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Dr. Sanjay Gupta Announces He’s Changed His Mind About Cannabis

Neurologist and resident CNN medical pundit Dr. Sanjay Gupta piqued quite a bit of interest last week when he admitted to having used cannabis and apologized to the public at large for his previous negative stance on the drug. If you caught Dr. Gupta’s CNN special, “Weed,” on Sunday, he tackles some of the bigger questions about cannabis from a medical perspective. From exploring how cannabis works in the brain to how safe it really is, Gupta spent a year researching America’s most infamous plant. If you missed it, here’s the breakdown of some of the myths about cannabis that “Weed” sheds some light on.

Myth #1: Cannabis Has No Medical Use

This myth is largely perpetuated by the United States government, which, due to its labeling of cannabis as a schedule 1 drug, continues to hold the official stance that the plant has “no accepted medicinal use and a high potential for abuse.” Scores of medical patients will testify that this statement is pure fiction and Dr. Gupta takes a closer look at some patients who have made medical cannabis their drug of choice—and one for whom it was the only choice. This leads us to…

Myth #2: Parents are Against Cannabis

Charlotte Figi’s story has been getting a lot of coverage lately. She was only three when she started suffering from life-threatening seizures that are the hallmark of Dravet’s Syndrome, an especially debilitating form of autism. After two years of trying every other medical treatment, it wasn’t until Charlotte was given a very specific strain of medical marijuana that her seizures became manageable.

Another patient, 19-year-old Chaz Moore, uses medical marijuana to calm the daily painful convulsions of his diaphragm that make it difficult for him to speak. Previously, he was on narcotics to treat his condition, some of which almost killed him. Chaz’s father Shan says, “I’m a firm believer that marijuana has saved my son’s life.”

Myth #3: There are No Studies That Show Marijuana is Effective Medically

Dr. Gupta challenges this myth first with the ironic fact that until the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, cannabis was regularly used as medicine in the United States. Not only were there medical studies done at this time, but many patients found much-needed relief using the drug.

More surprisingly, Dr. Gupta also travels to Israel, which has long been a leader in studying the medical benefits of cannabis. The country has produced many studies showing its efficacy in treating cancer, Crohn’s disease and other ailments. Israel is also home to some forward-thinking doctors and hospitals that are promoting cannabis use among patients, specifically the elderly, whose various health issues often make them ideal cannabis patients.

Myth #4: Cannabis isn’t Addictive

Many cannabis consumers have long laughed at the idea of a cannabis addict, but it seems that cannabis can have the propensity for addiction. Part of this may be due to the increased potency (THC levels) of today’s cannabis that can alter the brain’s natural cannabinoid production. While addiction is never a good thing, cannabis is on the low end of the scale, with about 9% of users becoming addicted compared to 20% for cocaine and a whopping 30% for (legal) tobacco.

Some people have been praising Dr. Gupta’s change of heart, while others are more skeptical, claiming his apology and documentary are little more than a shameless attempt on CNN’s part to boost TV ratings and website traffic. For years, Dr. Gupta was pushing the same fallacies and propaganda that have stuck to cannabis since it fell from its previous status as medicine in the U.S. Most of the evidence presented in “Weed” is not groundbreaking or even surprising to many in the cannabis community, but Dr. Gupta claims he never looked closely enough before.

This raises the question of whether or not his possible financial ties to pharmaceutical companies played a role in his previous stance or his current mindshift, but whether he was misinformed or led by his wallet, Dr. Gupta’s recent admission is resonating in a big way. By sharing the information that helped to change his mind, he’s helping to bring the focus back to the truth about cannabis and, hopefully, changing more minds. What could be a better apology than becoming an advocate?