Sanjay Gupta is not Backing Down, But Doubling Down on Medical Marijuana
Posted by Marijuana Doctors on 03/06/2014 in Medical Marijuana Research
This past August, a documentary aired on CNN that would change the course of medical marijuana as our nation knew it. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a previously self-admitted skeptic regarding the medicinal benefits of marijuana, did a complete 180 when he publically apologized for his uninformed beliefs. Today, Sanjay Gupta announces his is not backing down on medical marijuana, but rather, doubling down. In a second attempt and heartfelt plea to the masses, CNN’s medical correspondent wrote, “I am more convinced than ever that it is irresponsible to not provide the best care we can, care that often may involve marijuana.”
Sanjay Gupta’s previous knowledge regarding marijuana’s medicinal benefits came from the immensely unimpressive and widely unavailable amount of scientific literature on the topic. The shortcomings in research Gupta was faced with time and time again lead him to believe that had marijuana truly been working to treat individuals, substantial evidence would have been provided to back it up.
In 2009, Gupta had an article published in TIME magazine entitled, “Health: Why I Would Vote No On Pot.” In the article, he compares the rising popularity of marijuana to the likes of the growing iPod trends. Although he recognized that in some cases, marijuana has proven to be effective as an antinausea treatment, he wrote:
“…I suspect that most of the people eager to vote yes on the new ballot measures aren’t suffering from glaucoma, Alzheimer’s or chemo-induced nausea. Many of them just want to get stoned legally.”
Like so many before him, Gupta initially wrote medical marijuana off as an attempt to get our society at large high without oppositional government force. It was when Gupta took it upon himself to conduct ethnographic research within the field and see first-hand how marijuana was being used to treat an array of ailments and chronic conditions that he changed his mind on the matter.
On August 8th, just days before his documentary “Weed” would premiere on CNN and change the course of medical marijuana in our nation, Dr. Gupta published a second article entitled, Why I Changed My Mind on Weed. For his previously written article in TIME magazine, Gupta wrote, “Well, I am here to apologize.”
“I apologize because I didn’t look hard enough, until now. I didn’t look far enough. I didn’t review papers from smaller labs in other countries doing some remarkable research, and I was too dismissive of the loud chorus of legitimate patients whose symptoms improved on cannabis.” Gupta continued, “Instead, I lumped them with the high-visibility malingerers, just looking to get high.”
(Above: CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is making waves for his recent reversal of opinion on medical marijuana. Part of this has to do with an expansive body of medical evidence but the touching story of a 5-year-old girl may have also played a meaningful role.)
Admittedly, his biggest regret came from his gullible belief in the Drug Enforcement Agency’s scheduling of marijuana. What he had previously believed to be a heavily addictive drug, he denounced. Sometimes, he recognized, marijuana is the only thing that works. He wrote about young Charlotte Figi, whose profile he delved into in his documentary.
We have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years in the United States, Gupta wrote, and I apologize for my own role in that.
In this same article, Gupta brought medical marijuana’s historical background to light, so as to clarify that there is nothing new about the plant’s medical use. Gupta was able to solve the mystery of why several years back when he attempted to find substantial, evidential research he constantly fell short. Although the U.S. National Library of Medicine yielded over 2,000 papers, the vast majority of the research had been conducted on the harms of marijuana. Sanjay Gupta calculated that around 6% of all current U.S. marijuana studies actually focus on the benefits of medical marijuana, while the other 94% of research is conducted with the intent of exposing and investigating its harm.
Suddenly the skewed articles Gupta had come across over and over began to fall into place. In order to conduct research on marijuana’s medicinal benefits in today’s day and age you need two things: the plant itself (which remains federally illegal) and approval, which is much easier said than done. And stuck in between all of this, Gupta wrote, are the legitimate patients who depend on marijuana as a medicine, oftentimes as their only good option.
(Above: There are many casualties of the drug war, not the least of which is access to sensible science-based research on the beneficial properties of marijuana. Hopefully, Sanjay Gupta’s thoughtful and moving examination of this issue will help further boost the growing tide of reason, compassion and innovative thinking on this issue.)
Just this morning, Gupta wrote a secondary follow up to his preliminary apology article, released just before the Weed documentary. Gupta now writes, “I have been reminded that a true and productive scientific journey involves a willingness to let go of established notions and get at the truth, even if it is uncomfortable and even if it means having to say “sorry”. Gupta shares with his readers, just what it is that this journey for medical marijuana is truly about. Medical marijuana today is about emerging science and solidifying anecdotal evidence as tried and true research. “This journey is also about a Draconian system where politics override science and patients are caught in the middle,” writes Gupta.
Due to the extremely limited amount of research on behalf of the benefits, rather than the dangers of marijuana, Sanjay Gupta took it upon himself to seek out all the evidence he needed to gather an educated, well-informed conclusion about medicinal marijuana.
“I have met with hundreds of patients, dozens of scientists and the curious majority who simply want a deeper understanding of this ancient plant. I have sat in labs and personally analyzed the molecules in marijuana that have such potential but are also a source of intense controversy. I have seen those molecules turned into medicine that has quelled epilepsy in a child and pain in a grown adult. I’ve seen it help a woman at the peak of her life to overcome the ravages of multiple sclerosis.”
Gupta shared that his path since apologizing for falsely writing medical marijuana off as a farce has been a far less lonely one than he anticipated. Doctors, scientists, patients and congressmen have been reaching out and calling Gupta confidentially to share their own personal stories and feedback with him. Legislators from states all over the nation have reached out to Gupta, asking to show the Weed documentary to their fellow lawmakers.
Gupta reiterates how marijuana’s current classification as a Schedule I substance, defined as the most dangerous drugs “with no currently accepted medical use,” is doing a phenomenal job in impeding the ability to conduct much needed research on the plant. He mentioned how widespread the notion of marijuana as medicine has now become, and how the National Football League is even looking into possibly allowing medical marijuana to be used amongst injured players. The NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said that if marijuana were to be reconsidered by the medical establishment, the league could have the opportunity to treat it as any other medicine. The looming fear remains, however, as it always has, of federal prosecution for the use of marijuana.
On March 11, Weed 2: Cannabis Madness: Dr Sanjay Gupta Reports will be premiering as a follow up to the first, wildly successful Weed documentary produced by Gupta. The documentary seeks to delve further into the “politics of pot” and the federal government’s stubborn stance on marijuana as a drug with zero medicinal value. Gupta invites his readers never to jump to conclusions before personally seeking out the educational value regarding the extensive medicinal value marijuana’s properties carry, just as he has.