CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta reversed his position on marijuana’s health benefits and apologized for his previous stand against it in an article Thursday for CNN. In 2009, Gupta penned an op-ed advocating against marijuana, where he advised as a doctor that “marijuana isn’t really very good for you.” At the time, he was in the running for an appointment to Surgeon General.
Since then, additional research and his work on a documentary have convinced him otherwise.
“I apologize because I didn’t look hard enough, until now,” he said. “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 noted Thursday that part of his original mistake was to trust the Drug Enforcement Administration’s classification of the drug as dangerous and addictive, which was never based on sound scientific proof. What he found was “unsettling,” because research existed predating the 1970 DEA decision that supports the drug’s medical benefits:
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.
I have seen more patients like Charlotte first hand, spent time with them and come to the realization that it is irresponsible not to provide the best care we can as a medical community, care that could involve marijuana.
We have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years in the United States, and I apologize for my own role in that.
The case Gupta describes of Charlotte Figi is just one example of where doctors didn’t have the research available to them on the drug. That’s because agencies, designed for prohibition, have often suppressed research about marijuana and other drugs’ benefits. Cases like Charlotte’s and 20,000 articles documenting other benefits have led Gupta to his new conclusion that marijuana has great potential medical value that cannot be realized under the current system of prohibition.