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Marijuana Legalization and Public Health

Marijuana Legalization and Public Health

This year saw a strange overlap of holidays.  Easter corresponded with the pot smoker celebration of 420.  Perhaps even more significant is the fact that this is the first 420 where marijuana can be purchased legally (in Colorado and Washington state).  The Diane Rehm Show recently discussed marijuana legalization and its public health effects. 

Here is a description for the segment from the show’s website: 

Across the country, public attitudes towards legalizing marijuana have shifted and state legislatures are responding. No state has gone as far as Washington State or Colorado—where marijuana sales are legal—but many are moving to decriminalize the drug or make it available for medical use. And cash strapped states considering legalization are closely watching Colorado where the governor recently predicted a tax windfall. But while politicians are more eager to get on board, public health officials continue to raise alarm bells about the safety of lighting up. Guest host Susan Page and her guests discuss the business and changing politics of marijuana.

 

Marijuana Legalization and Public Health

Marijuana Legalization and Public Health

This year saw a strange overlap of holidays.  Easter corresponded with the pot smoker celebration of 420.  Perhaps even more significant is the fact that this is the first 420 where marijuana can be purchased legally (in Colorado and Washington state).  The Diane Rehm Show recently discussed marijuana legalization and its public health effects. 

Here is a description for the segment from the show’s website: 

Across the country, public attitudes towards legalizing marijuana have shifted and state legislatures are responding. No state has gone as far as Washington State or Colorado—where marijuana sales are legal—but many are moving to decriminalize the drug or make it available for medical use. And cash strapped states considering legalization are closely watching Colorado where the governor recently predicted a tax windfall. But while politicians are more eager to get on board, public health officials continue to raise alarm bells about the safety of lighting up. Guest host Susan Page and her guests discuss the business and changing politics of marijuana.

 

So Weed It Is: Why Dr. Sanjay Gupta Changed His Mind on Marijuana

So Weed It Is: Why Dr. Sanjay Gupta Changed His Mind on Marijuana

This Sunday, August 11 at 8PM, CNN will feature a documentary by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent, titled, “WEED”. In promoting the documentary, Dr. Gupta wrote a commentary explaining why he changed his mind on weed. 

Here is how it begins: 

Over the last year, I have been working on a new documentary called “Weed.” The title “Weed” may sound cavalier, but the content is not. I traveled around the world to interview medical leaders, experts, growers and patients. I spoke candidly to them, asking tough questions. What I found was stunning.

Long before I began this project, I had steadily reviewed the scientific literature on medical marijuana from the United States and thought it was fairly unimpressive. Reading these papers five years ago, it was hard to make a case for medicinal marijuana. I even 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. 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.”

They didn’t have the science to support that claim, and I now know that when it comes to marijuana neither of those things are true. It doesn’t have a high potential for abuse, and there are very legitimate medical applications. In fact, sometimes marijuana is the only thing that works. Take the case of Charlotte Figi, who I met in Colorado. She started having seizures soon after birth. By age 3, she was having 300 a week, despite being on seven different medications. Medical marijuana has calmed her brain, limiting her seizures to 2 or 3 per month.

Special thanks to Professor Douglas A. Berman’s insightful blog, Sentencing Law and Policy,” for bringing this story and documentary to my attention.