WASHINGTON (CNN) – Marijuana backers aren't laughing about President Obama's flippant dismissal of a pot-related question during Thursday's online town hall meeting — and the country's leading marijuana advocacy group, The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, has seen its donations quadruple over the last 24 hours.
Allen St. Pierre, the executive director of NORML, told CNN "our donation boxes started to flood" after Obama laughed off a Web question about whether legalizing marijuana would improve the economy and job creation. St. Pierre said traffic to the group's Web site has "increased precipitously" since Thursday.
"About half of the donation comments have a reference to Mr. Obama's comments," St. Pierre said. "As far as I'm concerned, he could show up every single day and rag on marijuana."
Admittedly, the group isn't a fundraising juggernaut: NORML averages about $900 in donations daily, a total that jumped to $3,500 in the 24 hours since Obama joked about pot at the town hall.
But St. Pierre said the anger among marijuana legalization advocates is real.
"Many of them were profoundly disappointed because many of them with great enthusiasm supported Obama from the point of his announcement to when he became president," he said.
St. Pierre acknowledged that marijuana legalization is "by no means at the top of national concerns" like two wars and a troubled economy. However, he said the online question was a serious one, arguing that marijuana legalization would help law enforcement officials cut costs. He also said a legal marijuana industry, like tobacco and alcohol, would create billions in tax revenue for the government.
St. Pierre believes the president and his attorney general, Eric Holder, will be friendlier to marijuana advocates than the previous administration, but he said he knows the topic remains "political dynamite" for any elected official.
"Obama does not want to be dragged down and become the point of cultural jokes and cultural digs because he is giving deference to a subject matter to that this date has been thought of as less than serious," he said of the president's town hall answer. "However, I think what he is probably going to find out, through his handlers, is that he really, really disappointed people in a way that he maybe has never done as politician."
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