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CNN's chief medical expert apologizes for "misleading" public on marijuana

Prepared marijuana sits inside a dispensary in Colorado. AP File Photo

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical expert, has reversed his longtime opposition to marijuana, apologizing for his role in what he calls “misleading” the public.

“I have apologized for some of the earlier reporting because I think, you know, we’ve been terribly and systematically misled in this country for some time,” Gupta told CNN’s Piers Morgan on Wednesday. “I did part of that misleading.”

Gupta also wrote an op-ed featured on CNN’s website titled “Why I changed my mind on weed.” Gupta discusses how he took the Drug Enforcement Agency’s word at face value, the challenges of scientific research, and his firsthand experience with patients on the drug.

I apologize because I didn’t look hard enough, until now. I didn’t look far enough. I didn’t review papers from smaller labs in other countries doing some remarkable research, and I was too dismissive of the loud chorus of legitimate patients whose symptoms improved on cannabis.

Instead, I lumped them with the high-visibility malingerers, just looking to get high. I mistakenly believed the Drug Enforcement Agency listed marijuana as a schedule 1 substance because of sound scientific proof. Surely, they must have quality reasoning as to why marijuana is in the category of the most dangerous drugs that have “no accepted medicinal use and a high potential for abuse.”

They didn’t have the science to support that claim, and I now know that when it comes to marijuana neither of those things are true. It doesn’t have a high potential for abuse, and there are very legitimate medical applications. In fact, sometimes marijuana is the only thing that works.

Gupta’s change of heart comes at a time where public opinion is steadily shifting. 2011 marked the first year a majority of people polled by Gallup supported full legalization. Four states – Connecticuit, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Illinois – have passed legislation permitting medical use since the poll was conducted. Two states – Colorado and Washington – have legalized recreational use. In 2013, 37 percent of the nation lives in a state with legal access to medical marijuana at the very least.

Gupta was reportedly offered the job of surgeon general by President Obama in 2009, the same month he had an article published in Time called “Why I Would Vote No On Pot.”

Gupta’s documentary “Weed” debuts Sunday at 7 p.m. CST. You’ll never guess what it’s about.