Dr. Sanjay Gupta Adjusts his Medical Marijuana Stance
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, has traveled the world researching medical marijuana with the intent to educate, inform, and… to apologize. After witnessing medical marijuana miracles and performing extensive international research, Dr. Gupta has apologized for misleading the public, and he’s “doubling down”.
Sanjay’s research, reports, and recently adjusted stance may, in fact, award him the Pot Doctor moniker, but he isn’t alone. Acclaimed medical professionals have been astonishingly wrong about marijuana. Many have advised against both medical and recreational use for decades, regardless of the mounting medical breakthroughs and emerging health benefits. Some denounce the plant because it’s been shrouded in controversy and stigmatism for so long, and others because of a lack of knowledge.
Unfortunately archaic laws and ill-informed regulatory agencies continue to impede research and stifle awareness. In 1970 marijuana was classified as a schedule 1 substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration, and is still regarded as a dangerous drug with “no accepted medicinal use and a high potential for abuse”. This, while cocaine, meth and oxy remain schedule 2 substances- a classification for drugs with less potential for abuse. For perspective note that Xanax and Valium are schedule 4 substances.
Sanjay insists “it is irresponsible to not provide the best care we can, care that often may involve marijuana.” He emphasizes a disturbing statistic: every 19 minutes someone dies from an overdose of prescription drugs which, along with alcohol and cigarettes, are far more accessible to adults and teens than marijuana. Obama’s push for access to better health care hasn’t done much to change marijuana’s position on the list of controlled substances, or the restrictions that limit research. Sanjay highlights the president’s interview with the New Yorker magazine. Obama stated that he doesn’t believe marijuana is any more dangerous than alcohol.
Comparisons to alcohol continue to accompany the marijuana conversation. But I question the motives behind cigarettes and why they’re still legal. Known to be extremely harmful for the smoker AND those within inhaling distance, cigarettes continue to claim countless lives while the healing properties of marijuana are suppressed and regulated to the detriment of people who really need it. As Sanjay points out, the road to research goes through the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an organization with a mission centered on abuse prevention not benefits awareness.
It’s a tough subject, but respected medical practitioners around the world are opening up to the benefit of extensive and complete marijuana research. Sanjay admits his research has been met with both contempt and curiosity from influential people in powerful positions. He was denied an interview with the Food & Drug Administration, but says the head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse agrees that less restrictions would benefit marijuana research. Sanjay also had the opportunity to discuss cannabis cures with Roger Goodell, commissioner of the National Football League.
Sanjay shared the commissioner’s views and the league’s outlook as it follows marijuana science. Goodell said the NFL would accept cannabis as a medicine if it were established as such by the medical community. The long-term implications of concussions and their impact on the health and wellbeing of professional football players is a growing topic of concern. Cannabis is known to improve, and even correct neurological impairments, and ironically the US holds a medical marijuana patent specifically for that purpose.
Sanjay also updates us on Charlotte Figi, a little girl who suffered through many long-hours of non-stop, treatment resistant seizures every day for years. Cannabis has transformed Charlotte from a physically diminished and chronically hospitalized patient to a happily thriving and healthy little girl. Her family’s story has influenced so many people and continues to inspire hope.
I suggested marijuana to a relative suffering from a losing battle with cancer. But she was too consumed with fears fueled by false “facts” and legal repercussions to consider the plan’s medicinal qualities. Even as numerous operations and prescribed drugs continued to fail. Many have up-rooted their lives and moved to Colorado for the sake of an ailing family member. Sadly they’ve left loved ones behind, and are now confined to Colorado. Traveling with marijuana still runs the risk of being arrested for drug trafficking. So far 20 states have legalized medical marijuana. Even Georgia, a conservative state that just recently amended laws prohibiting the purchase of alcohol on Sundays, has just passed a medical marijuana bill.
Colorado’s marijuana community has become a safe-haven for the otherwise incurable, and the world will learn from the state’s medical and financial strides. With more marijuana retailers than Starbucks, Denver entrepreneurs are cashing in. Projected gains for the first year are expected to exceed $150 million in tax revenue that will likely be reinvested into Colorado schools and education. Denver is even threatening to absorb the travel and tourism revenues of neighboring vacation destinations and attractions.
As a neurosurgeon, Sanjay maintains that the developing brain shouldn’t be exposed to marijuana. But the medical breakthroughs can’t be ignored. Cannabis has freed people from life-threatening illnesses and improved their quality of life.
I appreciated Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s Weed, and I look forward to what he has to share in his second installment, Weed 2: Cannabis Madness, airing tonight at 10p ET. He’s also answering your questions today at 12 noon today on Reddit.
Anika Jaffara, a freelance writer and digital marketing strategist, researches entrepreneurial opportunities and organizations advocating for marijuana awareness and education. Follower her @AnikaJaffara.