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Dr. Sanjay Gupta: I Was Wrong About Medical Marijuana

Dr. Sanjay Gupta: I Was Wrong About Medical Marijuana
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Published on Friday, August 9, 2013 by Common Dreams

CNN's chief medical correspondent does about-face in advocating medical uses of cannabis

– Andrea Germanos, staff writer

Dr. Sanjay Gupta speaking about marijuana with Piers Morgan on Wednesday. (Screenshot)

Dr. Sanjay Gupta speaking about marijuana with Piers Morgan on Wednesday. (Screenshot)

CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is making waves this week saying he was wrong about medical marijuana and that Americans have been "terribly and systematically misled" on therapeutic uses of the drug.

In an op-ed entitled "Why I changed my mind on weed," Gupta writes that he is "here to apologize" because he failed to do adequate research on medical marijuana, and did not review scientific literature from abroad on "remarkable research" on it.   He writes:

I mistakenly believed the Drug Enforcement Agency listed marijuana as a schedule 1 substance because of sound scientific proof. Surely, they must have quality reasoning as to why marijuana is in the category of the most dangerous drugs that have "no accepted medicinal use and a high potential for abuse."

They didn't have the science to support that claim, and I now know that when it comes to marijuana neither of those things are true.

Dr. Wendy Chapkis, author of several books including Dying to Get High: Marijuana as Medicine and a University of Southern Maine professor, welcomed Gupta's comments, telling Common Dreams, "It's about time that the established medical profession" recognize the medical uses of cannabis.

Key in Gupta's comments, Chapkis continued, was that he called out the DEA's decades-long role in impeding scientific research on cannabis.

"For decades, our federal government has been playing a game to keep marijuana illegal," as Mason Tvert, communications director at Marijuana Policy Project explained to Common Dreams via email.  But "that game is coming to end."

Gupta also told CNN's Wolf Blitzer he listened to "a legitimate chorus of patients for whom not only did marijuana work, it was the only thing that worked," and said there are some patients for whom marijuana can work better and more safely than pharmaceuticals.

Gupta slammed the national misinformation campaign around medical uses of marijuana, and his own culpability in it, writing in his op-ed:

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's comments come days ahead of his one-hour documentary Weed, which takes a global look at marijuana.

Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access, which advocates for safe and legal access to therapeutic marijuana, was optimistic about the mainstream medical voice coming out in support of medical marijuana, stating that she hopes "it push[es] the federal government into action."

Tvert adds that Gupta's new opinion is also more in-line with that of the majority of Americans.

"More people than ever before are coming to realize that marijuana is not as harmful as they were led to believe. Recent polls show three out of four Americans now recognize the legitimate medical benefits of marijuana, and a majority thinks marijuana should be legal for adults," Tvert stated.

On Wednesday, All In With Chris Hayes guest host Ezra Klein spoke with Huffington Post reporter and This Is Your Country on Drugs author Ryan Grim about Gupta's turnaround and the barriers to scientific research on marijuana:

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