President Balks At Responding To Medical Marijuana Question At Town Hall

Cannon Falls, MN: President Barack Obama this week refused to offer a substantive reply to an audience member’s question regarding the administration’s failure to take steps to allow for the physician-recommended use of marijuana.

During a Town Hall event on Monday the President was asked: “If you can’t legalize marijuana, why can’t we just legalize medical marijuana, to help the people that need it?”

Obama responded: “Well, you know, a lot of states are making decisions about medical marijuana. As a controlled substance, the issue then is, you know, is it being prescribed by a doctor, as opposed to, you know — well — I’ll — I’ll — I’ll — I’ll leave it at that.”

In July, the administration issued a revised memorandum to US Attorneys stating that it opposes any production or distribution of marijuana as a medicine, even when such activities are in compliance with state law.

President Obama had offered similarly vague responses to questions regarding marijuana policy at other Town Hall forums. At a town meeting in 2009, Obama curtly rejected the proposition that legalizing and regulating cannabis could “boost the economy and reduce drug cartel related violence,” stating, “The answer is no, I don’t think that [is] a good strategy.”

When Obama’s former press secretary Robert Gibbs was later asked to elaborate on the President’s position, he responded: “Uh, he, he does not think that, uh, uh, that that is uh, uh, [pause] he opposes it, he doesn’t think that that’s the, the right plan for America.”

Prior to Obama’s ascension to the Presidency, he espoused decriminalizing the possession of marijuana.

Commenting on the President’s most recent response, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said, “If the President of the United States can’t publicly articulate why we continue to arrest over one-half million Americans each year for possessing marijuana, then why are we as a nation continuing to engage in this destructive and illogical policy?”

The full video of Monday’s Town Hall forum is available online at: The question from the audience pertaining to medical cannabis and Obama’s response is at the 49-minute mark.

For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, at (202) 483-5500 or Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: