Dr. Sanjay Gupta is a neurosurgeon and plays a neurosurgeon on TV. That is, he’s the chief medical correspondent at CNN. He’s a bestselling author (both fiction and nonfiction) won an Emmy, and has been discussed (in 2009) as a possible Surgeon General. Big cheese. He writes a column for Time, and is a special correspondent for CBS News. Busy cheese.
Earlier this month – a few days before his extensively researched TV special, Weed, ran, Gupta did a piece for CNN called “Why I Changed My Mind on Weed.” In it he apologized for earlier remarks in which he opposed the use of medical marijuana. Remarks he’d made strongly in his Time column in January 2009. (How odd – that was when he was up for a big government job, wasn’t it?) That column was called “Why I would Vote No on Pot.”
Someone moved his cheese!
Here’s part of what he said (it’s long and lots of it is about how we should watch the show):
Over the last year, I have been working on a new documentary called “Weed.”…
I… wrote about this in a TIME magazine article, back in 2009, titled “Why I would Vote No on Pot.”
Well, I am here to apologize.
I apologize because I didn’t look hard enough, until now. I didn’t look far enough. I didn’t review papers from smaller labs in other countries doing some remarkable research, and I was too dismissive of the loud chorus of legitimate patients whose symptoms improved on cannabis.
Instead, I lumped them with the high-visibility malingerers, just looking to get high. I mistakenly believed the Drug Enforcement Agency listed marijuana as a schedule 1 substance because of sound scientific proof….
…We have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years in the United States, and I apologize for my own role in that.
I hope this article and upcoming documentary will help set the record straight.
Snarly says she thinks it’s a good apology. I agree. He takes responsibility, and he’s specific. His apology, and the documentary, are steps towards more intelligent medical approaches to marijuana. While all this serves to promote the documentary, it sounds like it’s worth promoting, with a lot of interesting history, for one thing.
But I think he should go farther.
In the Time piece, Gupta wrote “Why do I care? Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, puts it, ‘Numerous deleterious health consequences are associated with [marijuana's] short- and long-term use, including the possibility of becoming addicted.’” Oh please.
He also wrote, “I’m here to tell you, as a doctor, that despite all the talk about the medical benefits of marijuana, smoking the stuff is not going to do your health any good.”
‘I’m here to tell you, as a doctor…’ He’s using medical clout (never mind celebrity clout) to emphasize what the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the DEA told him. Heck, we could read their press releases ourselves. We don’t need a doctor.
He says he didn’t look hard enough at the research. He fell for a line. That’s good, but it would be even better if he talked about the intellectual perils of medical celebrity. About the temptation to say “as a doctor…” when you’re not basing your remarks on medical research.
And maybe he will, if that’s what his next documentary is about.