Tales from the Trail

Legalize pot? Not change Obama can believe in

March 26, 2009

Legalizing marijuana is not the kind of change President Barack Obama can believe in – at least not as a remedy for the ailing U.S. economy.
 
Obama tackled the issue head-on, only half-jokingly, at an online townhall meeting where he noted that the idea was a favorite among the 3.6 million people who voted on more than 100,000 questions submitted on the White House website.
OBAMA/ 
“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,” he said to laughter at the White House event.
 
“And I don’t know what this says about the online audience,” Obama said, tongue-in-cheek. “This was a fairly popular question. We want to make sure that it was answered.”
 
“The answer is, no, I don’t think that is a good strategy to grow our economy,” he said before moving back to a more sober discussion of unemployment and healthcare reform.
 
“Thank you for clearing that up,” said Jared Bernstein, Vice President Joe Biden’s chief economist, who was acting as moderator.
 
Many of the questioners suggested that regulating the marijuana industry could yield large tax revenues.
 
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was later asked whether Obama, who admitted in his autobiography to experimenting with drugs in his youth, was leaving some wiggle room on the issue.
 
“The president opposes the legalization of marijuana,” Gibbs told reporters, emphasizing his seriousness. “He doesn’t think that’s the right plan for America.”
 
As for where the new administration stood on medical marijuana, he said to ask the Justice Department.
 
Gibbs suggested that marijuana advocates may have had a hand in stacking the deck by mobilizing supporters to send in questions and to go online and vote repeatedly for them.

For more Reuters political news, click here

Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing (Obama speaks at White House townhall)

Comments
41 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

President Obama answered the question of whether or not he thought that legalizing and taxing cannabis would help stimulate the economy, but only technically. It is extremely disappointing that the President continues to issue a basic “No” answer to this topic which has dominated the last three “Open for Questions” sessions, an issue which is obviously important to a large number of Americans. It is not my concern that he says “No,” but I do believe that the American public deserves a more lengthy response to this.

The President was also asked this question: “How can you, the VA, and I ensure our veterans are successfully transitioning into civilian life?”

President Obama responded with 22 sentences, relating a personal anecdote and detailing what his plans are on the topic. Why can’t he give this kind of attention to the cannabis legalization issue?

Posted by Ryan S. | Report as abusive
 

I really am disappointed that Obama took the easy way out and belittled millions of productive, thoughtful, and friendly Americans who seriously see a problem with the federal government’s unyielding prosecution of cannabis growers and users. I know there’s a perception that being in favor of legalization (publicly) is political suicide, but I really wish Obama would have built some cajones and used the bully pulpit to point out that the drug laws, particularly the federal scheduling system, are at least in dire need of reform.

Oh well, it’s not up to Obama to change those laws anyway. It’s up to Congress, but given all the legislative challenges already on deck I doubt the Democrats will have the time (or the consensus, given the Blue Dogs) to take on drug law reform.

If they were to pass a reform of the drug laws (a totally fantastical scenario), I doubt Obama would go so far as to veto a federal legalization of cannabis. But who knows what the future will bring.

Posted by Jimmy Harrison | Report as abusive
 

The question was not posed correctly. With regard to stimulating the economy, legalization has little benefits. With regard to decreasing the govt exceedingly high cost of drug law enforcement, it has benefits. We spend entirely too much on chasing marijuana….and prostitutes for that matter. What consenting adults do in privacy is really not the govt’s concern.

That said, liberal judges are your best chance of overturning drug laws. Conservative judges will never go for that because they want to regulate your daily life according to THIER standards…..and the fact that conservative judges dont read the constitution before ruling.

Posted by Ken | Report as abusive
 

Now I’m sorry I voted for him. That was precisely the change I was looking for, for the sake of our country. Instead of taking the bold step of saying “Prohibition doesn’t work”, he is just doing the same old, same old: No change at all. I guess what he said in his inaugural speech about our pursuit of happiness was just Bull crud. What a horrible disappointment! I’m really sorry I voted for him now. Doesn’t he know cannabis used to be legal in this country? There are no absolutes that make it wrong or illegal.

