The real politics resonated with me, because I have yet to see something that we’ve done, or any President has done, that was really important and good, that did not involve some mess and some strong-arming and some shading of how it was initially talked about to a particular member of the legislature who you needed a vote from. Because, if you’re doing big, hard things, then there is going to be some hair on it — there’s going to be some aspects of it that aren’t clean and neat and immediately elicit applause from everybody.Later, he's talking about marijuana. He expresses the stock opinions that it's not "more dangerous than alcohol" and that criminal punishments fall more heavily on "African-American kids and Latino kids," and then — perhaps to stave off the question So why not ask Congress to end the prohibition? — he ambles over to the other side of the debate:
Having said all that, those 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.... 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?Hair on it — whether some or a lot of — has become, in the President's mind, a way to visualize the messiness of real-world problems. Now, you can't shave the real world to make it less messy.
Googling, I figured out that this phrase — which I'd never noticed before — came from the realm of business deals. From a 2010 Globe and Mail article defining mergers & acquisitions buzzwords:
HairSo it came from The World of Those Terrible One-Percenters. It's got nothing to do with the rough and tumble of that experience, long ago, when we smoked pot and wanted a head with hair, long beautiful hair, shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen, down to there, hair.
"Hair" on a deal is often used to describe a business that has some negative aspects. For example, if you're trying to sell your company and you have one customer that generates 50 per cent of your revenue, you're being sued by a former employee and your customer records are spread in three disparate databases, buyers (or their advisers) may say your company has "a lot of hair on it."