A one-time foe of medical marijuana, CNN’s chief medical correspondent said he now favors legalization for medical purposes.
Sanjay Gupta blamed credulity at U.S. authorities for his past opposition.
“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,’ ” Gupta wrote in a widely read blog post on Thursday.
In 2009, Gupta penned an article in Timemagazine stating his opposition to medical marijuana legalization efforts.
Reversing course and apologizing to readers and viewers this week, Gupta wrote about a Colorado woman who suffered 300 seizures a week at one point, despite receiving medication. Gupta said she used marijuana to effectively reduce her seizures, and reported meeting other similar patients.
Citing testimony from patients, Gupta said marijuana could be a superior alternative to many of the opiate painkillers subscribed today.
“Here is the problem,” Gupta wrote. “Most of these medications don’t work very well for this kind of pain, and tolerance is a real problem. Most frightening to me is that someone dies in the United States every 19 minutes from a prescription drug overdose, mostly accidental.”
A U.S. documentary film released in July, “Oxyana,” chronicled the rising problem of prescription opiate abuse. “Oxyana” depicted a former coal-mining town in West Virginia transformed into a haven for prostitution, crime and opiate overdoses.
The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported 16,651 deaths in 2010 related to opiate overdoses.
Gupta made the announcement on the eve of his new CNN documentary on marijuana called “Weed,” which airs Sunday. Gupta credited his year-long research on the documentary with influencing the shift. However, last November, with marijuana legalization ballot issues in several states, Gupta remained silent.
Colorado and Washington both legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, after previously legalizing medical use. Recreational marijuana failed to pass in Oregon.
That same November, Massachusetts legalized medical marijuana. In, Arkansas, a medical marijuana ballot issue failed by a 3 percent margin.
In July, Illinois joined 19 other states and the District of Columbia to legalize medical marijuana.
In Latin America, the government of Uruguay is moving forward with a plan to sell marijuana, including for recreational purposes. Former Mexican presidents Vincente Fox and Ernesto Zedillo have called for an end to prohibition of the substance. Guatemala’s President Otto Pérez Molina has also called for changing course on marijuana policy.