The White House's innovative Open for Questions forum has produced plenty of substantive questions on wonky issues. But roughly midway through, the president preemptively took one of the more popular and provocative questions of the bunch.
The query, which received more than three million votes, 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?"
Obama actually interrupted the M.C of the event -- Jared Bernstein, chief economist to the Vice President -- in order to tackle the topic. He kept his answer brief.
"There was one question that voted on that ranked fairly high and that was whether legalizing marijuana would improve the economy and job creation," he said. "And I don't know what this says about the online audience, but ... this was a popular question. We want to make sure it's answered. The answer is no, I don't think that's a good strategy to grow our economy. All right."
Responded Bernstein: "Thank you for clearing that up."
Jack Cole, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), said in response:
"Despite the president's flippant comments today, the grievous harms of marijuana prohibition are no laughing matter. Certainly, the 800,000 people arrested last year on marijuana charges find nothing funny about it, nor do the millions of Americans struggling in this sluggish economy. It would be an enormous economic stimulus if we stopped wasting so much money arresting and locking people up for nonviolent drug offenses and instead brought in new tax revenue from legal sales, just as we did when ended alcohol prohibition 75 years ago during the Great Depression."