Obama fields 'marijuana as cash crop' question at town hall meeting
David Edwards and Ron Brynaert
Published: Thursday March 26, 2009

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Many submitted online questions focused on marijuana; Obama jokes, 'I don't know what that says about the online audience'

"The White House is open for questions," according to

The AP reports, "Call it Round Two of the news conference, with a big Internet twist. President Barack Obama took questions from the White House press corps on Tuesday in a prime-time, East Room session that represented the most formal and time-honored of president-and-reporter interactions. On Thursday, he is taking to that same room for another public grilling ó this time by regular folks armed with questions submitted via the Internet and in person, as part of a political strategy to engage Americans directly."

"By 9 a.m. Thursday, the White House Web site had already logged more than 100,000 questions," the AP adds. The president later said that 3.5 million people voted.

ABC News observed that "submitted questions are grouped by topic, including education, home ownership, health care reform and the budget."

"Many of the questions, however, focused on marijuana," the ABC News article continues. "The top vote getters in several categories, including financial stability, green jobs and budget, were whether it is time to decriminalize marijuana."

Last month, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Obama administration would end federal drug enforcement raids of medical marijuana dispensaries.

ABC notes of the submitted questions, "Some suggested the economy would get a boost, drug cartels would be weakened and the government would benefit by taxing the drug. When the Obama transition team solicited questions from the public after the election, medical marijuana question were also the most popular on the site."

"Why is marijuana still illegal?" Ben R. from Washington, DC asked. "Cigarettes and alcohol are far more harmful, and with the taxes put on the legal distribution of marijuana the US could make millions."

A Virginian sporting the name "Green Machine" asked, "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.?"

Ten minutes in, Obama answered one of the marijuana questions (VIDEO BELOW).

"We took votes about which questions were going to be asked and I think 3 million people voted or ó 3.5 million people voted," Obama said. "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 and I donít know what this says about the online audience audience, but I just want ó I donít want people to think that ó this was a fairly popular question

"I don't know what that says about the online audience," the president joked about its popularity.

"The answer is 'no," Obama said flatly, "I dont think that is a good strategy to grow our economy."

A large round of applause greeted Obama's response.

While an early AP wire story sported the headline "Obama says he opposes legalizing marijuana," it should be noted that the president specifically only dismissed the notion that the "cash crop" would significantly boost the economy.

However, later on Thursday afternoon during the White House press briefing after multiple reporters asked marijuana-related questions, Obama Administration spokesman Robert Gibbs unequivocally said that the president opposed legalization.

Among other things, Gibbs was asked if he has the economic data or a study to back up Obama's claim that marijuana legalization would not be a good strategy.

"He opposes the legalization -- I'll do this for the president," Gibbs stated. "I neither emailed my question in or voted for it but he opposes the legalization of marijuana and I'll say I did that without even the slightest bit of laughter."

When pressed as to why Obama opposes legalization, Gibbs said, "He does not think that is -- he opposes it. He doesn't think that is the right plan for America."

This video is from CNN's Newsroom, broadcast Mar. 26, 2009.

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Gibbs: Obama opposes marijuana legalization

This video is from, broadcast Mar. 26, 2009.

Download video via

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