In an essay titled “Why I Changed My Mind on Weed,” written for CNN’s website, one of America’s most prominent doctors says he has shifted his stance in support of medical marijuana.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, chief medical correspondent at CNN and a contributing medical correspondent at CBS News describes his change of heart that occurred while filming a documentary, aptly titled, “Weed.”
“I have apologized for some of the earlier reporting because I think, you know, we’ve been terribly and systematically misled in this country for some time,” Gupta told Piers Morgan on CNN Wednesday night. “And I did part of that misleading.”
Gupta has spoken out against the use of medical marijuana in the past, including penning a TIME magazine article in 2009 titled, “Why I Would Vote No on Pot”.
Gupta says he was too dismissive of the “loud chorus” of legitimate patients whose symptoms improved with help from medical marijuana. He now says, “I mistakenly believed the Drug Enforcement Agency listed marijuana as a schedule 1 substance because of sound scientific proof.”
For a substance to be labeled schedule 1, it must meet have no accepted medicinal use and a high potential for abuse. Heroin and LSD are both schedule 1 substances.
Dr. Gupta says that the DEA does not have sound scientific evidence for labeling marijuana a Schedule 1 substance.
“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.” He wrote.
Critics are skeptical about Gupta’s change of heart, and say his announcement was engineered by CNN to gain publicity for “Weed”, which airs Sunday on the network.
They also say that Gupta’s own scientific data is lacking, and he relies very heavily on anecdotal evidence. Marijuana is still largely untested, and some have said it is irresponsible of Dr. Gupta to recommend the treatment before rigorous research has been conducted.
Gupta does, however, point out that there are barriers to such research, including a stricter approval process that has to go through health agencies like the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
He also states that as a father, he worried about marijuana’s effects on the developing brain. Recent research suggests marijuana may affect a teen’s IQ or raise risk for psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia. He says he wouldn’t permit his own kids to try it until they are adults.
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