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Obama Administration: Surgeon General Nominee Gupta Hates Marijuana, Sort of Supports Medical Use
Sanjay Gupta (
Drug reformers busily poring over the tea leaves in an effort to discern the drug policy intentions of the incoming Obama administration have found little solace in the announcement that it will nominate Dr. Sanjay Gupta for the position of surgeon general. One of America's most famous doctors, Gupta is a neurosurgeon who also doubles as a correspondent for CNN and CBS News.

The Obama administration offer came after a two-hour meeting between Gupta and Obama in Chicago in November. At that meeting, Obama told Gupta he would have an expanded role in providing health policy advice and would be the highest-profile surgeon general in history.

Gupta has a history in health policy. He served as a White House fellow in the 1990s, writing speeches and advising Hillary Clinton on health policy issues. He is also an accomplished, telegenic communicator.

While he has received criticism from some quarters for being too friendly with big pharmaceutical companies and from others for wrongly accusing filmmaker Michael Moore of falsehoods in his documentary "Sicko," it is his old-school views on marijuana that are raising hackles in drug reform circles. Most famously, in a November 2006 editorial in Time magazine, Gupta, while acknowledging marijuana's medical benefits for some patients, went on to repeat a raft of long-debunked anti-marijuana myths as reasons for opposing marijuana reform initiatives on the ballot in Nevada and Colorado that week. In Gupta's words:

"Maybe it's because I was born a couple of months after Woodstock and wasn't around when marijuana was as common as iPods are today, but I'm constantly amazed that after all these years -- and all the wars on drugs and all the public-service announcements -- nearly 15 million Americans still use marijuana at least once a month. California and 10 other states have already decriminalized marijuana for medical use. Two states -- Colorado and Nevada -- are considering ballot initiatives that would legalize up to an ounce of pot for personal use by people 21 and older, whether or not there is a medical need.

"What do voters need to know before going to the polls?

"The first is that marijuana isn't really very good for you. True, there are health benefits for some patients. Several recent studies, including a new one from the Scripps Research Institute, show that THC, the chemical in marijuana responsible for the high, can help slow the progress of Alzheimer's disease. (In fact, it seems to block the formation of disease-causing plaques better than several mainstream drugs.) Other studies have shown THC to be a very effective antinausea treatment for people -- cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, for example -- for whom conventional medications aren't working. And medical cannabis has shown promise relieving pain in patients with multiple sclerosis and reducing intraocular pressure in glaucoma patients.

"But I suspect that most of the people eager to vote yes on the new ballot measures aren't suffering from glaucoma, Alzheimer's or chemo-induced nausea. Many of them just want to get stoned legally. That's why I, like many other doctors, am unimpressed with the proposed legislation, which would legalize marijuana irrespective of any medical condition.

"Why do I care? As Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, puts it, "Numerous deleterious health consequences are associated with [marijuana's] short- and long-term use, including the possibility of becoming addicted."

"What are other health consequences? Frequent marijuana use can seriously affect your short-term memory. It can impair your cognitive ability (why do you think people call it dope?) and lead to long-lasting depression or anxiety. While many people smoke marijuana to relax, it can have the opposite effect on frequent users. And smoking anything, whether it's tobacco or marijuana, can seriously damage your lung tissue.

"The Nevada and Colorado marijuana initiatives have gained support from unlikely places. More than 33 religious leaders in Nevada have endorsed the measure, arguing that permissive legalization, accompanied by stringent regulations and penalties, can cut down on illegal drug trafficking and make communities safer.

"Perhaps. But I'm here to tell you, as a doctor, that despite all the talk about the medical benefits of marijuana, smoking the stuff is not going to do your health any good. And if you get high before climbing behind the wheel of a car, you will be putting yourself and those around you in danger."

Whether Gupta if confirmed will support medical marijuana -- as opposed to mere THC-based pharmaceuticals such as Marinol -- or do good for drug policy reform in other ways, remains to be seen. And he did demonstrate a willingness to acknowledge some of the arguments made by the other side. But his apparent blindness to the harm caused to marijuana users by arrest and incarceration is not a great first sign. Change we can believe in for drug policy? Only time will tell.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Forward to the Past

Did he really say "Why do you think they call it dope?"

