Gupta Apologizes for Being Late to the Party

CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta has joined a growing majority of Americans who support legalized, medicinal use of Marijuana, saying he changed his mind after researching the topic for a documentary he has been working on for the past year. His change of position, which he announced on CNN’s website on August 8th, is of particular interest due to his role as CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent and also to the fact that he was one of President Barack Obama’s top choices for Surgeon General when he was first elected.

In his August 8th column he wrote, “I apologize because I didn’t look hard enough, until now.” And then went on to claim that he ignored research being done by labs in other countries by blindly following reports and studies pushed by the US government stating, “I mistakenly believed the Drug Enforcement Agency listed Marijuana as a schedule 1 substance because of sound scientific proof.”

In particular, Gupta took issue with Marijuana being branded as a substance with no medicinal use and a high potential for abuse, which are central to a drug being categorized as a schedule 1 substance. The DEA “didn’t have the science to support that claim, and I now know that when it comes to Marijuana neither of those things are true,” said Gupta. “We have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years in the United States, and I apologize for my own role in that.”

Gupta also added, “I have…come to the realization that it is irresponsible not to provide the best care we can as a medical community, care that would involve Marijuana.” He went on to discuss higher levels of addiction with substances like heroin, cocaine, tobacco and prescription drugs. He also addressed the physical symptoms of withdrawal saying, “The physical symptoms of marijuana addiction are nothing like those of the other drugs I’ve mentioned. I have seen the withdrawal from alcohol, and it can be life threatening.”

One of his more compelling arguments was his observation on what kind of medical research has been done on marijuana. “In my quick running of the numbers, I calculated about 6% of the current US marijuana studies investigate the benefits of medical marijuana. The rest are designed to investigate harm. That imbalance paints a highly distorted picture.” He also discussed the challenge of actually doing marijuana research, particularly the approval process via the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which is something that has been a topic of previous posts on this blog.

As someone who had previously been on the record as against medical marijuana, Gupta’s change of heart has met a positive response, especially online where it trended on Twitter and was shared hundreds of thousands of times on Facebook. A Colorado dispensary has even started to market a “Gupta Kush” Indica, named in his honor.

The public reversal of Gupta’s opinion on marijuana was the first of several victories for marijuana advocates in August, as it was followed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie committing to sign a bill that allows minors to use medicinal marijuana and the Department of Justice’s recent announcement that it will allow Colorado and Washington’s marijuana legalization laws go into effect.


Photo Credit: Duncan Brown

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