March 28th, 2009
10:01 AM ET
12 years ago

Fundraising jump for marijuana group after Obama snub

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/26/art.getty.obama.online.th.jpg caption="Obama said he didn't think legalizing pot would boost the economy."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - Marijuana backers aren't laughing about President Obama's flippant dismissal of a pot-related question during Thursday's online town hall meeting - and the country's leading marijuana advocacy group, The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, has seen its donations quadruple over the last 24 hours.

Allen St. Pierre, the executive director of NORML, told CNN "our donation boxes started to flood" after Obama laughed off a Web question about whether legalizing marijuana would improve the economy and job creation. St. Pierre said traffic to the group's Web site has "increased precipitously" since Thursday.

"About half of the donation comments have a reference to Mr. Obama's comments," St. Pierre said. "As far as I'm concerned, he could show up every single day and rag on marijuana."

Watch the president's pot-related comments

Admittedly, the group isn't a fundraising juggernaut: NORML averages about $900 in donations daily, a total that jumped to $3,500 in the 24 hours since Obama joked about pot at the town hall.

But St. Pierre said the anger among marijuana legalization advocates is real.

"Many of them were profoundly disappointed because many of them with great enthusiasm supported Obama from the point of his announcement to when he became president," he said.

St. Pierre acknowledged that marijuana legalization is "by no means at the top of national concerns" like two wars and a troubled economy. However, he said the online question was a serious one, arguing that marijuana legalization would help law enforcement officials cut costs. He also said a legal marijuana industry, like tobacco and alcohol, would create billions in tax revenue for the government.

St. Pierre believes the president and his attorney general, Eric Holder, will be friendlier to marijuana advocates than the previous administration, but he said he knows the topic remains "political dynamite" for any elected official.

"Obama does not want to be dragged down and become the point of cultural jokes and cultural digs because he is giving deference to a subject matter to that this date has been thought of as less than serious," he said of the president's town hall answer. "However, I think what he is probably going to find out, through his handlers, is that he really, really disappointed people in a way that he maybe has never done as politician."


Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (233 Responses)
  1. Bosworth

    Just wait; those numbers will contract when donors realize they accidentally donated their last dime-bag money while high.

    March 27, 2009 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  2. william

    I think Mr. Obama chould address the issue from a completely logical and objective way, which would allow our country to come to the fair solution to marijuana legalization, if he asked this one question..."do the benefits of our current prohibition of marijuana outweigh the potential problems of ending it?" I believe and think that the answer is a resounding NO, so we should end the prohibition.

    March 27, 2009 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  3. tintala

    oh well, if not him, then it will go state by state like it already is. Alcohol was once illegal too , ,,,, alcoholics.!

    March 27, 2009 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  4. One Deezy

    I had no idea there was such a push to get maurijuana legalized! But what I find even more concerning is how most Americans, the smokers to be specific, can't really see the president's position. Or any future president. Unlike beer, wine, cigarettes and other famous vices, the government can't tax maurijuana the way they are currently taxing those intoxicants. Does anyone really want to take the time to brew himself a beer? How about stomping on some grapes? And we all know you have to be a physicist to make a cigarette. But if marijuana is legalized noone would have a problem growing their own supply. That means no money for the government.

    March 27, 2009 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  5. Patrick

    I'd have to say that it was disappointing the way it was discarded out of hand and that the question was a reflection of the on-line demographic was a bit insulting.

    I hope NORML gets some money out of this because it is a real thing to be studied. We would stop making criminals out of kids, shut the gateway drug argument (does your bartender also sell smack?) and solve some of the problems we have along the Mexican border. Let's STUDY it before we say it's not a good idea.

    March 27, 2009 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  6. Matt

    This is publicity that money cannot buy!!!!!!! Legalize and Regulate

    March 27, 2009 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  7. MaryJo Bruce Surprise, Ariz

    I see MJ for medical reason. BUT, you have people sitting in their cars at a stop light tokin up and we all know it slows down reaction times. Smoke it at home fine. People do not obey the laws. Just like coke,amph,Heroin and all the others. Accidents all over the place. Good grief people, do your drugs at your home not on our streets. If you want to kill yourself using this stuff do it away from those of us that do not touch the brain rotting crap.

