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As Seen on TV

Does it matter that Sanjay Gupta changed his tune on marijuana?



Two things happened last week that could help change the way America thinks about cannabis. Kinda sorta.

Sanjay Gupta, who seems like a TV star but plays a doctor in real life, changed his mind about cannabis in front of the nation, and Eric Holder told NPR that he thinks too many people convicted of drug crimes are in prison for too long. Not only did Gupta come out as a cannabis advocate, he also apologized for his role in misleading the nation about the evils of "weed," as he called it. Holder, however, did not apologize for his numerous and persistent attacks on cannabis.

As a journalist, I will admit to heavy skepticism when TV news people say anything at all. I don't rely on them much for information. When I do get information from them, I try to go to their sources (polls, government reports) or the real news (New York Times, Washington Post?) for confirmation. But Sanjay Gupta is legit.

He is not a talking head; he's a talking brain. He's an assistant neurosurgery professor at Emory University. He was a White House fellow for a year, when he served as a medical adviser to President Bill and Hillary. It was rumored that Obama offered him the post of surgeon general. He writes papers and shit, in journals and stuff.

Gupta changed his canticum cannabis while researching a CNN documentary, he wrote in a blog post ( He had tunnel vision, he said, because he looked mostly at research in the U.S.

"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," he wrote.

So, I guess I find myself in the uncomfortable position of thanking a major news network—for informing Sanjay Gupta, and thereby informing a big chunk of the huddled masses, of the very real and significant benefits of Weed, as Gupta calls it in his thusly titled documentary.

Meanwhile, over in Gen. Holder's command bunker, the loftiest lawyer in the land admitted the drug war is a waste of treasure (, with unintended negative consequences. He hinted change is afoot.

"Well, we can certainly change our enforcement priorities, and so we have some control in that way ... how we deploy our agents, what we tell our prosecutors to charge," Holder said.

His corral of lawyers is working on proposals, NPR said in its story.

In Other News

A couple of days before Dr. Gupta flipped (flopped?) on marijuana, the esteemed folks at Gallup rolled out a new poll on pot. The organization's annual Consumption Habits Poll, taken over four days in July, estimates that 38 percent of Americans have tried cannabis. This number has changed little over the past 30 years, despite an increase in access brought on by medical cannabis in 20 states.

In the same 30 years, however, the number of young people who say they've tried pot has dropped from 56 to 36 percent. Hmmmm. Is it possible that young people are choosing not to use cannabis, despite the ever-increasing access made possible by medical marijuana?


Interestingly, the Gallup-Healthways Well-being Index for Aug. 8 showed that 39 percent of Americans—almost exactly as many as have tried cannabis—experienced a lot of happiness and enjoyment with little stress and worry. I'm no scientist, and I'm likewise not a statistical analysis expert, so I'm not going to say there's a connection between a happy, low-stress life and cannabis use.

I'm just going to facetiously imply it.

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