August 21st, 2013
12:19 AM ET
7 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. Revolution

    That's cause he's waiting to see the polls. He's your puppet!

    August 21, 2013 12:51 am at 12:51 am |
  2. jerome

    "... we're supposed to be carrying out laws."

    That's the problem in a nutshell. You are too busy trying to pass new laws to enforce existing ones.

    August 21, 2013 01:31 am at 1:31 am |
  3. dojo8181

    Give it time. The absurd amount of tax revenue that could be taken in from weed sales will eventually sway the government to make it legal. Alcohol kills, weed doesn't, it's as simple as that. Sure it's not good for children, but it would, of course have an age limit. I presume Washington and Colorado will be the test bed for age limits, and motor vehicle laws. Should have been California, but too many conservatives here to pass the law back in 2009.

    August 21, 2013 02:07 am at 2:07 am |
  4. steve

    I've defended Obama as being an intelligent guy for a long time IN SPITE of the fact that I've voted Republican last two elections. I've disagreed with what he was doing and questioned his motives, but never his intelligence. However, if a TV doctor can "persuade" the president of the United States about ANYTHING, then I'd be forced to take all that back and just assume he's an idiot whenever he does something that appears to be dumb.

    August 21, 2013 02:31 am at 2:31 am |
  5. DarkAxel

    I have to applaud Dr Gupta's honesty and I highly recommend that people take what he has to say on this matter to heart. I often disagree with some of the good doctor's conclusions on many things (full disclosure: I do not hold a PHD in anything), but I do believe that in this matter Dr Gupta is using sound scientific methodology and possesses intellectual honesty that has become increasingly rare in this country. The evidence for medical marijuana's effectiveness is mounting, and I do believe that prejudice against it is founded on propaganda and lies (Reefer Madness, anyone)?

    Personally, I would like to see Marijuana legalized for medicinal, recreational and industrial use nationwide. The benefits seem to be manifold and the downsides seem to be equal or lesser than the downsides of currently legal recreational and lifestyle drugs (like alcohol and tobacco). It is true that Marijuana smoke is just as harmful as cigarette smoke, but there are other methods of ingestion that do not rely on burning the product (I've read many studies that state that anything burnt has a harmful effect on the human body – like burnt food and spices). I know that many are arguing that Marijuana is a gateway drug. I would posit that marijuana is no more a gateway drug than alcohol, caffeine, or nicotine.

    At the very least, I do believe that We The People should encourage and seek studies on Marijuana use that are truly scientifically neutral (wrt political and societal impact) and make policy based upon objective fact vs subjective reasoning or undue political influence. If such studies proved that Marijuana would do more harm than good, I would change my opinion on this matter.

    In short I crave objective, scientific facts wrt Marijuana, not more "slippery slope" fallacies, invective, and propaganda. I also believe that most of my fellow Americans would welcome such facts as well.

    August 21, 2013 02:42 am at 2:42 am |
  6. keystnst

    It will be a slow process, but little by little this country will come to see that MJ is not the boogieman it has been made out to be by small minded people. Thank you Dr. Gupta for taking us a step nearer to decriminalization and making MJ available to those who can benefit from its healing properties.

    August 21, 2013 02:54 am at 2:54 am |
  7. Thomas

    Legalize weed and tax it ,

    To many people incarcerated over maryjane , and not enough tax on the herb .

    August 21, 2013 03:22 am at 3:22 am |
  8. Free Mark Emery

    Given that Obama doesn't have a good track record with keeping his word on what he will or will not veto, it doesn't matter very much what he says. However, if he were to come out and say he would sign a bill legalizing cannabis, congress MIGHT see it as a good opportunity to get some really good pork into a bill and actually do something about a problem that affects every single American, regardless of whether he or she consumes cannabis.

    August 21, 2013 03:56 am at 3:56 am |
  9. Kris

    Shouldn't even be Schedule II.

    August 21, 2013 04:40 am at 4:40 am |
  10. Dr. Michele Noonan

    Medical Marijuana advocates believe marijuana should be schedule 3, 4 or ideally, not scheduled at all. Medical marijuana has caused no deaths and no one has ever overdosed on it. Alcohol and nicotine are not scheduled drugs, yet have no medical value and have caused millions of deaths.

