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YouTube nation's burning question for Obama: What's his stand on marijuana legalization?

In President Obama's second sit-down session on YouTube, the most popular questions had to do with the legalization of pot. Obama says he opposes legalization but sees drug use as more of a health issue than a legal one.

January 27, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli, Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — For the White House, President Obama's YouTube Q-and-A session Thursday was another example of the administration's commitment to transparency and outreach to the public beyond traditional means.

As they found out again Thursday, that often means nontraditional questions for the commander-in-chief.

In his second sit-down with YouTube, Obama again learned that the most popular questions as voted on by users of the online video hub were about the legalization of marijuana.

"This is an entirely legitimate topic for debate," Obama said after initially chuckling about the subject matter coming up again.

The question posed to the president specifically asked him whether all drugs should be legalized and regulated, "thereby doing away with the violent criminal market as well as a major source of funding for international terrorism."

"I am not in favor of legalization," Obama said in response. But he said he thinks Americans should look at drugs more as a public health problem than a legal issue.

"When you think about other damaging activities in our society -- smoking, drunk driving, making sure you're wearing seat belts -- you know, typically we've made huge strides over the last 20, 30 years by changing people's attitudes," he said. "On drugs, I think that a lot of times we have been so focused on arrests, incarceration, interdiction that we don't spend as much time thinking about how do we shrink demand."

Obama isn't the only prominent member of the administration taking questions online. On Friday, Vice President Biden will answer questions submitted to Yahoo! as chosen by the site's editors.

mmemoli@tribune.com

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