So go ahead Obama, enjoy your cocktail parties and alcohol, while depriving others of their substances of choice. What a selfish and shallow hypocrite you are!

Posted by Martha from Trenton | Report as abusive
 

He should not have laughed and made a joke of it. We have alcohol which can kill you, that is legal. But we can tax and use a plant where 99% of all of it can be used? It could take power away from drug cartels. Why aren’t we legalizing it? It’s no more a gateway drug than alcohol and prescription drugs.

It’s bunk to say it was just advocates who boosted it. It’s not true, it’s all over the net. But, make it 21 and over, make the equivilenat to open containers laws and call it good I say. 21+ I say.

Posted by Responsible Person | Report as abusive
 

My question is why another dispencery was raided in California yeterday? They just announced over a week ago they were going to stop these raids. I am a medical marijuana patient and it took me a long time to find a strain of marijuana that elieviated the syptoms for both of my qualifying conditions and if I were to be raided even though I dont fear that I will go to jail becouse im legal I do fear the police cutting down my few plants and me losing this strain forever. ( I dont know the strains name.) Its something I shouldnt have to worry about. Mr. Obama If this gets to you PLEASE do what you have to do to change marijuana from a class one narcotic PLEASE!!! Im 33 years old and I have never voted until this year. Why? Becouse Isaw hope with you, I knew that you would do what needed to be done with this country no matter what wheather its raiding medical marijuana patients or ending the war in iraq. Do you think Abraham Lincoln was worried how the public would react when he set the slaves free? Of course he was but he did the right thing as I believe in my heart you will do, becouse right now medical marijuana patients are victims of a flawed system that needs to be fixed. I doubt you’ll get this but hopefully someone else i,portant will relay the message. Lance Putt, Proud American

Posted by Lance Putt | Report as abusive
 

I find it disturbing that he laughed it off as if it were a joke. This is a real issue, and an important one. This guy is really not serious about his job if he laughs at this issue. I find it very disheartening that my kids have to grow up in a society that doesn’t promote personal freedoms.

Posted by dskgolferxtrem | Report as abusive
 

The legalization of marijuana is a good thing

Posted by vaughn willis | Report as abusive
 

Pres. Obama has always said he wanted new ideas and that he was more than willing to listen to others. Today he proved to the Medical Marijuana people that he only acts that way when it suits his purposes. The last time Obama asked for questions online the number 1 question was about Marijuana, this time it was the same result. The first time he and his staff dismissed the questions in a very offensive way and he got a lot of heat for it. This time he didn’t do much better.
There are hundred of thousands of people in Prison in the US for our ancient rules about marijuana. We spend Billions every year to chase, arrest, try, and imprison pot smokers, many of them that use it for medical reasons only. The drug laws in this country have made us the country with more of it’s population in prison than any other country in the world. We know that close to half of all Americans have smoked pot at least once, can you imagine if they had all been caught ? This issue is not just about people wanting to get loaded, it’s a major source of injustice in the USA and across the world. In the last 12 months there has been at least 5 major scholarly reports in support of legalization. Milton Freeman and the Economist did one, the famous British charity, the Beckly Foundation just submitted one to the UN this month, Glenn Greenwald is due to present one in April. This is not about a few dirty hippies getting high anymore, it a crisis in human rights that is being ignored out of ignorance and old thinking.

Posted by Jim Dandy | Report as abusive
 

i feel it was not only disturbing that he outright said no but he gave no reasoning behind it whats the matter Obama your afraid of a little healthy debate what are country was founded on if it was put in the spotlight people might have to think decide there own destiny ohhh no lol im disappointed in you Obama anyone with half a brain can see legalization is the answer to the so called “drug problem”

Posted by Jay Stankovitch | Report as abusive
 

He needs to decriminalize and deregulate marijuana.
That would be best for the economy all around…not so good for the government but who cares?

