On Friday's This Hour, CNN's John Berman bemoaned how medical marijuana is still illegal in many jurisdictions, and hinted that executive action needed be taken to fix this situation. After noting that "one of the problems right now is the federal law," Berman asked, "Can't they change this? Can't a stroke of the pen change this problem?"
Doctor Sanjay Gupta also played up how people with chronic illnesses are affected by this federal regulation, and underlined its apparent damaging impact: [MP3 audio available here; video below the jump]
DR. SANJAY GUPTA: ...[T]he patients out there, especially the parents of these children – I mean, they're incredibly frustrated. They live in their home states, where...they don't have access to these medications. They see it potentially working for their kids, but they can't get it. So, it's really frustrating...I use the word 'draconian'...and it's not a word I use very often. It's probably an overused word, but I think it perfectly describes this. It's – we feel like we have gone back to the Dark Ages, where politics has trumped science.
Berman introduced his pre-taped segment with Gupta by spotlighting how "our Doctor Sanjay Gupta made news last year, after publicly changing his stance on medical marijuana....In Dr. Gupta's new CNN op-ed, he writes, '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.' In his piece, Sanjay says that science showing the benefits of medical marijuana is solid – today more than ever."
Doctor Gupta used "draconian" and "Dark Ages" labeling mere moments into his appearance. Berman continued with a lament of his own: "There are times when it seems like there's a failure to look at the whole issue. The demonization, in some cases, of pot makes it difficult to have this responsible conversation on a clinical level." He then zeroed in on how the CNN medical correspondent, in his opinion piece, wrote that "we shouldn't even use the word 'marijuana.' Let's call it something completely different."
Gupta contended that "marijuana was a pejorative term almost since it was used – initially. It was to conjure up images of these sex-crazed teenagers and 'reefer madness.'" He then pointed out that "cannabis is the scientific name. And when I've had these conversations with scientists...who have been – not only studying this, but some of them have dedicated their life's research to this topic. They call it cannabis....It gives it, I think, the respect that it deserves. And I think – look, it's a small thing, but I think it goes a long way towards changing the discussion."
The CNN journalist also gave his examples of how people are affected by the federal ban of marijuana:
JOHN BERMAN: And you have spent time with so many people – in your first documentary and the second one, 'Weed 2' – for whom cannabis has made a huge, huge difference. What kind of impact?
GUPTA: You know, we show the kids with epilepsy – and those are clearly dramatic stories – and, you know, there's a situation now where the American Epilepsy Foundation has come out and said there are three million people who have epilepsy in the United States – of which about a third, a million, are treatment-resistant. So, modern medicine isn't doing it for them. They're looking for other options.
But look, there's others as well – because I don't want people to look at this and say, this is a rare kid – you know, treatment. Adults with pain – a woman with M.S. – you know, muscle spasms, and the pain so debilitating, she was confined to a wheelchair – she's now taking a medication made from cannabis – the whole plant of cannabis – in England. That medication is working for her. It's available in 25 countries. The United States is not one of them.
Berman used his "stroke of the pen" suggestion near the end of the segment. Gupta ended the segment with one more lamentation:
GUPTA: ...This is baffling to me. I mean, there are so many problems in the world. I really have to try to understand. I know there are so many nuances here. There is nothing about this that makes it a Schedule 1 substance. A Schedule 1 means it is in the most dangerous class of substances – the most addictive – the most highly abused substances, and has no medicinal value. Neither one of those statements are true here. This is – this is politics.
You know, 1936 – we joke about 'Refer Madness.' We're calling this documentary 'Cannabis Madness.' But 'Reefer Madness' had a huge impact on the way that we view marijuana. But I don't know what's galvanizing the opposition. It doesn't seem to break down along scientific lines; political lines; religious lines; gender or age. But yet, there is this thrust to not allow this to happen.