CNN Chief Medical Coorespondent Says DEA Missed Opportunity With Pot

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Craig Boudreau Vice Reporter
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CNN’s chief medical correspondent thinks the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) refusal to reschedule marijuana is a mistake.

The DEA will allow for more pot to be grown for medical research, but Dr. Sanjay Gupta says this is largely symbolic. Scientists will still have a difficult time getting access to study its benefits, Gupta writes in a Thursday CNN article.

“While this will be hailed as a victory for research, it will largely be symbolic,” Gupta writes. “[B]ecause no matter how much marijuana is available, if access is still difficult, it hardly matters.

Gupta says access to pot for medical reasons remains behind a “locked door.” While the DEA opened up new avenues for potential studies, universities that would study it still remain skeptical of allowing such studies.

Gupta notes the case of Dr. Sue Sisley of Arizona State University (ASU), who was trying to get permission from ASU to perform a study on the potential benefits of marijuana on veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She was let go by the university for what she said were bad “optics” in ASU’s mind.

“[T]hey did not like the optics of veterans smoking and vaporizing marijuana on their campus, even in the context of a rigorous, FDA-approved, randomized controlled trial,” according to a 2014 CNN article.

Gupta also notes the gatekeeper of marijuana research, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, largely favors studies being done on the negative effects of pot, not the positive ones.

He says that after searching the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s database, he found 1,434 total papers on medical marijuana — only 57 of which were studying the benefits of the plant. Gupta says this massive disparity creates a “highly distorted picture.”

He also notes the disparity among government agencies. While the DEA says marijuana has no medical value, the Department of Health and Human Services has patents on cannabinoids for a host of medical uses.

Even a former DEA chief administrative law judge disagrees with the ruling. In a 1998 petition to unschedule marijuana, Francis Young said pot in its “natural form is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within the supervised routine of medical care.”

“That a plant could provide so much benefit and still remain behind these locked doors is worth speaking up about,” Gupta concludes.

Gupta was at one point opposed to medical marijuana, but after researching the benefits of it,changed his mind. He now has a series of CNN specials about its benefits called “Weed.”

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