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. Matt

    You first of all don't get addicted to marijuana, it's a harmless drug, yet we have alcohol an cigarettes legalized and taxes! Cigarettes literally kill millions a year and alcohol kills millions, with drunk driving and such! I think it's outlandish and I don't even smoke. We are so puritian in our ways, I'm glad I grew up with a father from Greece, where alcohol is respected and enjoyed. I lived in Germany and we were regarded as the drunk Americans because we drink too much too quickly because we don't respect it at all, europeans are respectful because they are around it all the time and it's not a big deal! You could tax marijuana and free up our prisons from people who got arrested with an 8th....I love Obama but he's wrong on this one, there's no moral issue here and it's a big Double standard we have always had

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

    "green machine" makes valid points. In addition to the medicinal value, legalizing hemp would spawn an increase in small business openings (smoke shops, cafes, etc) and revitalize farming. And for those of you that think pot smokers are all stupid, lazy and unemployed you are sorely mistaken. There were and are many successful smokers from Karl Sagan and the Governator to everyday business people, teachers, doctors, you name it. Perhaps it's alcoholics you are thinking of.

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

    because in essence it is a joke. why would you legalize this? then its basically opening the door to millions of our kids being put in line for the next dime bag at your local dispensary, it would end up just like cigarettes. another health epidemic instead of sicker making our country dumber by the day. the people that come up with this they are not considering the long term consequences of legalizing something they are thinking of the present and now in their own worlds so it would make things easier on them to get their own supplies. They arent being considerate of the country as a whole merely putting up a front. Any sort of legalization is naturally going to drive up demand. cough cartels cough. Plus something as powerful as drugs can not be regulated plain and simple, people will become dependent and instead of working they will save every dime for another J. I could write alot more on this subject.

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

    Prohibition doesn't work. Never has, never will. And drugs aren't causing the violence - it's caused by their being illegal. It's time we all grew up and realized it.

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

    What I want to know is what makes people believe it is their right to tell me what I can, and can't put into my body in the privacy of my own home. It is simply not yours (or the goverment's) business.

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

    I used to support what Obama was doing, but lately it just seems like EVERYTHING (and not just this pot issue) is a joke to him. He so far seems to laugh at every problem America is facing.

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

    Why not make all drugs legal and tax them all. It sounds good until your faced with health and other related problems. Bus drivers, pilots, boat captains and air traffic controllers could use pot if it's legal. Or do you exclude them. Who can and cannot have marijuna in their blood stream. Remeber it hangs around. I know I would prefer my doctor be clean before surgery.

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

    It's mind-blowing to see non-medical marijuana as a high-interest subject when our country hurts on so many levels. When are the Americans going to grow up?

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

    Sharon Lv sounds like you know from experience about crack, seems like your on it now.

    March 26, 2009 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  10. Joel West Hills, CA

    I think the issue is not about using pot production to boost the economy. It's about removing the profit incentive from the cartels and bolstering the tax base, which would focus resources on preventing the real menace, which is the triple threat of cocaine, heroin and meth. I mean, come on, pot is innocuous compared to alcohol and cigarettes, the criminalization of which doesn't seem to be on anyone's agenda.

    March 26, 2009 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  11. Whitney

    You wonder what it says about your online audience? It says that THE PEOPLE have a legitimate question. People who are for marijuana legalization are included in the "people" you are sworn to help. As I recall, you've used it as well...and you're the President...what does that say about YOU?

    March 26, 2009 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  12. Jen King

    Hopefully the gov't will soon realize that it isn't th effects of pot that is causing all of the violence at the Mexican border, it is the fact that it is illegal.

    March 26, 2009 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  13. Erin

    I voted and stand behind Obama 100% but...I have to disagree on this one Barack! I don't even smoke pot or do any kind of drugs, but I pot is safer than alcohol.

    March 26, 2009 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  14. Julie, Garden City, MI

    What a disappointment that Obama did not give a thoughtful answer. A "no" was just ridiculous. And maybe what it says about the online audience is that they are more in touch with reality. Everyone knows someone who smokes pot. How much of that money goes down to Mexico? Legalizing would have to help the economy and could be taxed. Drinking alcohol and taking anti-depressants are far more destructive. What a backwards country.

    March 26, 2009 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  15. Bud Burgoon-Clark

    $43 BILLION spent on the failed War on Drugs vs. $33 BILLION in REVENUE if marijuana were legal?


    I thought the President was better at MATH than THAT!