Posted by Chris | Report as abusive
 

Obama i must say that your decision on legalizing marijauna is all one sided. BTW i believe u experimented with it at one point in your life and now you’re president, obviously it didn’t affect you to much huh. Kegalizing marijuana is the perfect way to take power from drug cartels. It’s also a great way to create jobs and any human being with half a brain could see that. Selling, growing and packing are all NEW JOBS CAN BE CREATED AND TAXING IT WILL HELP PAY OFF AMERICA’S DEBT TO THE REST OF THE WORLD. Think about it and you’ll see how smart the American people really are. It’s time you listen to the people hypocrate!!!!!! Also pal it’s time for a change and you should make it happen.

Posted by mike minzer | Report as abusive
 

It is obvious why he answered this question with one word. Because he can’t give a lengthy and detailed explanation defending a position that he doesn’t actually believe in and that really has little rational defense by the people who do. Obama can’t advocate legalizing marijuana in his first term. He’ll never get reelected. This seems pretty obvious and justified. There is much more that he can focus on right now with the country being in the shambles that it is in without digging up new controversy. Why doesn’t the american public consider these kinds of factors? There’s this idealist conception of political representatives that the results of their language and actions shouldn’t effect their language and actions. That’s not the kind of representation I want. I want leaders that are smart, cautious and headstrong. Give the guy a break. Don’t be in such a hurry to have the moral majority crucify him. He’s got enough on his plate. I believe in legalizing marijuana too but it can wait, until his second term at very least.

Posted by Michael | Report as abusive
 

Btw i don’t smoke pot and I still support its legalization.

Posted by mike minzer | Report as abusive
 

I guess all you guys could move to Mexico where smoking pot is legal……. gee, you must have been high when you decided to vote for this guy. If you had been straight, you have seen he was a sleaze.

Posted by Robin | Report as abusive
 

What kind of Democrat supports putting people in jail for Cannabis?

Posted by Howard | Report as abusive
 

I think President Obama should reconsider the question. Not only would it help the economy, create jobs and more money for the goverment. But It would cut a big profit from the Mexican Cartels which is becoming a bigger problem each day.

Posted by David | Report as abusive
 

More importantly and more likely to occur is legalization of growing hemp for manufacturing paper, rope and fabric. This fast growing plant is easy on the soil and could spur jobs in farming and manufacturing.

Posted by steve stathakis | Report as abusive
 

If Obama truly believes that legalizing marijuana is not in the best interest of our economy, than so be it. Honestly, who knows how much the government currently profits from the status quo on marijauna prohibition? Corruption certianly profits off of policies such as these and it’s obvious to most people that corruption is the only reason that anyone would want to maintain this civil war on marijuana users.

My major issue here is the attitude with which Obama used to address the issue. There are too many people who have lost their lives and liberties in the name of a war on drugs that Obama himself as judged to be a failure. I believe that he owes the millions who support legalization a sincere and heart-felt apology – at the very least. Until that time comes to pass, Obama has lost my respect and the faith I had in him as someone of integrity with the ability to lead our country.

Posted by Mike R | Report as abusive
 

Come on Robin. There is no need for name-calling. Grow up will you? The way people vote is a personal choice and just because you don’t like the fact that he won, does NOT make him a sleaze nor does it make those who voted for him high.

Posted by bfjones666 | Report as abusive
 

60 billion dollars a year flow from our borders into Mexico. Generally I really like Obama but he either hasnt done his home work on this or he played it smart because the opposition would of torn him apart if he said anything else.

Posted by Nathey | Report as abusive
 

The truth is much more money is made and spent prosecuting marijuana laws than would be made by taxing it. Although I am in favor of legalizing pot, the crooked politicians realize that millions of jobs would be lost, lobbyists would go hungry and the fat cats who operate private prisons would lose money. Its a pathetic situation when greed is allowed to overcome common sense, which is the reason we are in the economic mess we are in now. Not to mention the 100 million bible thumpers who would snot and whine over what they believe is the world going….well to pot. Ha.

