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Prominent doctor comes out in favor of marijuana legalization

Dr. Richard Besser of ABC News
Dr. Richard Besser of ABC News
Photo by Mike Coppola

ABC News Chief Health and Medical Editor, and former CDC director, Dr. Richard Besser recently came out in favor of marijuana legalization. On an episode of ABC's 'This Week" he admitted to initially being against legalization in a knee-jerk reaction since he has teenage boys, but his opinion evolved upon learning more about it. He now joins CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta as nationally recognized doctors who chose to educate themselves about medical marijuana and came out in favor.

Dr. Besser reasoned, “It’s just not rational that adults don’t have the choice of using marijuana, but they do for alcohol. Marijuana is less likely to be addictive, it’s less likely to cause car accidents and birth defects, it’s less likely to cause domestic violence. So how do you rationally say that it’s okay to drink alcohol, with that profile, but it’s not okay to occasionally use marijuana?"

Dr. Gupta went so far as to apologize for his former, prohibitionist views, as well as produce a documentary detailing what led him to change his mind and how we have all been systematically mislead about the effects of marijuana. The documentary was surprisingly aired on CNN and later that month Gupta had a marijuana strain named after him.

"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," said Dr. Gupta. "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.'"

Dr. Jon LaPook of CBS News and Dr. Nancy Snyderman of NBC News both seem to be maintaining neutrality so far, though there are varying degrees of neutrality. Dr. LaPook simply took the role of neutral moderator in a debate while Dr. Snyderman took a look into the life of a child whose life has improved due to medical marijuana. Meanwhile, Dr. Oz is refusing to evolve and insists on under-representing marijuana's benefits while over-inflating its risks, though in his defense, he did leave it to a staffer to write this up so he can be free to change his mind later and say those weren't his views.