    March 26, 2009 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  16. Sean Heslin

    Are we really a nation of free people when we can`t chose to smoke marijuana in the privacy of our home. People can drink alcohol and destroy their liver or cause car accidents that affect many others or make them violent toward others and that is tollerated I just dont understand . Do a survey of our emergency rooms and see what the % of patients that come in due to alcohol related issues and then tell me why marijuana is illegal and alcohol can be purchased just about anywhere. How much money can we as a nation save by the decriminalizing of pot ,think how much it cost to jail people , police this issue ,not to mention we would be putting the drug cartels out of business and what about all that tax revenue $$$ This is america Land of the Free ?? I Think.....

    March 26, 2009 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  17. Chris

    Pete.... Quit generalizing, you probably work with many that use the substance amongst other ones. Do you have the same view for anyone that takes prescription medications? You know those alter perception as well, any controlled substance legal or not does.

    I myself have been known to indulge in smoking, I go to school full time 18 credits, and work a full-time 40 hour-a-week job. At times I have worked two jobs and attended school. Get over yourself.

    March 26, 2009 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  18. Moving Forward!

    @Charles: The President was absolutely right to laugh it off! This was supposed to be a serious discussion about the categories that were listed, none of which said "Illegal drugs". The blatant immaturity of some people is behond understanding!

    Tax revenue you must be smoking the stuff! People can grow this stuff in their backyards in the southern states and those people who have indoor plant lighting can grow this stuff in their houses so how do you tax someone's indoor plants or herb and veggie garden?? It would create an even larger headache for law inforcement and COST MORE in TAX dollars to control than is worth the bullcrap to legalize it; while only collapsing a tiny fraction of the drug cartels business, as they also deal in cocaine, crack, heroine, opium and a host of other illegal products.

    March 26, 2009 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  19. Steve - in Chicago

    Prohibition didn't work to limit alcohol last century, it only made it possible for criminals to reap profits by feeding the demand.

    This time it's drugs.

    Billions of dollars are made supporting what's virtually an unstoppable demand (and no matter your own personal position on use, the demand will continue whether the economy turns around or not) while at the same time putting innocent citizens at grave risk from turf wars between competing criminal organizations.

    Understand that prohibition is pointless, costly and virtually ineffective, whether you want to limit alcohol, drugs, sex between consenting adults, or ownership of firearms. We need a government policy that learns from prior mistakes, not one that repeats again what's failed before.

    March 26, 2009 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  20. The Common Sense Party

    The risks of marijuana are overstated. And too many people charged with just possession are in jail. And we probably could make a lot of money by taxing and regulating it. But...there are serious health problems that it does cause. Inhaling hot smoke into your lungs and then holding it there is not good. Emphysema and lung cancer are just the two main respitory dangers that will cost our society significant amounts of money on health care.

    March 26, 2009 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  21. Dylan from Minneapolis

    Yeah, and if you put down your Wall Street Journal and stopped hating black people, we'd have a better union. (Stereotypes are poison)

    Peter E March 26th, 2009 3:32 pm ET

    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 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  22. the dude

    legalize it.

    March 26, 2009 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  23. AnnMM

    The President is wrong. We flush so much money down the toilet every year with our "war" on marijuana. I neither drink nor smoke but have friends that do both or one or the other. Pot is no worse than alcohol, if legislated the same way as alcohol it would be a tax revenue Godsend, not to mention the enormous savings we would have ending the futile and stupid "war".

    And geniuses, check the facts, marijuana is not addictive.

    The President won't legalize pot because too many uninformed would be all up in arms over this non-issue. As usual.

    March 26, 2009 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  24. Jermaine

    Peter E, and Florence...It's obvious you don't know the facts.....
    Some of the most productive members of society are current or former pot smokers, Including our last 3 presidents....
    Senators, Governors, CEO's. Hooked on weed? There is no physical addiction to marijuana, that is a fact. People dont use because it's illegal, most people I know don't use because they dont like the side effects. Alot like why people dont drink.
    People are going to prison, and dying in cartel wars over a plant that is less addictive, and harmful than Cigarettes and Alcohol....It's insanity!!

    March 26, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  25. Joseph

    I would have liked to have the president address the question with respect to the violence and funding of drug lords if he doesn't consider the matter of taxation and job creation worth debating. Savings in law enforcement could add up to billions as well, and allow them to focus on addictive drugs that are truly harmful to individuals and society.

    March 26, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
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