Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

"I am more convinced than ever that it is irresponsible to not provide the best care we can, care that often may involve marijuana."

The title of this post is the central and essential thesis of this notable new CNN commentary by Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Here are more excerpts from the lengthy piece:

This scientific journey is about a growing number of patients who want the cannabis plant as a genuine medicine, not to get high.

It is about emerging science that not only shows and proves what marijuana can do for the body but provides better insights into the mechanisms of marijuana in the brain, helping us better understand a plant whose benefits have been documented for thousands of years.  This journey is also about a Draconian system where politics override science and patients are caught in the middle.

Since our documentary "Weed" aired in August, I have continued to travel the world, investigating and asking tough questions about marijuana. I have met with hundreds of patients, dozens of scientists and the curious majority who simply want a deeper understanding of this ancient plant. I have sat in labs and personally analyzed the molecules in marijuana that have such potential but are also a source of intense controversy. I have seen those molecules turned into medicine that has quelled epilepsy in a child and pain in a grown adult. I've seen it help a woman at the peak of her life to overcome the ravages of multiple sclerosis.

I am more convinced than ever that it is irresponsible to not provide the best care we can, care that often may involve marijuana.

I am not backing down on medical marijuana; I am doubling down.

I should add that, although I've taken some heat for my reporting on marijuana, it hasn't been as lonely a position as I expected. Legislators from several states have reached out to me, eager to inform their own positions and asking to show the documentary to their fellow lawmakers.

I've avoided any lobbying, but of course it is gratifying to know that people with influence are paying attention to the film. One place where lawmakers saw a long clip was Georgia, where the state House just passed a medical marijuana bill by a vote of 171-4. Before the legislative session started, most people didn't think this bill had a chance.

More remarkable, many doctors and scientists, worried about being ostracized for even discussing the potential of marijuana, called me confidentially to share their own stories of the drug and the benefit it has provided to their patients. I will honor my promise not to name them, but I hope this next documentary will enable a more open discussion and advance science in the process.

Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance, defined as "the most dangerous" drugs "with no currently accepted medical use." Neither of those statements has ever been factual. Even many of the most ardent critics of medical marijuana don't agree with the Schedule I classification, knowing how it's impeded the ability to conduct needed research on the plant.

Even the head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Nora Volkow, seems to have softened her stance; she told me she believes we need to loosen restrictions for researchers....

I've tried to pull together these latest developments in our new documentary, "Cannabis Madness." Although the 1936 film "Reefer Madness" was propaganda made to advance an agenda with dramatic falsehoods and hyperbole, I hope you will find "Cannabis Madness" an accurate reflection of what is happening today, injected with the best current science.

You will meet families all across the country -- a stay-at-home mom from Ohio, a nurse practitioner from Florida, an insurance salesman from Alabama -- more than 100 families who have all left jobs, homes, friends and family behind and moved to Colorado to get the medicine that relieves their suffering.

As things stand now, many of these good people don't ever get to return home. Why? Because transporting their medicine, even if it is a non-psychoactive cannabis oil, could get them arrested for drug trafficking. And so they are stuck, cannabis refugees. You will meet them, and if you're like me, you'll be heartbroken to hear their stories, but you'll also have a lump in your throat when you see the raw, true love these parents have for their sick children....

I know the discussion around this topic will no doubt get heated. I have felt that heat. But I feel a greater responsibility than ever to make sure those heated discussions are also well-informed by science. And, with that: I hope you get a chance to watch on March 11 at 10 p.m. Eastern.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/marijuana_law/2014/03/i-am-more-convinced-than-ever-that-it-is-irresponsible-to-not-provide-the-best-care-we-can-care-that.html

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