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. W

    I've never used marijuana and don't plan to, but I know enough people that use it to confidently tell Florence Mutesasira that marijuana alone is not an addictive drug–it doesn't alter the brain or the body's chemistry to create a dependency or need. Occasionally, other drugs like crack will be added to marijuana (crack is addictive)–which is all the more reason to legalize (and regulate the content) of pot. It is worth pointing out that tobacco, alcohol and caffeine are all habit forming drugs.

    March 26, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  2. Dee

    FYI, legalizing Marijuana is no more of a Federal issue than alcohol is. It should be something that is regulated by the state. I would think that if someone could afford to buy Marijuana today on a regular basis, they are not hurting all that bad financially. Threre are so many more critical issues besides "How can I get high today." Those that want it legalized could care less of how it impacts our economy. I am sick of the fast food mentality in todays times. "I want it now, and without restrictions? is the mantra. That is why our country is in the shape its in. By the way, his name is Obama, and its in no way related to the name Osama. It actually means beautiful one. What does your name mean, Moron?

    March 26, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  3. Yes we could

    The point of de-criminalizing marijuana is that it DESTROYS its black market value! Just like alcohol prohibition made criminal gangs more powerful and wealthy(being that they controlled the black market of booze)

    Legal weed=Zero profit for the Mexican drug cartel!

    March 26, 2009 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  4. Timor

    It is shocking that readers of CNN would use such misguided language as 'hooked on weed'. The only thing preventing marijuana from being legalized is an outdated stigma that is not based on any sound reasoning. Laws on the recreational use of marijuana have been softening because the drug is medically acknowledged to be no more harmful than either alcohol or tobacco. That was an uncharacteristically weak response on Obama's part.

    March 26, 2009 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  5. David from Missouri

    Although, I do not agree with the legalization of all drugs, Marijuana, as stated above, would save a lot of money in the U.S. I know money is not everything, but we have to get real, the penal system’s numbers are staggering and anyone who has ever smoked weed knows it is not any worse than alcohol.
    – Just my opinion.

    March 26, 2009 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  6. PATC

    COuld help some areas BUT Obama has us headed toward 10 extra Trillion in Debt. A few bill does nothing for what he plans on spending.

    March 26, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  7. Scot

    Marijuana will never be legalized because it’s a weed and can not be controlled! How are you going to tax what grows wild?

    March 26, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  8. Miguel

    "Making it illegal has not made it taboo or hard to get."

    Maybe true, but making it legal would make it even easier to get and the new legalized industry would zealously promote pot to our children on TV, online and in print, the same way the tobacco industry did for generations.

    March 26, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  9. michelle

    being a business professional, and more than an average smoker i can honestly see both sides of the story. however the strong backing for me is hemp is such a HUGE cash crop and with such availability, the US government would be silly not to seriously look into that option. also i feel if marijuana is legal then there could be more focus to the meth epidemic that is growing so rapidly fast!!! also, how many alcohol related deaths have you heard of within the past year? either it be drunk driving and killing someone yourself, or being an innocent bystander and killed or injured by a drunk driver; what about alcohol poisoning from drinking too much? funny you don’t hear of pot smoking related deaths; smoking to much.........................but yet alcohol is legal???

    also FYI do you all know that one of the most important documents in United States History; the Declaration of Independence is written on hemp?

    March 26, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  10. fogcityguy

    I think it could have been a valid question if framed differently. Connection between marijuana and job creation...huuummm!!! I hate the smell of it, so have never done it...but I don't care if someone else wants to do it. Its like hard liqueur, what's the difference?

    But most important, I think president handled it quite well.

    March 26, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  11. BoB

    Smoking pot is not harmless. It is highly carcinogenic. Legalizing pot may help make money off taxes and gbut wouldonly force the drug cartels to focus more on pushing meth and cocaine instead of pot. All in all, legalizing pot will increase the number of high people on our streets and it will increase our overall health care costs by astronomical proportions. Forget leglaizing pot altogether. It's a stupid idea.

    March 26, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  12. Elaine

    This is serious, not funny. There are people out there whose lives are being ruined because on joint is on their permanent record. I am wondering if all the people who think this isn't serious ever tried pot, and how they would feel in the same situation. It's about time we got real in this country and let people decide things for themselves.

    March 26, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  13. Chris - Seattle

    Seems to me that America is stuck in the 1920's with the propaganda of "Reefer Madness", never mind that it's already Americas #1 cash crop and never mind that Thomas Jefferson & George Washington both said in writing that Hemp would save the human race! And if I'm adding correctly the $44billion we'd save from the enforcement of prohibition plus the $33billion in tax revenue just for one state and let's not forget about exporting it to other countries and last but not least the lives saved from bringing the business from underground / blackmarket to above ground! Too common sensical I guess, which is exactly why it won't happen! Because common sense just ain't very common anymore!

