Relax ban on pot, says former candidate for Surgeon General
Tim Walker is The Independent’s Los Angeles correspondent, covering entertainment and other concerns from the West Coast of the US. He was previously a features writer and the editor of the paper’s diary column. His first novel, Completion, is being published in January 2014.
Friday 09 August 2013
The man who almost became the US Surgeon General has come out in favour of legalising marijuana for medical purposes.
Dr Sanjay Gupta, who is CNN’s chief medical correspondent, announced a dramatic reversal in his opposition to the drug.
“We have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years in the US, and I apologise for my own role in that,” he wrote, explaining that he had interviewed cannabis growers, scientists and patients from around the world for a new documentary. “I hope this article and upcoming documentary will help set the record straight.”
In 2009, Dr Gupta was said to be the leading candidate for Surgeon General, and met President Barack Obama to discuss the post. Still a practising neurosurgeon at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Dr Gupta said he withdrew his name from consideration after realising he would have to surrender his practice and spend long periods away from his family. That year, he wrote an article, “Why I Would Vote No on Pot”, for Time magazine. Yet while filming his documentary, Weed, due to air on CNN this month, Dr Gupta wrote that he had come across many suffering chronic pain who had found smoking cannabis far more effective than pharmaceuticals.
His evolving views on marijuana match those of the US public, where support for legalisation has risen significantly in recent years. Gallup polls suggest around half the US population now supports marijuana legalisation, up from approximately one-third in 2005. Though the drug remains illegal at the federal level, the US government has intervened little in those states where the laws have been relaxed.
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