Dr. Sanjay Gupta has made a surprising reversal: he now supports legalizing medical marijuana. PHOTO: Cubie King, CC License
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s top medical correspondent and someone who was once considered by President Obama for the position of Surgeon General, has come out in favor of medical marijuana, reversing his previous position, in an essay titled “Why I Changed My Mind on Weed.” On how marijuana has been portrayed, Gupta writes:
“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 describes how he had only given the medical marijuana research a cursory look until recently, but more and more he is finding cases like that of Charlotte Figi, who at the age of 3, “was having 300 [seizures] a week, despite being on seven different medications. Medical marijuana has calmed her brain, limiting her seizures to 2 or 3 per month.”
So why does medical marijuana have such a poor reputation for a drug that can be grown cheaply and is the only recourse for some patients with issues from seizures to glaucoma to nausea from chemotherapy? Sanjay Gupta looked into that as well:
“In my quick running of the numbers, I calculated about 6% of the current U.S. marijuana studies investigate the benefits of medical marijuana. The rest are designed to investigate harm. That imbalance paints a highly distorted picture.”
But why would 94% of marijuana studies focus on harm? Because not all science is done purely for the search of truth. Some is motivated by preserving the profits of pharmaceutical, alcohol, tobacco, private prison and cotton corporations (cotton has a stake here because if weed became legal, industrial hemp would as well, and that would cut into cotton’s market share). Marijuana cannot be patented (because it’s a plant), so big pharma would rather keep it off the market and make us buy their drugs. Big tobacco and alcohol worry about an intoxicant on the market to compete with them, and which can be grown in people’s backyards. Private prisons get paid more based on how many people they are incarcerating, and marijuana arrests (which skew heavily toward African American men), help pack their cells.
Gupta does not get into all of that, but the profit motive is an important piece in understanding the messaging around marijuana. What Gupta does discuss is the real harm associated with marijuana. It can affect people’s cognitive abilities, and even lower IQ long-term in regular teenage users. However, Gupta explains that marijuana’s harmful properties have been grossly overstated, and the harm done by prescription drugs has been swept under the carpet:
Most frightening to me is that someone dies in the United States every 19 minutes from a prescription drug overdose, mostly accidental. Every 19 minutes. It is a horrifying statistic. As much as I searched, I could not find a documented case of death from marijuana overdose.
Marijuana has endured a defamation campaign for the last 70 years, and is finally being accepted by the American public again, and not a moment too soon. Our police and judges have much more important things to worry about.