August 21st, 2013
12:19 AM ET
10 years ago

No word from White House on whether Gupta swayed Obama on medical marijuana

(CNN) – A White House spokesman couldn't say Tuesday whether or not President Barack Obama's personal views on medical marijuana had changed after a column and documentary written by CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta detailing his own shift on the issue went viral.
Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest, asked if the White House had any official reaction to the column and if the president "has been personally looking at that issue," said he hadn't read it.
"I have to confess I did not see the Sanjay Gupta column that you're referring to, so it's hard for me to comment on it at this point," Earnest said.
The online essay, published August 9, was titled "Why I changed my mind on weed." In it, Gupta described changing his own stance on medical marijuana after researching the topic for his CNN documentary "Weed."
He also apologized for what he said was his misguided previous stance.
"I apologize because I didn't look hard enough, until now," Gupta wrote. "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."
"We have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years in the United States, and I apologize for my own role in that," he added later.
The column received millions of page views online and was covered heavily by a range of media outlets. Gupta was a candidate for surgeon general in 2009, but later told CNN's Larry King he withdrew his name from consideration so he could maintain his surgical career and continue spending time with his family.
Obama last weighed in on the use of marijuana after two states – Washington and Colorado – legalized the recreational use of the drug.
"This is a tough problem, because Congress has not yet changed the law," Obama said. "I head up the executive branch; we're supposed to be carrying out laws. And so what we're going to need to have is a conversation about, How do you reconcile a federal law that still says marijuana is a federal offense and state laws that say that it's legal?"
Supporters of medical marijuana have largely been disappointed in the Obama administration's record on the issue. While many were hopeful Obama would discontinue Bush-era crackdowns on dispensaries in states allowing the medical use of cannabis, those raids have ramped up since 2011. Users of medical marijuana, however, have mostly been left alone by the federal government.
Marijuana is listed as a Schedule I drug by the Drug Enforcement Agency, meaning it's considered dangerous and has no medical use. Other Schedule I drugs include heroin, ecstasy, and psychedelic mushrooms. Medical marijuana advocates say it should be listed under Schedule II, comparing it to other prescription painkillers that have a high potential for abuse.

CNN's Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. Just an American

    Prohibition only gives power to those that have no business telling us how to conduct our lives. It often takes the vile taste of religion and insane morals. Many people are in jail for something that should not be a criminal offense. Our Constitution has in it evidence of such religious insanity that failed and created way more problems than it tried to solve. All marijuana prohibition does is put people in jail that should not be there, create drug cartels and increase murders. True religious insanity.

    August 21, 2013 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  2. Sailor101

    Stop the press! You mean the entire world doesn't stand by in breathless anticipation of every word that comes out of Dr. Getaclues mouth? Amazing.

    August 21, 2013 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  3. Josh

    This is a shameless waste of space. There is no new news here. Instead of finding a way to recycle a story containing the popular key word "Weed" to stir up a few extra hits, go do some actual reporting. I really need to get out of the habit of checking when I'm bored... next time it's off to NPR or BBC

    August 21, 2013 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  4. Mike

    CNN: "Did our story about our own talking head changing his mind about marijuana legalization, which anybody with half a brain did like 5 years ago, change the president's mind about? No. No it did not. Guess that one's not winning the Pulitzer. We're still a totally legitimate news source though. When we steal from Reddit, we steal the best!"

    August 21, 2013 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  5. Anonymous

    " Users of medical marijuana, however, have mostly been left alone by the federal government."

    That's not true. The U.S. Attorney in San Diego has shut down all dispensaries.

    August 21, 2013 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  6. Chris

    Well I enjoy any open dialog about things as long as it's honest. Hopefully the feds will be honest(doubtful) and come around to the new way of thinking.

    August 21, 2013 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  7. Maaseru

    ( I have to confess I did not see the Sanjay Gupta column that you're referring to, so it's hard for me to comment on it at this point," Earnest said. )
    Wow I guess this is the kidn of attitude we've come toexpect from the government when a real polarizing issue comes forth. By saying he did not read or is not aware of the article show to me the ignorance of a government to face an important issue that would help thousands and affect only a few hundreds in any sort of negative way. WAy to go! I'm sure that is all they are ever going to comment on that issue.

    August 21, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  8. ge

    Isreal is so far a head of north america in marijuana medical use ,it would take america 25 yrs to catch up .

    August 21, 2013 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  9. jaycuttie

    Most people don't stop to think why weed was labeled a category one drug. Anyone in his or her right state of mind knows weed is not as dangerous than Cocaine, Heroin and Definitely not Meth. And even alcohol for that matter alcohol is poison. Marijuana was labeled a category 1 drug to imprison African Americans.

    August 21, 2013 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
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