Medical marijuana

Dear Dr. Sanjay Gupta,

Thank you for apologizing about misleading Americans on the safety and benefits of medical marijuana. It’s a bold and important move, and we accept your apology.

Here’s why:

We live in a world that’s rich in plant life. This may not be quite obvious while strolling through Manhattan or finding a spot for your SUV in a Target parking lot, but flora is all around us. We eat lots of plants—even if our diets are made up of highly processed junk foods. Most of them started out as plants. Why we embrace some plants and shun others is a situation complicated by industry. Medical marijuana (cannabis) is no exception.

Like its cousin hemp, which is also illegal in the U.S., marijuana has a rich history of beneficial uses for humans. But as the Pharmaceutical Industrial Complex rose to dominate our health care system, reliance on natural cures were shunned, ridiculed, outlawed. By the 1930s, ingesting cannabis was deemed a precursor to committing violent crimes and unacceptable behaviors and led to our current laws and public perception of marijuana as a street drug associated with criminal activity and lewd behavior. Arguments made over the historic benefits of the plant—even in states where medical marijuana is now legal—are still met with doubt, eye rolls and judgment.

But CNN’s chief medical expert’s change of heart could usher in a new era of respect for the plant.

Gupta recently told Piers Morgan: “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,” he said. “And I did part of that misleading.”

In an op-ed piece called “Why I Changed My Mind On Weed,” Gupta wrote:

“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.”

One of Gupta’s best arguments for further exploration of medical marijuana lies not in actual scientific data to support its benefits, but, rather, the lack thereof. “[J]ust 6% of the studies Gupta counted up look at the potential benefits. The rest investigate potential harm, an inherent bias that leads to a profoundly distorted view,” reported the Los Angeles Times.

“With the majority of research geared towards reaching a negative conclusion on marijuana, it’s not surprising public perception is still clouded by the smoke of misconception. But, it is “irresponsible not to provide the best care we can as a medical community,” Gupta wrote, “care that could involve marijuana.”

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Image: “Caveman Chuck” Coker