Posted by jeffro | Report as abusive
 

What can be done to further push this issue to the forefront? I wish people would research the pros and cons of marijuana instead of just outright deciding it is evil. It can provide great money for the economy for through growers, sellers, advertising, packaging… It can save money by from prosecuting and jailing individuals. It will help remove that money from cartels and gangs, which will help to decrease violence and keep the money in our borders. The parts not used for smoking can be used for numerous other products. I do not think a single person would care if they taxed the heck out of it, like cigarettes. Which in turn can help to pay for this spiraling deficit. Once again, I pose the question – How do we get this issue raised as a serious one, and have people find out for themselves that this is not just about letting people get stoned.

 

let’s be frank. the top (that is, the #1 question), supported by over 3 million people (10% of US population) was:

“With over 1 out of 30 Americans controlled by the penal system, why not legalize, control, and tax marijuana to change the failed war on drugs into a money making, money saving boost to the economy? Do we really need that many victimless criminals?”

He may have answered the first question, but what about the second?

Posted by tito | Report as abusive
 

I have always been for the legalization of marijuana (and of some other drugs too). One of the barriers to it is our wishing not to take responsibility for things we do when intoxicated. We say, “The drug made me do it.” Taken to another level, you will often hear a burglar claim he was breaking and entering to finance his drug addiction. You can even get a reduction in your sentence if you make that argument.

It’s because of this that I personally think many of our law enforcement agencies have lost the ability to investigate burglaries and robberies. It takes too much work to solve them, while it is easy to solve and prosecute a drug case — you find the drugs on the person, you’ve made your case.

There are, in short, many barriers to legalization, most of them mentioned in these postings. One of the most powerful, however, will be all the unwinding we will have to do to restore a mature sense of responsibility for ourselves and our behavior. Are we really ready for THAT? I just don’t think so.

Posted by JJohnson | Report as abusive
 

All you surprised and upset Obama supporters, I’d like to berate you for just a minute… I can’t believe you actually expected anything different from an institutionalized, Washington-insider politician. For years, you watched this guy read somebody else’s words off the teleprompter screen, most of the time which never said anything at all, and then withered with enthusiasm like you really knew anything about him.

Politicians lie to you because they know they can… you’ll still vote for them when they do. In a few years, you’ll vote for him again, because you’ll say to yourself, “well, he’s better than (so-and-so).” That is the logic that has virtually disenfranchised the populace and will do nothing but perpetuate the growing power of the machine.

Posted by Russ in PA | Report as abusive
 

At this point I thought Obama would have respectfully addressed the many adults who do wish it to be legal, especially in a country which prides itself on rugged individualism and freedoms.

Gambling, alcohol and cigarettes have far fewer benefits for people than cannabis ( medical cannabis ) yet the government reaps benefits from taxation. Shame on Obama for not making the argument about why pot should be treated differently.

Posted by gill | Report as abusive
 

When are these people going to wake up???? I thought OBama would legalize pot! Guess he’s just like the rest of them!

Posted by Jay | Report as abusive
 

I keep coming back to this story, wanting to see if anyone has posted anything new. It is a fascinating subject. As I noted in a previous post, I am for legalization of marijuana and other drugs as well. I should have added that I’ve never thought it would happen in my life time. It has everything to do with contradictory aspects of the American character.

Here are some additional points, not necessarily related.

1. If you have ever attended a court hearing for a drug offender, one of the first things you will hear the prosecutor say is that “this is not a victimless crime.” And, as you trace the movement of the drugs from the mountain tops of wherever to your pipe, there are real victims at every point along the way. It is hard to refute that point, and judges don’t want to listen to that debate when they have a full docket.

2. The real point about “victimless crimes” is more libertarian — in USING the drug, one is harming no one but oneself (potentially), and harming oneself is completely within our rights as responsible adults. There are plenty of people who disagree with that. They are often ridiculed as enabling the “nanny state” and similar schemes in which people’s behavior is controlled “for their own good.” (This was the point of my previous post. Our culture has very immature views of personal responsibility.)

