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5 Benefits of Marijuana, Says Dr. Sanjay Gupta

How Dr. Gupta changed his position on marijuana.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab

Over the last 10 years, CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has been investigating the effects of smoking marijuana and publically changed his stance on the drug. "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,'" he wrote back in 2013 for CNN.com. Dr. Gupta now believes marijuana offers significant medical benefits and recently did a special report titled WEED 6: Marijuana and Autism where he showed how families are turning to marijuana to help relieve pain and symptoms of certain health conditions. Read on to see his thoughts—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

Biased View on Marijuana

Doctor writing down marijuana research.
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In October 2021, Dr. Gupta went on Joe Rogan's podcast and explained how much of the U.S. data on marijuana was skewed to show the harmful effects and not any benefits. He told Rogan, "If you're just looking at papers—well, this one [says there's] potential long harm, this one possible addiction, this one gateway—you know, you're seeing all those individual studies, but at a broader level, one step upstream, you realize that most of the studies that are getting funded are designed to look for harm. When I saw that, that was the first time I thought, 'well, why are the studies that are getting out there, why are they all designed to look for harm?" he said. "Then I started looking at other countries, and some really good research out of places like Israel in particular."

2

Marijuana and Pain

Woman feeling sharp pain.
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Dr. Gupta told Rogan on the podcast about a specific study Israel conducted with pain and the use of marijuana with Raphael Mechoulam, a world renowned scientist known for his research on cannabis. "Now he was the first guy to ever isolate THC and then synthesize it," Dr. Gupta said.  "He's 91 and he's been doing this work forever. He may get the Nobel prize before he dies for his work in this. They were talking about the use of cannabis for all sorts of ailments, including refractory seizures in kids. Hmm. And that one really, that really got to me for a couple reasons. One is that I think when you're trying to do studies on things like pain, it's hard, it's a subjective thing. Right. And so you think, how, how do you, how do you really have conclusive proof that this is working the way that you think it is? Someone says their pain is better and that's important, but how do you measure that a little child who's having 300 seizures a week and is now not having seizures is a much more specific sort of metric."

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3

Marijuana and Seizures

Woman fainted
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More research is being done on how marijuana helps with seizures and Dr. Gupta told Rogan, "it seemed to work really well in kids who did not respond to existing seizure drugs, which was kind of amazing to me. And I think I told you when we've spoken before that, to me, in some ways that wasn't just a medical issue at that point, it was a moral issue because nothing worked for these kids. They were thinking about even compounding veterinary medications for them. And these parents are like, you know, in their kitchen sinks, stirring up, you know, cannabis, trying to get the formulation, right. To turn it into an oil or a tincture. They could put it underneath the kid's tongue and, and it was working. And, you know, I did stories on these kids and they were emblematic of thousands of more kids. These weren't just anecdotal stories. And that's when I said, you know, there's something here, but I gotta tell you, when I wrote the article saying, I changed my mind on this, you know, you hit send at night and then you wake up in the morning and I work at a university, I'm a practicing physician."

4

Marijuana and Autism

Doctor consulting male patient, working on diagnostic examination on
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Dr. Sanjay Gupta explores in WEED 6: Marijuana and Autism how families are turning to cannabis to help relieve the symptoms, and in some cases aggression associated with autism, and believes marijuana is the answer for many people. "Cannabis is a medicine. Over the last six years, through countless articles and essays, and now five documentary films, my team and I have made that case and we have provided the proof. At times, it can heal when nothing else can. Denying people this substance represents a moral issue just as much as a medical one," wrote in a 2019 article for CNN.com. "I have always let science and facts lead the way. That isn't advocacy; that is speaking truth to power. But yes, when you are certain of the evidence and people's lives depend on it, then shout it from the rooftops, trumpet it loudly in medical conferences and make sure the world knows. If being called an advocate means you took the time to faithfully learn the issues, allowed yourself to change and even admit where you were wrong, then I will proudly own the title and honorably wear the badge."

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5

Dr. Gupta's Thoughts on Medical Marijuana

Female GP holding on palm medical marijuana
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For CNN.com Dr. Gupta wrote, "There's one thing I can't stress enough: The core story of cannabis has never required me or anyone else to follow blindly. With medical marijuana, you aren't asked to sacrifice your objectivity or your skepticism. You too will discover it if you diligently study the evidence from all over the world, spend days in the lab to really understand the cannabis molecules – and visit patients whose lives truly depend on it. The real story of cannabis has always been rooted in facts, not faith. An Israeli agricultural engineer inspects marijuana plants at the BOL (Breath Of Life) Pharma greenhouse in the country's second-largest medical cannabis plantation, near Kfar Pines in northern Israel, on March 9, 2016. The recreational use of cannabis is illegal in the Jewish state, but for the past 10 years its therapeutic use has not only been permitted but also encouraged. Last year, doctors prescribed the herb to about 25,000 patients suffering from cancer, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress and degenerative diseases. The purpose is not to cure them but to alleviate their symptoms. … For too long, the real story of cannabis was drowned out in those echo chambers. Marijuana was preordained as having 'no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse' despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. My team and I wanted you to hear the other side, the voices that had been drowned out by decades of this noise."

WEED 6: Marijuana and Autism airs on CNN and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more