    August 21, 2013 06:18 am at 6:18 am |
  11. akita96th

    The prez wont do anything about medical pot because he is a tool of the status Que...a bought and paid for politician for corporate America.....the lame, lazy, do nothing president...How can the black community support a man who has done nothing for his black bros.....Tell me one thing he has done to make life better for the poor of his kind...

    August 21, 2013 06:21 am at 6:21 am |
  12. blake

    Legalizing marijuana is part of the far left's agenda. Holder's action last week was a significant step in that direction. Obama and the Democrats will attempt to chip away at this issue, just as they have the gay issue. No moral compass.

    August 21, 2013 06:31 am at 6:31 am |
  13. Lam

    Marijuana is a source of income to federal agencies and police departments. To legalize it is to take their new squad cars with the cameras away.

    August 21, 2013 06:35 am at 6:35 am |
  14. NoCommentCNN

    Why our Government continues this policy of prohibition against marijuana is beyond me? There are too many lobbyists supporting this "War" on Drugs because they would stand to lose huge profits, Big Pharm, For Profit prisons, the paper industry, big tobacco all standing to make sure if you are caught in possession of a plant your life will be ruined. 100 billion dollars a year is flushed down the tubes fighting marijuana.

    August 21, 2013 06:38 am at 6:38 am |
  15. Belseth

    I'm a liberal. Please Mr President. Take a stance on something!!!!!!!!! It's your second term and you can't run again so it's time to stop acting like a right wing conservative unless we actually elected a right wing conservative???? All Republicans care about are tax breaks for the rich and denying health care to most Americans. I guess gay marriage and abortion are in there some where as well. You could legalize pot and the nutjobs would barely notice. For the love of God do SOMETHING before the next election!!!! Forget a do nothing Congress we are facing a do nothing government!!!!!!!!!!!

    August 21, 2013 06:40 am at 6:40 am |
  16. the hippies were right

    Most of the lawmakers who are keeping this illegal drink x amount of liquor everyday. What medicinal value does their "drug" have? Our society has had it wrong for many many years. Believe me, the hippies were right!

    August 21, 2013 06:45 am at 6:45 am |
  17. Larry

    It would be legal now if some rich person wasn't making money because it is illegal – so who will stop contributing to some politician's campaign if we legalize it? That's the holdup for sure because nothing else matters to politicians – only money in their campaign war chest. Even the so called CNN medical expert has turned – thanks Gupta – bunch of years late but thanks anyway.

    August 21, 2013 06:57 am at 6:57 am |
  18. dl

    Marijuana enforcement = Large Govt jobs program (and politician soap box self rightousness)

    August 21, 2013 07:11 am at 7:11 am |
  19. Jackson Hall

    Is audacity the proper word to describe how CNN thinks this Gupta fellow influences the president's decision based on an op ed? Really people over there?

    August 21, 2013 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
  20. brianz72

    Obama has been a shameless coward on marijuana (among other things). He refuses to rein in the bloated, overgrown, ineffective drug enforcement industry. The Drug War, aside from being a complete failure, is also a very large government employer.

    August 21, 2013 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  21. George

    Anyone that thinks a mind altering drug will not affect young people is not thinking straight. Colorado and Washington will regret this law. Also, if it is a law dont these states have law enforcement to carry out the law? Weed fest in Washington is a prime example, incompetent law enforcement, lazy or liberals doing their best to ruin the country. As far as Obama making the carry out law comment, I wish he would actually do that rather than skirt them with executive orders or just ignore the laws of this country.

    August 21, 2013 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  22. Gurgyl

    -–nothing wrong, with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, nor WH.

    August 21, 2013 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  23. TONE

    Legalize it, and i will advertise it.

    August 21, 2013 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  24. Joe Nobody

    Who is gupta? A two bit quack who can't find a job as a doctor?

    August 21, 2013 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  25. WES

    "I head up the executive branch; we're supposed to be carrying out laws." Yeah, right. Except the laws that you decide don't need to be enforced like immigration laws, the ACA. Fairly selective enforcement if you look at history.

    August 21, 2013 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
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