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Thank You, Sanjay Gupta

Sanjay Gupta sits for an interview in a green house full of marijuana.

Joint Opinions

Thank You, Sanjay Gupta

“The medical marijuana program will not happen under my watch,” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said in 2011.

Those words must feel like political suicide now.

Last night, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s resident neurosurgeon and former candidate for surgeon general of the United States, “doubled down” on medical marijuana in a refreshing hour-long truth fest in which he did not give equal weight to propaganda and opinions as to actual verifiable science.

Throughout the documentary Gupta followed the Wilson family of New Jersey, who, after public run ins from their governor and a reaffirmation he would not readdress the issue, decided to uproot their family and move to Colorado in order to secure safe access to cannabis medicines for their young daughter Vivian Wilson.

Vivian suffers from Dravet Syndrome, a severe form of childhood epilepsy for which marijuana has proven an effective treatment, specifically strains high in CBD and low in THC.

As the adorable young toddler seized, writhing in pain, you could feel the anxiety and fear in her parents as they rushed to administer her the powerful anti-seizure meds to control it. Over and over again.

Vivian’s mother mentions that her 4-year-old daughter, Vivian’s big sister, knows they cannot play at the playground because it is too dangerous for her little sister.

Brian and Meghan Wilson’s entire lives center around keeping the young child alive. The family has been consumed by Vivian’s condition, they knew what they needed to do and had finally resigned to the reality that Governor Christie either just doesn’t care or is feigning ignorance for political reasons.

Seventy-seven percent of Americans believe medical marijuana should be federally legal. Fifty-one percent of Americans believe marijuana should be legal for all uses. The public is convinced, it seems the only naysayers left are the politicians and those who will always choose their own delusional notions over verifiable science.

Governor Christie intends to run for President of the United States in 2016, but I think he would be hard pressed to find any Republican, Democrat or Libertarian who watched the special still willing to give him their vote. Christie’s behavior is evident of megalomania, not leadership.

Perhaps Gupta feels responsible for the wave of CBD-only legislation proposed in conservative states; legislators and proponents of such legislation have not been shy about saying the original “Weed” special, which aired last August, inspired the laws.

Now, in mid-March, we are looking at a handful of states ready to pass these laws in their short legislative sessions. While most medical marijuana advocates and cannabis industry workers applaud any effort to get sick people the relief cannabis provides, in fact we feel it is a basic human right, many of us cannot get behind these bills because they actually restrict safe access to our most vulnerable populations, the sick.

In an editorial promoting the special, Gupta described what he refers to as the “entourage effect,” or all the cannabinoids, terpenes and other compounds found in cannabis working together synergistically to address the variety of symptoms that come with almost any diagnosis.

It’s a hard concept for many Americans to wrap their heads around. We have a system of “Pharmacologicalism” in the United States, the notion that each individual symptom must be treated by an individual chemical. For a patient with cancer, the chemotherapy is used to attack the tumor. The chemotherapy has a range of side effects such as insomnia, depression, nausea and wasting, each has a corresponding pharmaceutical drug.

Patients with severe and chronic illnesses often take a cocktail of pharmaceutical drugs every day, with damaging short and long-term effects. Those who use marijuana as a medicine have not only felt better, but stopped taking the bulk of their prescriptions.

The irony is that many of those pharmaceuticals contain the active ingredients in street drugs such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines. Each medicine approved by the FDA went through years of expensive research and development and now are highly profitable and very expensive to consumers.

In that sense, it is hard for many Americans to grasp the concept that one plant, which they could grow in their backyards, could manage a variety of symptoms and actually heal many conditions.

While there is still money to be made on cannabis, cannabis will never be as profitable to pharmaceutical companies as the drugs they sell now. Cannabis is also a connoisseur commodity, the market demands extreme variety, a much different business model, perhaps a more equalizing one, than a pharmaceutical cash cow.

Gupta has taken the time to present the available science, which unequivocally states that cannabis is not only safe, but also the most effective medicine we have to treat conditions like epilepsy, cancer, HIV/AIDS, Crohn’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis and more.

Unlike the politicians now ramming through restrictive CBD-only legislation, Dr. Sanjay Gupta took the first step last August and apologized. He said he was sorry he had never looked beyond the propaganda. It’s hard to say you were wrong and you’re sorry, but if he can do it, so can our elected representatives who have been fighting the public on this issue for the last 70 years.

Thank you, Dr. Gupta.

What would you like to say to Dr. Sanjay Gupta? Tell us in the comments below.

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