Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, has issued his strongest statement on legal weed yet, calling for a full-scale “medical marijuana revolution.”
Gupta’s comments come ahead of “Weed 3,” the third installment of his documentary series that explores the plant’s medical effectiveness and evolving status in society.
The episode includes high-resolution renderings of what happens to the brain when individuals use cannabis. It will also follow those engaging in the country’s first federally approved clinical study of marijuana on PTSD patients and feature interviews with President Barack Obama and other lawmakers, including Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).
“I see a revolution that is burning white hot among young people, but also shows up among the parents and grandparents in my kids’ school,” Gupta’s op-ed continues. “A police officer I met in Michigan is part of the revolution, as are the editors of the medical journal, Neurosurgery. I see it in the faces of good parents, uprooting their lives to get medicine for their children.”
The documentary looks at the growing number of positive stories of marijuana helping Americans, including U.S. military veterans suffering from PTSD, depression and sleep disorders.
One particular benefit Gupta and experts he spoke to saw for veterans was the limit of dream recall, which can be particularly beneficial for those who have grizzly memories flooding them during sleep.
“On its own merits, this is a substance out there that could address significant problems in this country,” Gupta told TheWrap. “Compared to pain medications, which has huge accidental overdose factor, marijuana could provide a safer and effective alternative, it’s a big issue.”
Gupta questions how U.S. politicians aren’t taking a deeper look at the successful effects of marijuana for medicinal purposes when other countries like Israel are diving into deep research.
As 2016’s presidential cycle is now in full swing, the question will come up to candidates on the campaign trail and debate stage.
A large swath of data has proven alcohol abuse and high-sugar, poor foods have a far more negative impact on citizens’ health, yet marijuana has long stood as the stigmatized boogyman.
Gupta, who’s previously acknowledged being wrong in his opposition to medicinal marijuana, doesn’t like to get into the “moral equivalency” argument over weed vs. other drugs.
But he does see clear-cut medical benefits that politicians and candidates need to pay attention to.
And he thinks the president is on board.
“I think he does,” Gupta said about President Obama wanting to legalize medical marijuana nationwide, citing recent comments the president has made suggesting it might be time to lower marijuana down from a schedule one substance (which made it illegal).
“This is the first time I’ve heard him be more substantive about what he would change,” he added.
On Friday, Georgia passed a bill allowing the use of marijuana oil to treat serious conditions. Nine other states have pending legislation on legalizing marijuana in 2015, while a further nine have failed to pass a bill this year.
And this week, a bipartisan Compassionate Access Act was filed in Congress. The proposed law would lower marijuana from its current place as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act, which says marijuana has no medical benefit.
“The politics that trump ideology is a real problem,” Gupta concluded, arguing marijuana hasn’t been studied in the scientific community like any other potentially beneficial drug.
“In this case, with marijuana, we sort of fell down on the job.”
The celebrity doctor wasn’t always such a stringent supporter of medical pot, however, even going so far as to explain why he would “vote no” on the issue in a 2009 piece for Time magazine. He first publicly revealed his evolved stance before the first episode of “Weed” debuted in 2013.
“I am here to apologize,” Gupta wrote at the time. “We have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years in the United States, and I apologize for my own role in that.”
He took those comments a step further in an exclusive interview with The Huffington Post the following year, declaring his support for full-scale federal legalization of medical marijuana. “In terms of making this legal for medicinal purposes — yes,” he said. “I am not backing down on medical marijuana; I am doubling down.”
Although 24 states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes, the drug remains a federally illegal Schedule One substance, which means the government considers it to have no medicinal value. However, a growing body of evidence, bolstered by a series of high-profile cases chronicled in the media, suggests otherwise. In addition, a recent CBS poll found that 86 percent of Americans think doctors should be able to prescribe medical marijuana for serious illnesses.
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