Dr. Sanjay Gupta Embraces Medical Marijuana

photo via Wikimedia Commons

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent explained his recent turnaround on the issue of medical marijuana in his August 8 article, “Why I changed my mind on weed.” The article on CNN.com, which serves as a letter of apology, points out that his previous opposition was based on scientific literature from the U.S. government, which he found unconvincing in making the case for legalization. During intensive research for a new documentary called “Weed”, Dr. Gupta expanded his research to labs in other countries and spoke to a wide array of individuals involved in and affected by the issue. He now admits to getting it wrong and is apologizing for being “too dismissive of the loud chorus of legitimate patients whose symptoms improved on cannabis.”

Dr. Gupta estimates that only about 6% of the current U.S. studies look at the benefits of medical marijuana. The remaining 94% of studies focus on potential harm, which creates an unbalanced view of the effects. Hindering further studies on the benefits are marijuana’s federal status as a schedule 1 substance and the requirement that research be approved by the National Institute on Drug Abuse whose mission is to study abuse rather than benefit.

In terms of addiction, marijuana leads to dependence in only 9 to 10% of adult users as compared to cocaine at 20%, heroin at 25% and tobacco at close to 30%. In addition, prescription drug overdoses kill over 20,000 in the U.S. yearly, whereas Dr. Gupta could not find any cases of death from marijuana overdose during the research that caused him to change his stance on medical marijuana.

Dr. Gupta, in his recent turn around on this issue, has joined more than 70% of voters who support medical marijuana. Currently, medical use of marijuana is legal in 20 states and the District of Columbia and other states will be voting on the issue in the future.

Laurie Johnston is a blog writer for Spirit of Change Magazine.

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