It seems that everyone is talking about Sanjay Gupta's decision to apologize for his previous support of cannabis prohibition. From Andrew Sullivan to Vanity Fair to Stephen Colbert to the Washington Post, Dr. Gupta's about-face has made major headlines. I was certainly happy to hear the good doctor's change of heart and I suspect that Dr. Gupta is just the tip of the iceberg as more and more mainstream voices will grow more comfortable admitting that they were wrong about cannabis legalization.
CNN, on the media firestorm:
More than 330,000 people shared the story on Facebook, and it started to trend on Twitter. His column inspired pot jokes as well as thoughtful conversations in publications around the world.
Vanity Fair referred to him as the "Dr. Phil of actual licensed physicians." The Los Angeles Times said it wouldn't go so far as to call him Dr. "Feelgood" but remarked about his change of heart. The Washington gossip site Wonkette posted a story with the headline, "When you've lost Sanjay Gupta you've lost America: Sanjay Gupta wants to get 'high' on the pot like a common jazz criminal." Even the usually soberWashington Post used its piece as a jumping-off point to ask, "Is pot the new gay marriage?" Some pollsshow more than half of all Americans now support both same-sex marriageand marijuana.
Doctors, judges, politicians and clergy got in touch to thank him for speaking up. And of course, he's had to put up with a lot of pot jokes. But he called it an important message more people need to hear.
In his coverage of the doctor's change of heart, Andrew Sullivan takes the Obama Administration to task, calling the lack of leadership "extreme cowardice":
As more and more evidence emerges that medical cannabis can transform some debilitating diseases in children - preventing seizures, for example - Dr. Sanjay Gupta does more than an about face, he acknowledges his past error.
What's staggering to me is that anyone who has access to the Internet could believe for one second that what the federal government says about marijuana is true. It's a self-evident, massive lie, incapable of being defended, and asserted by some kind of fiat. Just watch this pathetic spectacle. It's like something out of the late Soviet Union, in which an apparatchik is forced to lie to conform to an obviously untrue ideology. This is not science.
That the Obama administration has done nothing to reclassify the drug to conform to minimal medical standards of accuracy can only be called extreme cowardice. At some point, in my view, this president needs to say about marijuana what he said about marriage equality: that he's for legalization, taxation and regulation. But Gupta is a helpful stepping stone - a mainstream celebrity acknowledging that the US government is engaged in misleading and lying repeatedly to the American people.
Of course, this movement towards supporting sensible cannabis law reform has already started as Marijuana Majority has an excellent site detailing all of the public figures that support common sense reforms. However, not many people have made major public stances supporting cannabis prohibition, like Dr. Gupta did in Time magazine in 2009, and reversed course with an apology. Dr. Gupta provides cover for members of the media, doctors, professors, celebrities, and even politicians who fear the stigma of supporting cannabis law reforms, including damage to their careers.
Hopefully, the tide of public opinion rises to such a point that politicians will have to listen. The close timing of Dr. Gupta's mea culpa and Eric Holder's recent statements regarding the need for sentencing reform give the Obama Administration the opportunity to lead on drug policy reform, including a laundry list of bills that will improve our cannabis laws. Your move, Mr. President. Time to make this guy and his Choom Gang proud. Or at least, this guy. President Obama should be tuning in, along with millions of others, to watch WEED: A Dr. Sanjay Gupta Special this Sunday at 8 pm (ET & PT). It might just be the impetus for the President to "evolve" on this issue and take a much-needed leadership role in ending a futile, costly and harmful war being waged on nonviolent American citizens.