Obamas Personal Cannabis Policies: Interception and Total AbsorptionNews broke yesterday that while smoking cannabis himself, Barack Obama observed somewhat different rules to the ones that the US population suffer. According to the leaked pages of a soon to be published biography, members of Obama’s “Choom Gang” would hold in smoke for as long as possible to ensure “total absorption”. Under Obama’s rules “anyone who exhaled prematurely lost his next turn at the joint”. Obama was apparently known for working under a different modus operandi to the traditional “pass to the left hand side”, according to the LA Times, “when a joint was making the rounds, he often elbowed his way in, out of turn, shouted ‘Intercepted!’ and took an extra hit.

Obama is not the only current champion of prohibition to have completed an abrupt 180° U-turn in their views on drug use, British PM David Cameron famously stated:

David Cameron Obamas Personal Cannabis Policies: Interception and Total Absorption “I ask the Government not to return to retribution and war on drugs. That has been tried, and we all know that it does not work”  (Image credit: Sharrock)
David Cameron, House of Commons, 5th December 2002

The soul crushing ease with which politicians change their views on drugs upon gaining office is mind boggling. It is equally mind numbing to learn of the reams of drug war champions whom upon leaving office swiftly reverse their view point. Perhaps one day we’ll manage to elect a leader who is able to survive the democratic process without losing sight of their values.

The Science:
The evidence regarding THC absorption and duration of breath holding is surprisingly limited, the consensus appears to be that the majority of active components in cannabis are absorbed relatively instantly and any negligible effects from extended breath holding are simply a result of excessive carbon monoxide exposure. This is good news, there is no reason to hold cannabis smoke down for much longer than a couple of seconds, in fact doing so actually results in wholly unnecessary additional exposure to smoke and tar. There is more good news, it seems clear that heavy cannabis smoking is not particularly good for lung function but surprisingly perhaps, it seems occasional use may actually have beneficial effects. A twenty year study found that users who smoked up to one joint a day actually had increased lung function and this effect stood the test of time even for long term occasional smokers:

“With up to 7 joint-years of lifetime exposure (eg, 1 joint/d for 7 years or 1 joint/wk for 49 years), we found no evidence that increasing exposure to marijuana adversely affects pulmonary function”

The moral of the story? If you choose to smoke, you don’t need to do a Clinton and not inhale at all, but you certainly don’t need to do an Obama either – failing to exhale will do you more harm than good. More importantly, keep your smoke an occasional habit and you may just end up with stronger lungs than you started with.



Pletcher MJ, Vittinghoff E, Kalhan R, Richman J, Safford M, Sidney S, Lin F, & Kertesz S (2012). Association between marijuana exposure and pulmonary function over 20 years. JAMA : the journal of the American Medical Association, 307 (2), 173-81 PMID: 22235088

Zacny JP, & Chait LD (1991). Response to marijuana as a function of potency and breathhold duration. Psychopharmacology, 103 (2), 223-6 PMID: 2027922

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