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The Incredible Impact of Dr. Sanjay Gupta's Medical Marijuana Special

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A little over a week ago, Dr. Sanjay Gupta aired a one hour CNN special on medical marijuana. The impact of his special and an op-ed that he wrote for CNN - where he apologized for his past opposition to medical marijuana - has been incredible!

In the run-up to Gupta's CNN special, his op-ed made national news and was shared more than half a million times on Facebook. Just a few years ago, he came out against medical marijuana. Yet in his op-ed he expressed regret for not studying the issue more closely and for believing the government's propaganda.

Dr. Gupta's show also played a critical role in improving New Jersey's medical marijuana law. A major focus of the special is a young girl who needs medical marijuana to relieve her constant, debilitating seizures. Coincidently, there is legislation under consideration in New Jersey to expand its medical marijuana law so that minors can access it. The issue was sympathetically covered by Gupta, and within days, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was being asked about the legislation. Just a few days later Christie committed to signing it.

The latest manifestation of Gupta's impact came today when President Obama's press secretary was asked whether Gupta's change of heart has caused the president to re-examine his position on medical marijuana. As you might expect, Obama's spokesman sidestepped the question, claiming he couldn't respond because he hadn't read Gupta's column.

But Gupta - who was Obama's first choice to be U.S. Surgeon General upon taking office in 2009 - has generated so much news that it's hard to believe that folks at the White House haven't followed it.

I've worked at the Drug Policy Alliance for 14 years - and more people, even folks who don't follow drug policy, have asked me about the Sanjay Gupta special than almost anything else I've worked on over the past decade and a half. It is clear that Dr. Gupta's work is changing hearts, minds and ultimately lives.

Tony Newman is the director of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance (www.drugpolicy.org)