It's not often you see someone as high profile as Dr. Sanjay Gupta change their mind on such a polarizing topic as marijuana. Back in 2009, he penned an op-ed for Time Magazine declaring he had researched the effectiveness of medical marijuana, listened to both sides of the debate, and decided he would vote no on pot (Time Magazine paywall).
This morning he's apologizing and announcing he's completely changed his mind.
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.
Instead, I lumped them with the high-visibility malingerers, just looking to get high. 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. It doesn't have a high potential for abuse, and there are very legitimate medical applications. In fact, sometimes marijuana is the only thing that works. Take the case of Charlotte Figi, who I met in Colorado. She started having seizures soon after birth. By age 3, she was having 300 a week, despite being on seven different medications. Medical marijuana has calmed her brain, limiting her seizures to 2 or 3 per month.
We have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years in the United States, and I apologize for my own role in that.
Whoa! Dr. Gupta just called out the DEA for the baseless claim that marijuana is a schedule 1 substance. And he did so in the strongest of terms.
Last week, Illinois became the 20th state to legalize medical marijuana. Public opinion on the topic is changing fast.
Are we reaching a national tipping point on legalization? Even in the medical profession, polls from May 2013 showed that 76 percent of doctors would approve the use of medical pot.
It's time this becomes a national conversation. If you want more information about upcoming efforts to decriminalize in your state, check out the NORML website.