EXCLUSIVE: Dr. Sanjay Gupta on ‘doubling down’ on medical marijuana, his new CNN film Weed 2

In Feature Stories, Media by David Silverberg

Once again, CNN’s chief medical correspondent is training his scientific eye squarely on a topic that continues to generate big buzz around the world.

Medical marijuana is the subject of Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s new film for CNN airing Tuesday March 11 at 10 p.m. ET. Weed 2: Cannabis Madness will delve deeper into the science behind the plant, a subject Gupta explored several months ago when Weed aired to great acclaim on the news network.

In a CNN article attracting 2900-plus comments, Gupta wrote: “I am more convinced than ever that it is irresponsible to not provide the best care we can, care that often may involve marijuana. I am not backing down on medical marijuana; I am doubling down.”

The Medical Marijuana Review spoke to Gupta just hours before his documentary will air on CNN about his passion for educating people about the hard data behind marijuana’s health benefits.

Medical Marijuana Review: Why are you returning to medical marijuana with Weed 2? Do you feel the original Weed couldn’t cover all the facets of this broad topic?

Gupta:  Even with an hour for the first documentary, a real luxury on CNN, I still didn’t see it as enough time to fully explain medical marijuana to a broad audience. We could’ve touched on many things such as politics in Weed but it would have seemed incomplete not to fully explore it. So I lobbied my bosses to get more time for another film. I dug deeper to learn more about the science behind medical marijuana and found it too compelling not to share on film.

Medical Marijuana Review: What does Weed 2 explore that Weed didn’t touch on?

Gupta: One thing I heard a lot from people who are curious about this issue is how does medical marijuana work, what is the science behind it? Weed 2 will be more scientifically educational and still very accessible. Science and marijuana’s state of affairs are two big themes emerging from this film.

Medical Marijuana Review: What do you want viewers to be left with once the final credits roll in Weed 2?

Gupta: They should realize from a scientific perspective that this is legitimate medication, and the science is clear on this. The data is presented very concretely, as opposed to anecdotal evidence of “I heard it did wonders for this guy.”

Here’s what we know and here is how it works. We also want to reinforce how ludicrous what is happening to patients in relation to state laws vs. federal laws, how some patients are forced to move to other states. Weed 2 will show the broader picture of medical marijuana’s impact on people’s lives.

Medical Marijuana Review: How would you gauge how physicians across the country view medical marijuana? Are they being educated about the pros and cons and do you feel they are generally supportive?

Gupta: The reaction is uneven. Medical groups, especially those closely related to neuroscience, really want to be informed on medical marijuana and some do so through their own diligence. What was interesting to me is many docs who called or emailed me didn’t want to be named but said the time has come for marijuana to be considered a legitimate medicine. Still, they are worried about a stigma being attached to marijuana and they fear talking openly about it would hurt their careers.

Medical Marijuana Review: Do you think the U.S. will federally legalize medical marijuana in our lifetime?

Gupta: It’s possible, thanks to what is happening in the South.  When Georgia started drafting its medical marijuana legislation no one could’ve predicted the vote 171-4 on the House side, approving the bill. This makes me very optimistic.

Weed 2 airs on CNN on March 11 at 10 p.m. ET on CNN. @MediReview and @MediJean will both be live-tweeting the film as it airs

Photo courtesy CNN