3, Much has been made in these postings of the “industry” that has grown up around the War on Drugs and incarceration. I agree with much of that line of thinking. However, some of the most vociferous advocates of tough laws are not tainted with these issues at all — they are, for example, parents of kids who have had “bad trips” or been given these drugs as part of a “date rape” scenario. While they may be wrong logically to blame the drug, when the actual issue is their child’s psychological fragility, no politician wants to hear from these people. Many of their stories are wrenching.

4. The European Christian tradition from which much of our cultural attitudes arises does not seem to have a highly developed “seeking” component, i.e., using drugs to produce visions that enlighten one. There has certainly been more openness to it, especially in Europe and in California, in recent years, but it has not yet taken root. Vision seekers often travel to other locations, say Indian reservations, where they can have their transcendent experiences in a safe environment, frequently under guidance. This kind of thing just doesn’t register with most contemporary Americans, even those who use drugs. Instead, it arouses fear and produces calls for law enforcement to appear and put an end to this “dangerous” and charlatan practice.

We all have high expectations of President Obama, but expecting him to wade into a stream full of hungry piranhas and come out fine on the other side does not seem to be fair or rational. I just hope what I have submitted is not tedious. I really want to contribute positively.

Thank you so much.

Posted by JJohnson | Report as abusive
 

most of these postings are for legalizing marijuana ,is there an argument against?i have never tried any drugs,never had any appeal,so i don,t really know.how ever i worked with a guy who had smoked a lot of marijuana from the age of 17 till about 23, and has a deep regret because he says it robbed him of the memory of those years and because of this he wishes he had never touched the stuff.yes alcohol is a killer,it can not be defended,but apart from medical cases would it not be better if marijuana was not around?unlike alcohol can it be defended?

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive
 

I’m in favor of legalizing it.

The potential for abuse exists with all mind-altering substances, from prescription drugs to alcohol. I don’t think it takes a genius to see the parallels between prohibition in the 10920′s, the rise of organized crime, and the situation today with drug trafficking and the cartels. Taking pot out of the equation would take a money maker out of the cartel’s control, allow regulated growing in the USA, and would contribute to the GDP.

The medical evidence is that excessive pot smoking can harm your thinking, by degrading memory, fine motor control, and a few other functions. But alcohol is far worse, producing irreversible liver damage; and of course we all know that alcohol overdose regularly kills young college drinkers. No one is advocating excessive drig or alcohol use; smoking pot responsibly can relieve stress, enhance recreational music listening, and all kinds of harmless things. The argument in favor of medical marijuana is strong.

I say, legalize it, and make the world a better place.

Posted by Robert | Report as abusive
 

I could go on all day about this subject.

I will say yes, we are living a double standard in America with alcohol and pot.

second
this would help the economy, here is an example of just the tax aspect.

I am clearly no economist, but it seems simple.
use tobacco as the “role model”

Marijuana grows faster and much much easier than its “role model” and is much cheaper to maintain in larger crops.
there will be 3 main products coming from these plants,

1. fiber for clothing, plastics and paper products.

2. hemp seed, which is highly nutritious and the oil is extremely useful.

3. the obvious intoxicant, the dried flowers.

just the last one, going on the model of tobacco, would reap billions in tax.
it is estimated that a “pack” of marijuana cigarettes (no dose lethal by the way) would cost around 38 cents to manufacture using the same method as tobacco.
now give the company the usual markup of 2 or 3 dollars, the store gets 2 or 3, so we have a pack at around 6 dollars now, then, federal taxes could be applied in excess of 20 dollars a pack. a screaming deal compared to modern street prices.

now. a conservative estimate of pot smokers in the us is around…oh lets be really conservative, 23 million.

so at 23 million buying a pack of joints a week, that is 460 million a week.

the fiscal grand total is…

22,080,000,000

that is a considerable dent. and honestly extremely conservative.

I love Obama but he is dead wrong here.

