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Bill Nye Shares Some Facts and Opinions on Marijuana

It definitely wasn’t your average interview.

A few weeks ago, the Rolling Stone‘s Amanda Chicago Lewis interviewed Bill Nye. One of the main topics of interest that Nye discussed was the science of marijuana which, of course, has caught everyone’s interest. He opened up and relayed some of his thoughts on weed culture and science.

The very first question thrown out to Bill Nye was: “Do you think good scientists can smoke marijuana?” He replied in the affirmative, stating it should be regulated by law in the same manner as other drugs. In the wake of instances like the “state of emergency” which Nevada declared in mid-2017 due to the state’s quickly dwindling supplies of cannabis, the Science Guy pointed to legalizations elsewhere in America which did not cultivate an excessive use of the drug.

Marijuana Scientists. Source: Medical Marijuana.

A little bit later on, the interviewer brought up the fact that Carl Sagan was an unabashed advocate of smoking pot. Sagan was known as an astronomer, cosmologist, astrobiologist, author, and speaker. A firm promoter of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, he was also a founder of The Planetary Society, an organization of which Bill Nye is now head of. This honorable mention in and of itself answers the first question asked by the interviewer: “Do you think good scientists can smoke marijuana?”

If Sagan (the leading astronomer/astrobiologist of the second half of the 20th century) smoked cannabis and maintained his brilliant foresight and ingenuity, other scientists can surely smoke it in moderation and keep their smarts. Nye said he had never been with Sagan when he was smoking pot, but he said he also knew Sagan’s widow Ann enjoys it.

Bill Nye pointed out it is possible, even perhaps likely, that the tendency to become addicted to cannabis has its roots in human DNA. He believes it is either present or not present, using alcoholism to back up his hypothesis. “Some people get addicted, some people don’t,” said Nye. “Some people get high, some people don’t.” The Science Guy concluded that cannabis is really a substance which requires our attention and a lot more studies before we can claim to truly understand its effects.

It definitely wasn't your average interview.

Bill Nye sciences the heck out of marijuana for Netflix

Bill Nye sciences the heck out of marijuana for Netflix

Venerable entertainer and mechanical engineer Bill Nye — famous for his schtick as “the science guy” — returns to Netflix on Friday, Dec. 29, for season two of his Emmy-nominated series “Bill Nye Saves the World.”

Nye leads the empirical resistance to our anti-science cultural moment with 12 episodes structured around a specific topic and special guests. The season examines computer hacking, sleep science, superbugs, extinction and time travel, with guests like comics Drew Carey and Tim Meadows; the rock band OK Go; astronaut Scott Kelly; “Jackass” star Steve-O; and actor/filmmaker Zach Braff. But first, the scientist focuses on marijuana.

Guaranteed to make Twitter go nuts, Nye visits a medical cannabis retailer, takes a trip through hemp history and talks cannabis policy with film director and proud pothead Kevin Smith, as well as a medical researcher and a Washington state marijuana regulator.

The Chronicle talked to Nye before season two’s debut.

Q: What did you learn taping the cannabis episode?

A: I didn’t really know what “Schedule 1’” meant . I also didn’t really know the history of marijuana becoming Schedule 1, and I didn’t really know how the medical profession feels about marijuana.

Q: What does Schedule 1 mean? What is its history and how do doctors feel?

A: Schedule 1 means it’s addicting and presumed to have no medical value. But people use marijuana for everything medically and there’s questions about how it affects you when you’re young, like drinking alcohol. So we investigated this, and the upshot is if anybody tells you he knows all about marijuana and how it works, he really doesn’t.

Q: Dr. Sanjay Gupta and former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders have said that cannabis science has been systematically politicized and institutionally misrepresented. Given what you’ve learned, what do you think?

A: Oh yeah, marijuana was made Schedule 1 to oppress or suppress poor people. That’s pretty well-documented. That was certainly, in the last 40 years, the intent. But in George Washington’s time, it was used as legal tender. You would buy and sell the marijuana species as the reefer of the realm. So things changed for economic reasons mostly.

Q: What would rational cannabis policy based on science in America look like to you?

A: I think three or four things: We have to do research to find out what (marijuana) really does. Nobody is exactly sure what tetrahydrocannabinol does. No one’s exactly sure what cannabidiol does. But perhaps because of a genetic configuration, certain people become addicted to it. Then there’s also substantial evidence that young people’s brains are modified by smoking a lot of dope. And there’s no question that men’s sperm is affected by marijuana smoking.

Then I, as taxpayer and voter, would very much like to have some way to assess or evaluate driving while high.

You’re intoxicated in a different way than alcohol. Does it make you drive slowly, as every standup comic would have you believe? Or does it make you react slowly, which would be bad for traffic writ large. That needs to be researched. No one knows.

I will say also as a taxpayer and voter, I hope it doesn’t become so readily accepted that people smoke all the time the way they used to smoke cigarettes, and the smell of marijuana smoke is in everything the way it used to be when I was growing up.

Q: Did you have any personal experience with cannabis growing up?

A: I smoked it once, and I didn’t get high. I haven’t learned to smoke anything very well. . I just was too uptight to have anything happen.

Venerable entertainer and mechanical engineer Bill Nye — famous for his schtick as “the science guy” — returns to Netflix on Friday, Dec. 29, for season two of his Emmy-nominated series “Bill Nye Saves the World.” Nye leads the empirical resistance to our anti-science cultural moment with 12 episodes structured around a specific topic and special guests. The season examines computer hacking, sleep science, superbugs, extinction and time travel, with guests like comics Drew Carey and Tim Meadows; the rock band OK Go; astronaut Scott Kelly; “Jackass” star Steve-O; and actor/filmmaker Zach Braff. But first, the scientist focuses on marijuana. ]]>