When the White House put out a call for town hall questions, it might not have been expecting this.
The more than 92,000 people who responded either have Cheech and Chong senses of humor or there is a deep concern in America — undetected by the media — about the decriminalization of marijuana, its possible use for medicinal purposes and its potential as a new source of tax revenue.
Given the opportunity to say what’s really on their minds without going through the filter of the mainstream media, people “buzzed up” a series of questions that seemed to suggest broad interest in legalizing marijuana and taxing it.
In this moment of national economic crisis, the top four questions under the heading of “Financial security” concerned marijuana; on the budget, people voted up questions about marijuana to positions 1-4; marijuana was in the first and third positions under “jobs”; people boosted a plug for legalizing marijuana to No. 2 under “health care reform.” And questions about decriminalizing pot occupied spots 1 and 2 under “green jobs and energy.”
After taking questions lower on the list, Obama addressed the pot issue head on, noting the huge number of questions about marijuana legalization and remarking with a chuckle, “I don't know what that says about the online audience."
"The answer is no, I don't think that is a good strategy to grow our economy," he said, as the audience in the room applauded and joined him in a laugh.
It seems part of the popularity of marijuana questions was fueled by NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, which was urging its members to vote for questions supporting the legalization of cannabis.
“WhiteHouse.gov is once again asking the public to pose questions directly to President Obama via its ‘Open For Questions‘ service.,” the organization said on its website. “The topic of this week’s forum is the national economy, and not surprisingly, many of you have already put forward questions to the president regarding the taxation and regulation of cannabis.”
“Please take a moment right now to log on the WhiteHouse.gov/OpenForQuestions and vote for the questions above, as well as others pertaining to the need to regulate cannabis. Let the president know that millions of American voters believe that the time has come to tax and regulate marijuana. Help us send the White House a message our elected leaders can’t ignore,” the statement said.