    March 26, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  14. johnathon M

    This is an outrage pres. obama is doing what the last 4 Presidents did double dipping, They illegally collect tax on marijuana then nail the good citizens with fines if their caught with it. I call for the immediate impeachment of obama. Bush put this country into a nose dive, obama is doing nothing to pull us out he is slamming down the throttle and running us into the ground faster. WAR ON DRUGS is bull it should be POLITICIANS ON DRUGS, i'm not saying they shouldn't go after the big drugs meth,crack,coke but pot is just horrendously stupid, Here easy fix have the politicians give up their 6 homes, legalize and tax pot like cigarettes and the economy stabilizes

    March 26, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  15. The Death of America by Obama

    Obama, the country killer, said..." a public service program will begin in afew weeks".
    You idiots have no idea what he's talking about do you..
    Well, when you start losing some of your freedom you might realize how stupid you were for drinking so much koolaide and slobbering all over the server.

    March 26, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  16. Kali

    It's all very interesting to me. I do not believe in legalization of marijuana (decriminalization, yes) but it is interesting that so many people want to chalk it up to "stoners" for asking this question. I don't think it was an organized event, I think that many hard working, open minded Americans have trouble understanding why drugs such as Tabacco and Alcohol are easily accepted into our communities and generate millions of dollars for this economy. How many people die every year due to lung cancer, liver disease, drunk driving. Not to say that smoking marijuana does not have it's consequences, but why it this so outrageous and ludacris of a question to ask? We must think realistically about our options and if we are going to realistically allow the use of alcohol and tabacco, what makes marijuana any different? Do my beliefs make me a lazy stoner? Absolutely not. Do I sit on the couch all day and play video games? Absolutely not. I think it's time we reitire that sterotype. A few years back, people thought global warming was a ridiculous idea made up by crazy and wacky scientists.

    March 26, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  17. true daughter of the american revolution

    smoking pot isn't the worst thing someone could do – i've never heard of a pot smoker abusing kids, beating their spouses, robbing banks...
    we tax cigarettes and alcohol, so why not?
    not only that, the benefits for some (pain control, nausea) are tremendous.
    i'm not saying it will cure the economy... but the "refer madness" mentality towards pot is just so unrealistic.

    March 26, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  18. Chris

    People who smoke marijuana will do so wither it is legal or not.

    Decriminalizing the use of marijuana will do little to increase usage, but will generate tax revenue similar to cigarettes and alcohol.

    I believe those who do not smoke it now, wont smoke it if legal.

    March 26, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  19. ChasG

    Obama himself has said he was a former pot and cocaine user. So does he think he should have should have been prosecuted then or that users should be prosecuted now?
    I wonder how he would feel if he had spent years in prison before he just brushes aside a serious discussion in such a flippant and arrogant manner.

    March 26, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  20. MD

    Yet another gotcha question for our new President. Where the heck were all these gotcha questions when Bush was in office. Another double standard... This is getting really old.

    March 26, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  21. JC

    There is more to legalizing pot than just the revenue. Opening up economic streams within the US for decriminalized weed will stop the flow of money south, and dealing a significant blow to the structure of the drug cartels in Mexico. Marijuana is 70% of the total revenue sent back to Mexico from illegal drugs.

    The sad thing is that we live in a Barney loving world full of judgemental, uninformed people. Peter E. demonstrates how ignorance will never allow for common sense to prevail here.

    March 26, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  22. megan

    I agree with BB's comment fully. I do not think the online questions all came from pot crazed stoners. In light of the violence occurring along the Mexican border, which is now requiring us to commit military resources we don not have (ie. $) in a futile attempt to quell the fighting, the questions are valid. According to Hillary, WE are the problem due to the huge demand here in the US for drugs. Obviously prohibition did not work then and it is not working now. If there is such a high demand (which no one is questioning) then why not let enterprising Americans meet the demand for each other, and take all that money out of the hands of violent criminals. Simple economics. It's more than just the tax revenue we're talking about. This would also help solve the problem of prsion overcrowding and free up law enforcement to focus on crimes that actually have victims.

    March 26, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  23. AA

    Peter E, I can guarantee you plenty of "pot smokers" are stimulating the economy as you speak. My husband and I are young professionals contributing to society with advanced degrees, and we pay taxes on our $300k income, and we smoke pot every day. It's a heck of a lot less dangerous than alcoholism. Puritanism and productivity are not necessarily connected. I do not see any ethical issue with marijuana and think the laws are absolutely absurd, particularly given the current crisis in our prisons.

    March 26, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  24. my name is mud

    baby steps, at least it's being discussed...maybe it will be legal by the time I hit retirement age...oh yeah!!

    March 26, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  25. Chuck

    Obama is playing politics. He cant legalize MJ because he will not get re-elected in 2012. I am a user of marijuana and smoke frequently,so of course i want it legal, but those voting for obama in hopes he was going to legalize pot should of voted for Ron Paul. he is a conservative but seems to know what he is talking about when it comes to the war on drugs. i voted for Obama in 2008, But if he dont start thinking straight and just keep playing politics( On all issues) he wont get my vote in 2012.

    March 26, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
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