He rocked the medical-marijuana world last year and drew attention from Congress when he apologized for giving short shrift to medical marijuana.
At 10 p.m. Tuesday, CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta will be at it again, airing “Weed 2,” his second, hour-long special on the health benefits of cannabis.
Michigan’s medical-pot advocates say it could be a second bombshell in the national debate on pot.
“We think it’ll be another big deal across our country, and hopefully even in other parts of the world where they are thinking about changing their laws,” said Heidi Parikh of Romulus, founder of the Michigan Compassion education groups that meet in Royal Oak and Southgate.
Gupta, who grew up in Novi and graduated from the University of Michigan School of Medicine, will narrate the show, which will include sick youngsters and their parents struggling to obtain cannabis against legal barriers placed by state and federal authorities.
“If you want to understand the science, this is something you’ll want to watch,” Gupta told the Free Press on Monday. “The drug continues to be unfairly rejected by most of the American medical establishment and by government drug regulators,” he said.
“My sense as a doctor is that people have an option now, something that actually was an option up until the 1940s (when the federal government made marijuana illegal).
“There’s a lot of evidence now that this not only works for many ailments but it often works where nothing else has,” he said. The show will discuss how cannabis can ease symptoms of epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, cancer and other diseases.
As a father as well as a brain surgeon and medical professor, Gupta said he remains opposed to exposing young people to marijuana. And he hedged when asked about legalization for recreational use, calling that an issue for a future show. But he said medical cannabis clearly has a key role to play in seizure disorders, the safe alleviation of pain and numerous other health applications.
Last week, the Medical Marijuana New Conditions Review Board in Lansing approved one new use for medical marijuana, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), while denying applications that it be allowed for insomnia and bipolar disorder.
“If you look at the science, you don’t see the longer-term side effects (in adults who use marijuana) that you see in someone whose brain is still developing,” Gupta said. He said brain development is still incomplete in most young adults all the way to age 25, so marijuana and alcohol use should be strictly limited before then.
“Traditionally, we consider 21 to be the age of adulthood. But research clearly shows that our brains are still developing at 21,” he said.
Gupta said he’d reviewed reams of medical studies in preparation for the show, delving into the regulatory hurdles of getting medical marijuana accepted over the vested interests of giant drug companies, the medical colleges that teach doctors how to prescribe it, and the government regulators who are wedded to caution and the war on drugs.
Many illnesses don’t respond well to existing, FDA-approved drugs, he said.
“The American Epilepsy Foundation says there’s about a million patients out there who aren’t getting relief from their seizures,” Gupta said.
The show tells the story of many patients who had to move to Colorado to get the medical pot they need. Voters in Colorado, along with those in Washington state, voted to fully legalize marijuana last year.
“We’re all very excited” about Gupta’s second show, said Robin Schneider, legislative chairwoman for the Detroit-based National Patients Rights Association, an advocacy group for medical-marijuana laws.
“We thought his first show raised a lot of awareness about medical marijuana, particularly for children,” Schneider said. The timing is good because two bills that relate directly to Gupta’s program are getting fresh attention in Lansing this week, she said.
At a hearing scheduled for today, lawmakers will receive the first testimony on House Bill 4271, which would let each community in Michigan decide for itself whether to allow dispensaries where state-approved patients could buy tested medical pot, she said.
At the same hearing, lawmakers will discuss House Bill 5104, which would allow non-smokable forms of marijuana in Michigan, which are essential to treating children, Schneider said.