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Dr. Sanjay Gupta Calls on Jeff Sessions to Back Medical Cannabis

April 27, 2018
(Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
CNN’s medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has taken the unusual step of publicly urging Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reconsider his opposition to medical marijuana, particularly as a way to fight the opioid epidemic.

Gupta specifically wants Sessions to reconsider cannabis’ potential in fighting the opioid epidemic.

Gupta wrote a public letter to Sessions, saying that he had changed his mind on the use of medical marijuana, “and I am certain you can, as well.”

He said he made his plea after Sessions declined to be interviewed for his special on the topic, which airs Sunday night at 8 p.m. EDT on CNN. A spokeswoman for Sessions declined comment on Thursday.

The CNN special follows football player Mike James and others who say that medical marijuana has both eased the pain of injuries and weaned them from addiction to opioids. Medical marijuana is currently legal in 29 states and Washington DC.

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This Medical Cannabis Researcher Explains How Marijuana Can Combat the Opioid Epidemic

Before he began researching the issue a few years ago, Gupta said he was not a believer in medical marijuana and, in fact, thought it was essentially being used as a ladder to recreational use of the drug. But he said he became convinced that research on the issue was intentionally skewed negative, and he spoke to enough people who swear by it.

“The idea that (medical marijuana) sometimes is the only thing than can work for people, should give it the respect that it deserves.”
Dr. Sanjay Gupta

“The idea that it could work for people, and sometimes is the only thing than can work for people, should give it the respect that it deserves,” he said in an interview.

Still, reporters generally tell stories and don’t become advocates the way Gupta has by writing to Sessions.

“I don’t see it, first of all, as a step into advocacy,” he said. “As a journalist, one of the things that we’re obligated to do is speak truth to power and this is a good example of that.”

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Two New Studies Find Cannabis Reduces Opioid Prescriptions

The opioid epidemic lends urgency to the issue, he said.

Gupta said the marijuana use needs to be carefully regulated and tested to determine the correct dosages.

The special quotes Sessions in a public appearance saying “how stupid is that” to the opinion that medical marijuana could be used to stem heroin addiction.

Gupta said the marijuana use needs to be carefully regulated and tested to determine the correct dosages. In his letter to Sessions, Gupta said that if researchers started from scratch to design a medicine to help turn around the opioid epidemic, it would likely look like cannabis.

He said he’s not morally opposed to recreational use of marijuana, which is legal in nine states and the District of Columbia. But he said he didn’t want to confuse the two issues.

“People comingle the two issues and I think it’s really hurt the medical marijuana movement,” he said.

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  • Stel-1776

    Years ago the FDA did approve a synthetic version of the psychoactive cannabinoid THC as medicine. This is the main chemical responsible for the high. It is listed in Schedule III. However many patients report that it does not work nearly as well as the natural plant, has more side effects, and it is very expensive. It has been found that the balance of natural cannabinoids found in various strains of the natural plant have a significant synergistic therapeutic effect, including offsetting some of the unwanted side effects of pure THC.

    FDA approval requires years of clinical trials, which are very tough to do with natural cannabis due to politics, and it also requires hundreds of millions of dollars in funding. A Big Pharma company who can afford this expense would have little interest in getting FDA approval for the natural plant and its full extracts. Even if they were able to get FDA approval and somehow successfully lobby for rescheduling, it would not make good business sense for them. Unlike their other products, they would not have exclusive rights to the natural plant (any other company could also sell it) and it would compete with some of their existing patented, profitable products. Big Pharma has reason to resent cannabis legalization, even if their losses are a tiny percentage of their business, it translates into millions if not billions lost.

    This leaves smaller startup companies and government to fund medicinal cannabis research. Much of this research that would meet FDA requirements is effectively blocked by the DEA and NIDA mainly due to politics. This is a Schedule I drug with no accepted medical use which they are required to demonize (this is why over 90% of the thousands of studies regarding cannabis have been designed to find harm). In some cases, such as the DEA, it is required by law to fight any cannabis legalization [Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 1998, Title VII]. Despite this, some researchers have managed to cut through the red tape and conduct clinical studies that successfully demonstrate the medical efficacy of natural cannabis and its derivatives for some conditions, though it is not enough for FDA approval of the natural plant.

    There are a number of powerful groups who benefit from cannabis prohibition besides Big Pharma. They have deep pockets and old lobbies with roots that run deep in Washington. The Federal Government has had decades to approve medical cannabis without any progress. Meanwhile people needlessly suffer. It is time for states to take action. Cannabis will never be legalized federally without pressure from the states. The normal process of federal legalization first is nearly impossible to succeed when so much money and power depends on its continued prohibition.

  • zenvesting

    NMUS is developing a cannabanoid derived compound that shows analgesic effects equivalent to opiates, but also shows abuse deterrant effects. This preclinical drug candidate hits exactly the same points Dr. Gupta is talking about:
    http://www.nemusbioscience.com/investor-relations/investor-news/investor-news-details/2017/Nemus-Bioscience-Announces-Presentation-of-NB2111-Analgesic-and-Anti-Addiction-Data-at-NIH-Sponsored-Cannabinoid-Conference/default.aspx

  • zenvesting

    In his letter to Sessions, Gupta said that if researchers started from scratch to design a medicine to help turn around the opioid epidemic, it would likely look like….

    http://www.nemusbioscience.com/investor-relations/investor-news/investor-news-details/2017/Nemus-Bioscience-Announces-Presentation-of-NB2111-Analgesic-and-Anti-Addiction-Data-at-NIH-Sponsored-Cannabinoid-Conference/default.aspx

  • Bruce Williams

    Does medical marijuana help stage 4 long cancer

  • Nicole

    Dr sanjay You truly are amazing i hope that medical doctors listen cause i really think this is a miracle pill …….I have taken charge of my own health and doing so good…….!!!!!!

  • Nicole

    Further down i have wrote a TESTIMONIAL

  • E.L. Bl/Du

    yea, you go Sanjay. I saw the most recent show he did, “Weed 4” on CNN and makes Sessions look like a closed minded opinionated and uneducated IDIOT! We’ve been saying this for years, but with its current schedule Nixon put it on, KNEW there was medical benefits and ripped up the studies so he could stop “those hippies” from protesting his war and put it on schedule 1. WHY we have never changed it back is just politics now, and nobody wants to go thru the “stigma” of changing things. Studies would open up quickly if they would change it from schedule 1.

  • Gary Craig

    This legalization process is going to have to be, in fact MUST BE, done “state-by-state.” Will the feds try a heavy handed approach of forcing the states to stop? It wouldn’t surprise me if they did. As much as I want to believe there’s “light at the end of the tunnel” I know this legalization issue is NOT a done deal and that the light at the end of the tunnel might be an oncoming tractor trailer instead.