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The Straight Dope

CNN’s medical expert Dr. Sanjay Gupta has changed his opinion about medical marijuana. He used to speak out against medical marijuana, but in a documentary to be aired this weekend, he admits he was wrong and apologizes:

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. And I did part of that misleading.

Gupta also just wrote an interesting op-ed that explains why he changed his mind. While researching the documentary, he discovered many patients for whom marijuana not only helped, but “in fact, sometimes marijuana is the only thing that works”. He learned that when marijuana was classified as a Schedule 1 narcotic in 1970, there was little evidence to support that classification. Instead, there was significant evidence to support the opposite, and in fact there are legal drugs (such as alcohol and tobacco) that are far more dangerous than cannabis. And that while someone dies from prescription drugs every 19 minutes, he “could not find a documented case of death from marijuana overdose”.

But what makes this even more ironic is that in a TV interview, Gupta (along with his interviewer Piers Morgan) admits that he had tried marijuana in the past.

Can we stop this insanity?

And if you still think keeping marijuana a Schedule 1 narcotic (which means it has no medical uses) is a good idea, read this story.



  1. ebdoug wrote:

    I am confined to my house and open land around me and because I am highly affected by the 400 carcinogens in second hand smoke. No grandchildren’s sports events. Parents smoke outside the fence. Can’t get in. Went for allergy shots, patient walked in covered with smoke. My bronchial passages shut right down. Yet, I got my garage full of marijuana smoke one day. No ill effects at all. I read about smokers objections to outdoor smoking bans. Well, I’m banned from human interaction until smoking is banned. YOUR SECOND HAND CIGARETTE CAN KILL ME.
    Smoke from wood. No problems. It is the additives in the cigarettes. Kill yourself, not me.
    In the 1960s, there was a study done at the Berkeley hospitals taking info on Mothers who smoked marijuana during pregnancy. I have heard no results. The babies were going to be followed throughout life.

    Friday, August 9, 2013 at 6:20 am | Permalink
  2. PatriotSGT wrote:

    I have often wondered (and many times out loud) why a known killer such as tobacco is allowed and condoned by our government. The reason I most often heard is it is not a mind altering or mood changing drug and therefore peoples freedom of choice should prevail. This makes sense on the surface until you see gov’t run schools taking away choices of food in school cafeteria’s. Isn’t ones choice of food a freedom? Why is it the government will choose for you in some cases and not in others?
    I read Gupta’s article before coming to PI this morning and what he says makes complete sense. I also want to say the effects of drugs and alcohol on adolescent brains must remain a top concern. Lets stop the insanity, show us scientific proof to back up the classification or drop it. If tobacco kills and is a leading cause of health problems and has no medicinal purpose why is it still allowed and marijuana not. Lets see the science, but not from the government.

    Friday, August 9, 2013 at 8:08 am | Permalink
  3. Michael wrote:

    I saw a program once that highlighted a very important (and almost never discussed) aspect of marijuana prohibition: racism. (I’m presenting the argument from the show. I have not done my own independent research, but I find the argument compelling.)

    Gupta’s research took him back to the mid-1940s, in which marijuana was originally banned, but he makes no mention of why it was banned nationally at the time. Keep in mind that, prior to that time, the federal government had no legislation banning substances. (The one prior attempt actually took a Constitutional amendment, not regular legislation.) The feds just didn’t do that at the time. They left it to the states, many of which did have such bans.

    The push for a federal law came from the southwestern states. In that region, marijuana use was primarily associated with poor migrant workers from Mexico. The most the state could do was to arrest and jail them, which cost the state’s taxpayers money. They really wanted a way to make the problem go away: deportation. They pushed and pushed for a federal law that would give states the ability to deport immigrants (there was no talk of “illegal,” “undocumented,” etc.) who were caught with drugs. Ultimately, they got a federal law, but it lacked the teeth they wanted.

    The update to the law in 1970 came after Timothy Leery successfully challenged the federal law, which was designed to be a catch-22: You could legally possess marijuana if you applied for and got a stamp of approval; however, application for the stamp required possessing marijuana and showing that you needed it. (It was a tactic used against Tommy guns in the 1920s…) When SCOTUS threw out the law, Congress reacted with the Controlled Substances Act, which was designed to keep the status quo.

    Again, I have not done a lot of research on the topic, but the argument does mesh with things I have read in passing. It especially makes sense, because our drug laws consistently have a tendency to reflect institutional racism. That’s why there are harsh punishments and mandatory minimum sentences for dealing or possessing crack cocaine (which became associated with inner-city blacks in the 1980s), but not for powder cocaine, crystal meth, or heroin (which are more associated with whites of various socioeconomic statuses).

    I am glad to see that the tide is turning against the war on drugs, which has been nothing but an unmitigated disaster.

    Friday, August 9, 2013 at 9:57 am | Permalink
  4. Iron Knee wrote:

    There is plenty of hard evidence that many drug laws were instituted for racist reasons. And not just against Mexicans.

    The very first drug law in the US was passed in San Francisco in 1875 outlawing the smoking of opium, which was almost exclusively done by Chinese. In fact, the law made an exception for drinking or injecting opium, probably because whites did that.

    Friday, August 9, 2013 at 11:10 am | Permalink