CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has returned to the topic of medical marijuana in a third installment of his game-changing documentary series, Weed 3: The Marijuana Revolution, airing Sunday. Make no mistake these documentaries have served as the effective bull-horn for the medical marijuana movement. In the run up to the originalWeed, Dr. Gupta wrote an op-ed where he formally apologized for his previous position on medical marijuana.
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.
-Sanjay Gupta, August 2013
The documentary series provides an overview of the history of marijuana prohibition, in addition to examining the science behind marijuana and the medical properties of cannabidiol, or CBD. Dr. Gupta also humanizes the science through the story of Charlotte Figi, a five-year-old girl with a debilitating neurological disorder called Dravet's Syndrome. Scientific experts like Dr. Carl Hart are featured to explain the impact of marijuana use on human behavior and the political and bureaucratic obstacles that stymie medical research on marijuana.
Weed 3 revisits the topics raised in earlier installments of the series but digs deeper into the significant barriers to medical marijuana research. In the last installment of the documentaryWeed 2: Marijuana Madness, viewers were able to get an up close and personal experience of these issues through the story of Vivian Wilson and her family, who after many failed attempts at gaining access to her medicine through New Jersey's still-struggling medical marijuana program, were forced to uproot themselves and move to Colorado - essentially becoming "marijuana refugees." Dr. Gupta explains the entourage effect, highlighting the important relationship between THC and CBD that needs to be preserved in cannabis based medical therapies. Unfortunately, this has not been policy that has been widely adopted in many of the states which have passed CBD only legislation, but progress is at times incremental. Finally, we are given insight into the origins of the breakthrough research on pharmaceutical grade marijuana in the United States from Dr. Orrin Devinsky and the team at the NYU Epilepsy Center.
In this third installment, Dr. Gupta offers whole-hearted and explicit support for legalizing medical marijuana: "We should legalize medical marijuana. We should do it nationally. And, we should do it now." Public opinion on the issue has been polling above 70 percent for the past 15 years and now hovers just below 90 percent in political swing states.
Clearly we are reaching national consensus on medical marijuana. This Sunday, you will see officials from the highest levels of government, like Senators Corey Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Rand Paul to President Barack Obama all confirm their support for medical marijuana. Additionally, scientific pioneers like Rick Doblin and Dr. Sue Sisley will discuss their struggles to advance medical marijuana research through a daunting array of political obstacles.
The Drug Policy Alliance is committed to increasing the number of states with medical marijuana laws, supporting and improving existing state medical marijuana programs, protecting medical marijuana patients, and ending the federal ban on medical marijuana so that all patients within the United States have safe access to quality medicine and research into marijuana's medicinal benefits can move forward.
We look forward to seeing the next round of progress that this documentary will bring about. Tune in Sunday at 9pm on CNN.
Dr. Malik Burnettis a former surgeon and physician advocate. He has also served as executive director of a medical marijuana nonprofit organization, and currently serves as a Policy Manager at the Drug Policy Alliance's Office of National Affairs.