel profits from Marijuana are about 70%. Legalize that portion and you have already limitied that much power from the cartel. Oh no we cant do that but well just send money aid to Mexico another taxtation we gotta pay. LEGALIZE IT!!!!!!!!

    March 26, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  7. at work

    explain to me why liquor is legal then would you please?

    March 26, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  8. Jen Oregon

    the prez and the commentators here have it wrong. it is not about getting people hooked on marijuana, but stop prosecuting the ones that use. not everyone is addicted to alcohol, but they drink. not all who smoke are addicted. it would be a good way to reach across the red neck aisle to the hippy side and say they too can enjoy their drug of choice. you won't be seeing people smoking pot and running head on into other drivers, or getting mad and shooting their wives. you will see a bunch of quiet over indulgence (food mostly) folks that perhaps giggle too much. it is a personal choice, and NO I DO NOT SMOKE MARIJUANA.

    March 26, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  9. randy

    That just made 70% of his voters mad!

    March 26, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  10. Gina

    Peter E: Your stereotyping of pot smokers is duly noted. While I'm disappointed President Obama does support decriminalization, I'm confident that at some point it will happen. The war on drugs is a complete failure and decriminalization of marijuana would not only stimulate the economy but it would also ease the violence in Mexico. If one truly educates oneself on why pot is illegal in the first place it is hard to argue with the decriminalization point of view. I think though it must first start at the state level – let's go California! Legalize now!

    March 26, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  11. Dave

    Seems like an idea worth exploring. Tons of cash goes unaccounted for right now just on marijuana alone.

    March 26, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  12. matt

    Yeah, because beer drinkers and alcohol drinkers are just so productive and perfect. Why beer and liquor are legal and marijuana is a jail sentance is ridiculous (and we won't even get into tobacco). Saying that someone that smokes marijuana is lazy and is the cause of the problems with the economy is ludicris! I would prefer to deal with someone that is high vs. someone that is drunk any day of the week.

    March 26, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  13. Sir Veza

    Prohibition of Cannabis is far more destuctive than lagalizing it. I suggest those that are in denial about this fact, brush up on the history of the prohibiton of alcohol in this country. Serious consideration and thought should be given to the economic stimulus this could provide to our great country.

    March 26, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  14. Scott in New Mexico

    This makes me kind of angry. It's not like we activists are demanding that he put this issue in the forefront of the national consciousness.... But we are not children. This is not an issue that I take lightly.

    I am a hard working contributing member of this society. The fact that I choose to relax by smoking a joint instead of drinking a beer is a CHOICE that I make. No one gets to tell me what I can and cannot put into my body.

    So please Mr. President. Don't laugh it off.

    March 26, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  15. alex arichards

    Publicly anouncing that he would legalize marijuana would be political suicide. Firstly to peter M, many people who recreationally use marijuana do it to lessen the stress from work and they do it on their own time which is no concern of the governments, so next time you make a statement be sure to get rid of your own personal prejudices before generalizing 20 million people who use marijuana in the US.

    President Obama knows that legalization is not going to happen overnight but he must realize that the war on drugs is failing and that marijuana prohabiton damages our economy from the billions of dollars we pour into enforcing it. He has taken steps to facilitate change such as the new drug czar who is far more common sense based then blind belief. The US should legalize marijuana within 5 years, if not we better have legitimated the reason behind this failed policy.

    March 26, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  16. Jon

    I'm all for keeping marijuana illegal, as long as we also prohibit alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine. The way this country (and the world) categorizes one drug as illegal and sells another drug, just as addictive and harmful, from any store with a license is a joke.

    March 26, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  17. Drew

    While the decision shouldn't be made for purely economic reasons, it is incompatible with the concept of a free society that we continue to tell people at gunpoint what drugs they can and cannot use. And I say this as someone who never uses drugs and rarely drinks alcohol.

    March 26, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  18. Gorbashov - Long Beach, Ca.

    Maybe it's not politically correct, but it should be decriminalized and taxed!

    It's not addicting like alcohol is!

    AND Sharon LV – you are a racist!!

    March 26, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  19. ken

    Just like all aspects of Obama's philosophy, he doesn't think Americans can make these decisions on their own. If you think tabacco and alcohol should be legal, why not marijuana?

    Same reason he is cutting tax deducations for charitable contributions. He thinks the government can decide where the money is spent better than average people. This isn't change, this is the same crap that the Democrats and Republicans have been pedaling for decades. Pro-choice means pro-choice.

    March 26, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  20. jagrio

    a million jobs and a billion dollars. yessiree. read jack herer's " the emperor wears no clothes". he didn't write this stuff, he only collected the government evidence for you too decide for yourself.

    March 26, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  21. ldk

    If we can't legalize pot then can someone please tell me why alchohol is legal? Hmmmm. Lobby and money maybe. Anyone for a pot lobby? Why dont we try and make alchohol illegal? Wonder what kind of outcry that would produce. We could save billions on alchohol related deaths while driving and treating alchohol related health issues. Just think of all the enforcement jobs it would create in DOJ and DEA. Stimulate the economy – ILLEGALIZE ALCHOHOL. Bottom line is there is no diff. Either make both legal or illegal.

    March 26, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  22. Frank2 leave any hopes on that topic for the second term.....nice to hear the feds are going to back off on stuffing our jails full of unfortunate (fairly harmless) pot smoking teens – prison population is, after all, our largest budget expense after medicare/medicaid

    March 26, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  23. Mike32

    I believe putting someone in prison for a drug that cause people relax and not fight like a drug such as Alcohol, is completely wrong. The cost alone to have these people in prison is more than what an average person makes a year. And the people that believe they don't know anyone that spokes weed are either blind or very self obsorbed. There are more successful hard working people in the work force than any even knows. I don't believe that it is a problem if someone works all day and wants to take a couple of puffs at night. Also what people don't realise is that just because its legal doesn't mean everyone is going to do it, people that don't smoke, and people that don't drink have the opportunity to do both because there legal but choose not to.

    March 26, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  24. Scott in New Mexico

    Furthermore, I am less than 500 miles away from a war that is costing billions of dollars, and hundreds of lives. As SoS Clinton admitted. The USA is partly to blame for the raging war down south. Our insatiable desire for drugs is not going to go away. So pretending that STONERS are the only ones who would benefit from legalization is a farce.

    March 26, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  25. Matt

    As to peter have no Idea how many people with steady jobs who are active in society smoke.

    As to FLORENCE MUTESASIRA....little case study for you check out what FDR did in regards to alcohol prohibition during great depression and its results.

    As to Mike...look at how many college students are denied financial aid because of cannabis convictions, regardless of whether or not they go to jail.

    As to Sharon LV...Completely unnecessary comment. Really surprised CNN let this through.

    March 26, 2009 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
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