CNN Anchor Asks Why 'Stroke of the Pen' Can't Legalize Medical Marijuana

CNN anchor John Berman asked medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta Friday if just a "stroke of the pen" could "change this problem" and legalize medical marijuana.

"Can't they change this? Can't a stroke of the pen change this problem?" Berman asked of the government. Dr. Gupta, a medical marijuana advocate, agreed: "you say the same thing that I do. This is baffling to me."

Gupta lashed out at the federal government for classifying marijuana as a Schedule I substance: "It's the politics of pot, pitting policy against patients." He insisted that medical marijuana "often" is the "best care" for patients who need it.

"You know, I use the word 'draconian' in the op-ed," Gupta ranted. "And it's not a word I use very often. It's probably an overused word. But I think it perfectly describes this. We feel like we have gone back to the dark ages where politics has trumped science."

Later in the day, anchor Brooke Baldwin asked Gupta if "politics is trumping science":

BALDWIN: The fact is, you point out that still in this country politics is trumping science. Let me go out there and say do you think lawmakers are being irresponsible because of this?

GUPTA: There are people for whom this cannibis medication works when nothing has.

Below is a transcript of the segment:

CNN
THIS HOUR
3/7/14
11:21 a.m. EST

JOHN BERMAN: Our Dr.Sanjay Gupta made news last year after publicly changing his stance on medical marijuana. Since then, lawmakers have followed. 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. Earlier, I spoke to him about his new documentary and why he thinks it's irresponsible of lawmakers to deny some Americans access to medical marijuana.

(Video Clip)

Dr. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN medical correspondent: It is very frustrating. Look, for me as a reporter, I get to look at the guy who's looking at the science, traveling around the world, talking to people, saying, let me challenge you on this science, let me look into the labs and all of that. But the 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.

You know, I use the word "draconian" in the op-ed. And it's not a word I use very often. It's probably an overused word. But I think it perfectly describes this. We feel like we have gone back to the dark ages where politics has trumped science.

BERMAN: 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, which is why you say in your op-ed we shouldn't even use the word marijuana. Let's call it something completely different.

GUPTA: 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. And it was for immigrants from Mexico that were coming in. It was the local weed, all that sort of stuff.

Cannabis is the scientific name. And when I've had these conversations with scientists, you know, I get very legitimate scientists who have been not only studying this, but some have dedicated their life's research to this topic. They call it cannabis. It's the scientific name. And it gives it the respect I think it deserves. And I think – look, it's a small thing, but I think it goes a long way towards changing the discussion.

BERMAN: And you have spent time with so many 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 is 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 one-third, 1 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 MS, you know, muscle spasms and the pain so debilitating she was confined to a wheelchair. She is 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: One of the problems right now is the federal law, the code. The FDA calls marijuana a schedule 1 substance, more lethal, more threatening. more evil, if you will, than cocaine or methamphetamines. They say those are – those have medical value. Pot doesn't. You point out this is a real issue. We have some sound here that I think that illustrates that. Let's listen.

(Video Clip)

GUPTA (voice-over): The federal government says marijuana is among the most addictive drugs with no medicinal value.

Many serious scientists say they're wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a medicine.

GUPTA: It's the politics of pot, pitting policy against patients. Trapped in the middle, sick, qualified people who warrant medical marijuana but can't get it, because it is illegal.

(End Video Clip)

BERMAN: Can't they change this? Can't a stroke of the pen change this problem?

GUPTA: You know, John, you are a practical person. I don't know you really well. But we've gotten to know each other.

BERMAN: You would like me if you got to know me.

GUPTA: I'm sure I would, but you are pragmatic, and you look at this and you say the same thing that I do. This is baffling to me. I mean, there are so many problems in the world. I really have to – I 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 politics.

You know, 1936, we joke about refer madness. We were 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.

BERMAN: Well, this is a very important discussion to be having, Sanjay. And you are driving it, so thank you for that. We really appreciate it.


 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014