Posted by jeremy | Report as abusive
 

Legalize it. Put the issue to a referrendum and let the voters decide. Let “We the People” mean something again.
Educate yourself – see http://www.americansforsafeaccess.org/
and
http://www.norml.com

The real reason why it’s not legal? Too much money influencing lawmakers! The second reason is that it is too darn easy to just grow your own in your backyard or spare closet.

I had the opportunity to watch my Mom die of brain cancer. I got to give her morphine drops to ease her pain in her final days. If medical marijuana would have helped ease her terminal pain, you bet I would have given her some. In California and many other states, I could have gotten a prescription for medical marijuana and had the opportunity to help ease her pain before she died. I live in Indiana, and Dick Lugar has “reefer madness” and would have let my Mom suffer.

Obama, this is not a joking matter and your half-hearted laugh was quite insulting to us that believed you might change things. I’m sure YouTube has your speech snippets that show that you indeed supported medical marijuana.

Maybe if you got the opportunity to watch a person you love go thru terminal pain before dying, you might change your tune.

Educate yourself as the doctors have, those that have published their findings in the New England Journal of Medicine and other HIGHLY RESPECTED medical journals; findings that show there is medical benefits to marijuana.

Those of us that support legalization of marijuana are really sick and tired of the closed mindedness of our legislators.

 

the audience were party supporters,and the questions were preselected,and the answers were on a huge screen out of view of the cameras.could you imagine the the protests from the press if bush had tried to pull stunts like obama gets away with on a daily basis.

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive
 

mr obama give up something to regulate? not likely

Posted by jd | Report as abusive
 

california’s plan will prevail: Legalize and tax marijuana from the growers up. and btw, who cares how mexico feels about us, anyway?

Posted by Tara | Report as abusive
 

i think that the legalizing of cannabis would be both good for the economy and the people i think that if it was made legal every one would want to atleast try it and if they did they would like it which means lots of people would buy it in turn putting money back into the economy. and it is actualy very cheap to grow so they would make a killing off of it so i think they should go ahead and make it legal

Posted by cameron s. | Report as abusive
 

Please, please, please legalize it! I’m so sick of seeing good people suffering just because they use marijuana. It’s repulsive and anyone who has smoked it knows it’s the least destructive of the mood altering chemicals that exist.

Posted by Janice | Report as abusive
 

I am Lewis Smith a Smoker. i find that marijuana is good for several things, from self experience. it helps me become less depressed. it my insomia’ a sleep disorder that runs throught my family. and i find that it helps with my anger.when i smoke i do think about the consiquinces of the law. for some people they call pot the gateway drug. but i don’t. its what you choose to do with the herb. i have tried smoking it with Cocain mix with my marijuana cicarette but this how you usually get into the addiction for another drug. I can smoke pot and quit when i want to, if i can others can to.
marijuana is used in medicine for certain illnesses.
it helps cancer patients releive pain. it was also used in the 1800′s as an aprodisiac.
and to days indian still us it for what ever the do in there ritual.
last time i checked, this was america, ”we the people” have the right to do what we want to do as long as it doesn’t hurt other people.
look im just saying that Obama should legalize it, but put an age limit on it. and make sure that you also should put a THC limit too.
if not, others will continue to over brake the law on drugs and then you have more crowded prisons the more people put their tax on to feed them.
the economy will do just fine.
remeber that alcohol cause wrecks, getting high doesn’t.
i would know.

Posted by Lewis Smith | Report as abusive
 

i have been smoking marijuana for years now to help with my depression i was originally seeing a therapist who prescribed a number of drugs to try to deal with my depression ultimately i told them what they wanted to hear because the numerous drugs were not making the depression lessen and i was tired of feeling like a guinea pig – here takes this tell us how you feel after a week or two – i noticed that smoking had elevated my spirits and i was not depressed near as much i then stopped smoking for a couple months and the depression came back i have been using marijuana since then to help me not be depressed on a constant basis.

Posted by anonymous | Report as abusive
 

Legalization of marijuana is a danger of burying an entire generation of people. I do not have healthy offspring, as well as smoking alkagol or more powerful drugs.

 

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/