NEW YORK (AP) — CNN’s top medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, says he was wrong in opposing the medical use of marijuana in the past, and he now believes the drug can have real benefits for people with specific health problems.
Gupta, who is also a brain surgeon, detailed his change in an interview Friday and in an article for CNN’s website titled, “Why I changed my mind on weed.” He will narrate a documentary on the topic that will air Sunday.
He wrote in Time magazine in 2009 about his opposition to laws that would make the drug available for medical purposes. Several states now allow medical marijuana.
But Gupta said Friday he too easily associated marijuana with “malingerers that just wanted to get high.”
Gupta said he didn’t look hard enough at research on the topic and found new research since then.
Most of the research done in the United States about marijuana is about what harm it could do. He said he’s found more research overseas that discusses the medical benefits.
“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 wrote.
Two states now even allow limited recreational marijuana use, though they are moving carefully since federal law disapproves.
Gupta was encouraged to look into the issue further when he met a 5-year-old girl for whom medical marijuana has sharply reduced the seizures she had been suffering.
He realized that medical professionals should be responsible for providing the best care possible, and that could include marijuana.
While people die regularly from prescription drug overdoses, Gupta said he’s been unable to find a documented case of death from a marijuana overdose.
Gupta said he doesn’t want people to apply his change of heart to the issue of recreational marijuana use. As a father, he said, he wouldn’t allow his children to smoke marijuana until they are adults. If they want to, he’d urge them to wait until their mid-20s when their brains are fully developed, because of studies that show the drug can damage young people.