CNN Doctor Presses Jeff Sessions to Support Marijuana to Combat Opioid Epidemic

By David Bauder
AP Media Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has taken the unusual step of publicly urging US Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reconsider his opposition to medical cannabis, particularly as a way to fight the opioid epidemic.

Gupta wrote a public letter to Sessions, saying that he had changed his mind on the use of medical cannabis, “and I am certain you can, as well.”

He said he made his plea after Sessions declined to be interviewed for his special on the topic, which was scheduled to air on CNN on Sunday, April 29, 2018. A spokesperson for Sessions declined to comment on Thursday, April 26, 2018.

The CNN special follows football player Mike James and others who say that medical marijuana has both eased the pain of injuries and weaned them from addiction to opioids. Medical cannabis is currently legal in 29 states and Washington, D.C.

Before he began researching the issue a few years ago, Gupta said he was not a believer in medical cannabis and, in fact, thought marijuana was essentially being used as a ladder to recreational use of the drug. He said he became convinced that research on the issue was intentionally skewed against cannabis, and he spoke to enough people who swear by it.

“The idea that it could work for people, and sometimes is the only thing than can work for people, should give it the respect that it deserves,” he said in an interview. Still, reporters generally don’t become advocates the way Gupta has by writing to Sessions.

“I don’t see it, first of all, as a step into advocacy,” he said. “As a journalist, one of the things that we’re obligated to do is speak truth to power, and this is a good example of that.”

The opioid epidemic lends urgency to the issue, he said.

The CNN special quoted Sessions in a public appearance saying, “how stupid is that,” to the opinion that medical cannabis could be used to stem heroin addiction.

Gupta said the cannabis use needs to be carefully regulated and tested to determine the correct dosages. In his letter to Sessions, Gupta wrote that if researchers started from scratch to design a medicine to help turn around the opioid epidemic, it would likely look like cannabis.

He said he’s not morally opposed to recreational use of marijuana, which is legal in nine states and the District of Columbia. But he said he didn’t want to confuse the two issues.

“People commingle the two issues and I think it’s really hurt the medical marijuana movement,” he said.

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