Back in 2009, neurosurgeon and chief medical reporter for CNN Dr Sanjay Gupta wrote an article for Time magazine entitled 'Health: Why I Would Vote No On Pot'. He is to be lauded for the fact that he has since done considerably more research (admittedly it would have been better to do this before the world's highest circulating weekly magazine printed his opinion), and in August 2013 he issued a full apology for his contribution to the misinformation that plagues the cause of medicinal cannabis.
Dr Sanjay Gupta, until relatively recently an opponent of cannabis, is continuing his research and publicity campaigns in its favour with a new documentary – Weed 2: Cannabis Madness.
Back in 2009, neurosurgeon and chief medical reporter for CNN Dr Sanjay Gupta wrote an article for Time magazine entitled ‘Health: Why I Would Vote No On Pot’. He is to be lauded for the fact that he has since done considerably more research (admittedly it would have been better to do this before the world’s highest circulating weekly magazine printed his opinion), and in August 2013 he issued a full apology for his contribution to the misinformation that plagues the cause of medicinal cannabis.
Along with the apology came clear evidence of why he has revised his opinion so drastically, in the form of his documentary ‘Weed’. Dr Gupta has doubtless discovered another fact about cannabis – once the research starts and the breakthroughs keep coming, there is always more to say – as next Tuesday (11th March 2014) ‘Weed 2: Cannabis Madness’ premieres on CNN.
Rallying call for medical practitioners to come forward about cannabis
The first documentary seems to be acting as a quiet rallying call for medical practitioners who have hitherto been too wary of repercussions or too isolated in their knowledge to risk speaking out in favour of medicinal cannabis. Dr Gupta writes that, as ‘Weed’ started to circulate,
…many doctors and scientists, worried about being ostracized for even discussing the potential of marijuana, called me confidentially to share their own stories of the drug and the benefit it has provided to their patients.”
He also mentions his concern that in the US a person dies every 19 minutes from an overdose of prescription drugs, and the vast majority of these overdoses are accidental. In the time it took to write this blog post, two people died. It isn’t necessary to be a neurosurgeon to put the facts together.
Hopefully, ‘Weed 2: Cannabis Madness’ will continue the progress that Dr Gupta is both making and enabling. This is a man who not only changed his highly public stance on cannabis but had the bravery and integrity to admit it to the world, and then espouse the cause he formerly opposed with all the resources at his disposal. Many regular readers of this blog will know that the US Government holds patents related to cannabinoids that date back to 1942, but few have been able to contact the FDA about it, and even fewer are in a position to publicize the FDA’s (lack of) response. Dr Gupta, however, has been able to raise the issue on CNN.
How can the government deny the benefits of medical marijuana even as it holds a patent for those very same benefits? Members of the Food and Drug Administration declined my repeated requests for an interview.”
More hard evidence of the benefits of cannabis than there has ever been
Perhaps the most interesting revelation for those who are already well aware of the medicinal benefits of cannabis is the exact wording of the letter written in 1970 by the Assistant Secretary of Health, Dr. Roger O. Egeberg. This is the sentence which resulted in cannabis being classed as a Schedule 1 drug in the US: “Since there is still a considerable void in our knowledge of the plant and effects of the active drug contained in it, our recommendation is that marijuana be retained within schedule 1 at least until the completion of certain studies now underway to resolve the issue.” As Dr Gupta points out, the classification of cannabis as a drug with “a high potential for abuse”, “no currently accepted medical use” and “a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug … under medical supervision” – all of which are legal requirements for a substance to receive a Schedule 1 rating – has been made because of the absence of scientific evidence, with the clear intention of review once research data was available. Almost half a century later, every attempt to reschedule cannabis in the US has been quashed, yet there is more hard evidence of the benefits of cannabis than there has ever been.
Nobody preaches like a convert
Dr Gupta will probably receive some negative criticism from the places he least expects it despite being named as Marijuana Man of 2013 by one cannabis website and inspiring a medicinal strain called Gupta Kush), just as he has received unexpected support from his peers. It is often difficult to gain acceptance from an established community, especially for one who has previously been openly critical of that community. The global cannabis culture is by no means the harmonious whole that newcomers often expect. But every voice that speaks up in favour of reclaiming cannabis as a force for good reaches ears that may not have heard the message. Thanks to his medical credentials, and status at CNN, Dr Gupta’s voice – and documentaries – will reach those who may otherwise have retained the same false beliefs about cannabis that the doctor himself once held. After all, nobody preaches like a convert.