It's really scary that any intelligent person could be so uninformed about the realities of cannabis (as opposed to myths and superstitions). It's even scarier that such a person would be Surgeon General.

Is Anybody Inside this Head?

Why is it that everyone who speaks against "pot" fails to speak against alcohol? And why is the issue involving mass amounts of money due to liquor being legal, while people who use pot will be able to grow it and leave the government with empty pockets? Is society that ignorant, or does it just choose to ignore what is so very obvious?!

True that.

Alcohol has been legal for years and years! So people get a little "dopey" and lazy on pot. Most of the people I knew didn't enjoy social situations when they were "stoned". Less chances of getting behind the wheel of a car. More likely to wander around on foot or bicycle. Less gas. Less cops.
Alcohol destroys the liver, stomach, heart, circulatory system, families, and drivers license. I have even seen it destroy self respect in a lot of people. People get children taken from them because they have evedence of marijuana use, ie; bag, bong, bowl, maybe a plant. Parents thrown in jail for 7 years. Alcoholics get their children taken from them because of evidence of alcohol use, ie; cigarette burns on children, beaten kids and spouses, house a total wreck, parents at a bar and nobody watching their kids, parents getting into alcohol related accidents that kill or severely injure their children. The list goes on! Need I say more? How many times have you seen bar fights, and how many times have you see stoned people fight?
Seems more like a battle for power and money than looking out for one's health! As long as these politicians don't stand up for what they really believe in. these drunk bastards will stay in their cars and run over everything in their paths at 3am!

-We just have more sense than others! Peace!

No one is at their quickest or sharpest when high. Admit it.

I have been a member and supported stopping the war on drugs for years now, but, come on, are you serious when you cannot acknowledge how dopey people get when they smoke pot? People I know (I admit it - I am "informed" about the realities of cannabis) think more slowly, react more slowly, recognize trouble more slowly. That is "dopey". Sometimes smoking pot can lead to greater depth of thought, but sometimes, it just leads to some really dumb stuff. What are your realities of cannabis? Seriously. I am not trying to slam you. I want to know, because maybe the problem is that different people react so differently that this is where all the various "realities" are coming from and the disagreements over what the realities of cannabis are.

First, I wanted to thank you

First, I wanted to thank you for your response to the article here because while you do raise a point that frustrates those of us trying to further the freedoms of marijuana use, you are at least willing to acknowledge that we have valid points as well and seem willing to discuss them.

Like you said, it is true that everyone experiences the effects of marijuana differently and different qualities of marijuana produce different highs that can seriously impair judgement. As an advocate for legalization, I know that it would greatly further our cause if we were able to determine whether or not someone was high, like we can with blood alcohol tests, to prevent "high driving" just as we try to prevent drunk driving. But alas, that technology is currently unavailable. While most marijuana users are able to function just fine...if not comically...and yes, even drive under the influence of THC, I will admit that there is a risk factor in a small population of users that might drive dangerously under the influence. However, this risk (which is significantly lower than the numbers of instances involved with alcohol related accidents) is certainly not substantial enough to prove that Americans are incapable of making responsible decisions in regards to marijuana. The relatively small number of accidents associated with marijuana use is not sufficient enough to say that responsible marijuana use for productive members of society should be disallowed. And for those that ask "Who are the responsible members of society?"...

Luckily we live in a free country that has given us the chance to prove that on a daily basis already. If you're responsible enough to pay your bills, maintain your health, raise a family, and handle the country's ever growing economic turmoil I think that you are qualified to make the decision of whether or not you want to end your day with a relaxing joint at home.

A slowpoke

I bet that even Og the Caveman, after a long, hard day of digging up roots and chasing mammoths went back to his cave, sat down in his favorite pit and kicked back. At least for a couple of hours he didn't worry about cave bears and sabertooth tigers. Even Og knew that there's no need to be on the alert every friggin' moment of the day.

