As President Obama toys with supporting legalized marijuana, a new study gives him one more reason — or maybe one less — to formally endorse it: Smoking weed could protect your liver from the dangers of binge drinking. In a study involving lab mice, researchers in China and New York determined that cannabidiol, one of the most prominent psychoactive compounds in THC, can guard the liver against steatosis, a process induced (in part) by alcohol that can result in fatty liver. So, smoke more pot and you can drink more booze! It’s win-win!
Well, maybe that’s an oversimplification. There are plenty of other dangers linked to alcohol other than steatosis; furthermore, this study was only performed on mice, so the applicability of the results to humans is uncertain. Still, it fits with the growing body of evidence that marijuana isn’t nearly as bad for the body as once thought.
There were some reports over the weekend that, in his recent interview with David Remnick, President Obama endorsed pot legalization. That’s not exactly true; while the president implied that he would support legalizing it, he didn’t actually speak those magic words, and there's a crucial distinction.
Nevertheless, his comments were a bit reminiscent of the time he claimed to be “evolving” on gay marriage — which, you’ll recall, quickly led to him endorsing marriage equality outright. Could it be that Obama's setting himself up to become the first sitting president to support legal weed?
Here’s what Obama said that could be interpreted as an endorsement of marijuana legalization:
- “As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.”
- “Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do... And African-American kids and Latino kids are more likely to be poor and less likely to have the resources and the support to avoid unduly harsh penalties.”
- “[W]e should not be locking up kids or individual users for long stretches of jail time when some of the folks who are writing those laws have probably done the same thing.”
- “[I]t’s important for it to go forward because it’s important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished.”
That last quote, according to Remnick, was made in direct response to a question about Colorado and Washington’s recent legalization of recreational weed. So it’s edging very close to an endorsement, but he never actually said, “I support marijuana legalization,” or anything to that effect.
What’s equally important, and what isn’t being reported in these “Obama supports weed legalization” stories, is that he also made substantial arguments against legalization.
- “[T]hose who argue that legalizing marijuana is a panacea and it solves all these social problems I think are probably overstating the case. There is a lot of hair on that policy. And the experiment that’s going to be taking place in Colorado and Washington is going to be, I think, a challenge.”
- “It’s not something I encourage, and I’ve told my daughters I think it’s a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy.”
- “I also think that, when it comes to harder drugs, the harm done to the user is profound and the social costs are profound. And you do start getting into some difficult line-drawing issues. If marijuana is fully legalized and at some point folks say, Well, we can come up with a negotiated dose of cocaine that we can show is not any more harmful than vodka, are we open to that? If somebody says, We’ve got a finely calibrated dose of meth, it isn’t going to kill you or rot your teeth, are we O.K. with that?”
So there’s a lot of nuance, complexity and “on-the-other-hand”-ism wrapped up in there. While it’s certainly possible — maybe even probable — that Obama will support legalizing marijuana before he leaves office, he hasn’t done that yet.