    March 27, 2009 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  8. TIME

    DON’T legalized marijuana. Once you legalized marijuana get ready to lose your worth belongs; because someone will be stealing them to buy their marijuana. If marijuana is legalized we will have to change our country from the United States to the United States of Marijuana (USM).

    March 27, 2009 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  9. Jim

    What about all the crack heads out there? Shouldn't they get equal time and donations?

    March 27, 2009 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  10. raggmopp

    Why by your pot from Mexico? Is is 3rd rate at best and more importantly our money goes out of the country. Buy the CA grown weed. The best in the world! Your money stays in the country. If legalized it needs to stipulate that only US grown is eligible, not that crap from Mexico.

    March 27, 2009 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  11. I'm 70, and I inhale

    Since I was 13... yet, I managed to graduate from college, get married, have a family, raise kids who have their own kids now, own my own business, buy a home, visit 3 continents and get to 70 without dying, doing other drugs, killing any one or going to jail.

    It's patently clear that many of the people commenting here are parroting what the television tells them. Turn off the boob tube, folks. Cannabis is less hazardous than tobacco and twice the fun of alcohol, without the hangover and dead brain cells.

    Of course, I could stand to lose 10 lbs, but I'll take that over beating my family anyday.

    The arguments FOR legalization of cannabis far outweigh the reasons not to - and most don't even realize that cannabis hasn't ALWAYS been illegal in this country.

    March 27, 2009 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  12. meg

    Keep your head up Mr. President!

    March 27, 2009 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  13. Lewis

    Number of deaths each year from alcohol about 100, 000
    that number doesn't include all of the violent acts committed while people are drunk.

    Number of deaths each year from tobacco, about 400, 000.

    Number of deaths each year from Marijuana...............Still looking, yep Zero 00000! Wake up people you've been had.

    March 27, 2009 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  14. kim-Atlanta,GA

    Legalize the joint. Let Americans vote! Love ya Obama!

    March 27, 2009 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  15. dmh

    You know, as of right now there are 4 states that spend more on prison funding than higher education funding. The united states is locking up nearly 2 percent of it's adult population in a social black hole that is destroying the economic vitalities of whole communites. We are spending billions on this drug war and it is ripping apart lives and economies.

    It's total bull that the marijuana question is some sort of sidetrack - it's central and indicative to the attitude change we need to get in this country! Don't stop putting the pressure on! End the failure that is the drug war! Yes We Can!

    March 27, 2009 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  16. Arjy

    Come on people, you can't be serious. Because you supported the man, doesn't mean that he should do whatever you please. Get a clue!

    March 27, 2009 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  17. Jackie in Dallas

    Chill, guys. President Obama was responding to the question in the context of an immediate stimulus to the economy. There is no way that legalization could be accomplished without a serious fight that would take essential time and assets away from more immediate problems.

    I don't indulge myself, but I feel we probably will have legalized marijuna eventually. There are good economic, legal, medical, and human reasons for legalization. However, I'd rather have him stay focused and not slide off into a sideline argument a la Clinton and the "don't ask, don't tell" contraversy that took needed resources away from his fight for universal health care.

    So chill, dudes. The Man is cool and your weed will come. As a child of the Mellow Yellow era myself, I say we just need to give him the time to take care of the snakes and snares first.

    March 27, 2009 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  18. EarthlingBob from Dallas

    Lower the court overload. Reduce the prison population. Free up law enforcement. Return 100's of thousands of people back to the work force. Create new jobs. Open another marketing front. Generate more tax revenue. Aid those medically handicapped. Cut off cartel money. Keep more money in-country. Reduce the cost for those who use it anyway. Remove the stigma. Lower the aggression level of the country.

    No you're right it is not something Bambi can do at this time of his campaign for his second four years so learn to live with it people.

    Overload those courts, we'll just hire more judges, prosecutors, jail and prison guards, build more civilian owned prisons, destroy more lives, wreck more marriages, spend more money of another needless and endless war, keep torturing those medically afflicted, send more money out of country to those who would do us harm, and hey isn't it statistically affecting a higher percentage of black people anyway?

    Way to go OREO!

    March 27, 2009 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  19. yuri

    Marijuana is still not a good idea for the economy as claimed by the clamorers of the THC. Besides the health risks, we do not want to see potentially and personaaly, persons pocketing the pot and pacin' the paths and pavements like imbeciles.

    March 27, 2009 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  20. John

    Obama can't support legalization of Marijuana right now because it's political suicide. The amount of votes he'd lock by supporting marijuana would not be nearly as much as the people who would NOT vote for him because of his support. Not to mention the countless ads the GOP would run. I can see it now. "Do you really want your commander and chief to be blitzed in the sit room?"

    I don't think Obama's dismissal of the question indicates he's against legalizing Marijuana. I think the fact that he mentioned the question in the first place shows that maybe he knows how to get it done. If you watch the news since Obama's taken office alot of small and offhand comments and statements about marijuana have been coming from the white house in different forms. A comment from this person. A mention in a response to a question. Before marijuana gets legalized (which it will in the next 30 years) we are going to have to have the conversation on a national stage for a long time. Maybe just maybe if Obama starts that now, by the time he's re-elected with an approval rating of 98% he'll be able to decriminalize it nationally or eliminate national drug laws and leave it to the states.

    He's too smart to openly discuss it now though I think because he doesn't want to say anything that he'd have to take back to legalize it. As of this moment he can say "Yes I didn't believe legalizing pot would help our economy the way it needed, but I do believe that it could help relations with Central America." or something like that.

    So here's a big thumbs up to you, Mr. President. For being forsightful enough to get it done (I hope.)

    March 27, 2009 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  21. Jarrod

    The people the most opposed seem to know the least about it. I have been an activist for 4 years, and am part of MPP (Marijuana Policy Project). We arrested over 800 THOUSAND people last year for a bag of dried flowers that are safer than alcohol. The cost to the US taxpayer is staggering... somewhere in the billions. Study after study has shown it SAFER than alcohol... and to be many states top crop. It needs to be taken seriously, no matter where you stand, this issue IS affecting your wallet, not to mention locking up non-violent people for what? Because they chose a joint instead of a beer?
    "some of my best days have been spent smoking hemp and enjoying the view" – Thomas Jefferson

    March 27, 2009 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  22. michael

    LEGALIZE IT!!!!...
    not only will it benefit the economy by creating jobs and opening a new industry. It will bring about an era of world peace.

    March 27, 2009 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  23. george

    Many will argue that the legalization of marijuana would save tons of money versus keeping it illegal. However keep in mind that if legalized it would follow the same path as alcohol and tobacco. How many new government programs will be "made" to help those dependant on marijuana? There would be no savings and people would still grow it to avoid paying taxes.

    What about all the women who have lost their newborns because they smoked pot while pregnant...would they now get their kids back if its legal now? (I know someone who lost their kid when born)

    What about driving under the influnce of pot...how would an officer determine if someone has smoked "too much". I've seen some people so stoned that they certainly should not be driving. What equipment/training costs would be required to test.

    You see, legalizing pot does have many other bad side effects, a trickle down problem that is much more than just saying its legal to smoke. I certainly would not want to drive across a bridge that was just built by a crew of folks high on pot, WOULD YOU?

    March 27, 2009 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  24. Jan Illinois

    The President of these United States IS supposed TO SUPPORT the legalization of a drug that erodes brain cells? Get real!! Have you ever been in contact with a marijuana user? Does this country NEED to be any slower thinking than we already are? Laughable!!!

    March 27, 2009 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  25. Democrats for Sarah, CA

    I do not mind seeing my brothers and sister being happy if weed is all that they need, but please, legal or not legal they get high at will. What is the point. Lets move on

    March 27, 2009 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
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