Is there any particular reason why I must not "think more slowly, react more slowly, recognize trouble more slowly" some times more than others? I think and react as fast as I need at work and dealing with the world, generally. But there is some time left over when I don't have to be on the alert, when I don't need to react fast but take the time to let things expand interestingly into ancillary issues if that's where they lead. I can read, and reflect on what I'm reading. I could assemble a Lego and even that can be fascinating and a source of concentration. I can even stand in my foyer and admire the workmanship of the tiler who recently re-did the foyer, dining room, and kitchen floors. How skilled he was in lining up the tiles to give the illusion of continuous lines through different rooms that are divided by walls, and the fineness of his corner work. What is there to be on the alert for? An earthquake? That way, folks, lies insanity.

Actually, people could benefit from thinking "more slowly" and certainly reacting slower when faced with problems that require some consideration. Fast decisions are not necessarily the best answer to many questions. (The ancient Teutons recognized this by debating important questions twice, once when sober, and another when they got drunk as skunks. After the two debates, they decided the question.)

And the thing that helps me achieve this state of seeing and reflection, that allows me to slow down and contemplate the events of the day and many other things besides, is cannabis, also known as marijuana, a word I tend to avoid because of the propaganda that has poisoned the minds of millions. I will never stop smoking it, no matter what the law says, or the doctors say, and regardless of every single drug warrior on this earth, or the United Nations, or whatever.

Any harm that comes from cannabis and all other drugs can be laid at the feet of the prohibitionists who have instituted a policy that is a certain recipe for crime, including the murder spree currently going on in Mexico. That's only a Capone-type gang war with more combatants and enhanced weaponry, the ineluctable consequence of prohibition.

Okay, now public opinion. Did what I wrote appear "dopey" to the readers? If so, I apologize. If my comments seem normal and coherent then know that I recently smoked a nice, big joint, by a rough estimate number 48,180 in my life ...

Ahhhhhh! The Bangers!

The last time I checked the Ghetto, they were fighting over cocaine and crack. Not marijuana.
The prison population who walk around with the tattoos, and love the place like home are the murders and meth freaks, not potheads.
The people who sit in front of the liquor store begging for change are quite apparent with their intentions, not potheads.
The people who hit their kids, wives, dog, cat, mother, grandma, and anybody else walking by can use marijuana, not Prozak or Lithium, and definitely not booze!

This is an overgeneralization

Marijuana has different effects on different people. It doesn't slow everyone's cognitive function and for myself it aids in concentration. Just ask my transcript from my first 2 years in college. 4.0 baby!! Due to it's illegality, there cannot be a large enough sample to determine the effects on all people. However, I would like to say, use it at your own risk. It turns some people into real drool-cup and helmet dumbasses. However I suspect that they were morons preceding their choice to inhale.

Reefer Madness 2008

I read Dr Sanjay Gupta's Time article. He seemed to be very honest and forthright about its benefits and risks, HOWEVER, he lost his subjectivity when he stated, "Why do you think they call it dope?"
He made the comment that he opposes Marijuana for people "Who just want to get stoned." He failed to equate this statement to other legal highs, like alcohol, tobacco, caffiene, and it left me wondering why he omitted this important issue from his article. Was this edited out by Time? Or is he a shill, propped up by lobbyists advocating legal drugs, but he doesnt want to revisit SG Joselyn Elder's fate when she suggested that all drugs should be legalized? Will he advocate for drug companies and current legal highs, but not want to stir up the controversy of the suggestion of legalizing Marijuana? An effective Surgeon General should be a free thinker and not be forced to read from a script like a talking head puppet with the DEA pulling the strings, spewing the current government talking points.
I say no to Gutpa's appointment!!!

Ganja and Dr. Gupta

Dr, Gupta has his views on ganja smoking which is not a bad one. He will make a smart and considerate SG.
But my own view is that marijuana (ganja) should be fully legalized in every state in the USA. The reason I have this view is that there is always a section in any society that is bent upon trying this or that and there is nothing one can do to stop it. So, if 15 million people in the USA smoke daily or occasionally, it is no surprise. This % (about 2% to 5%) of ganja users is present in every society. Some quit and move on but new ones join in. However, the percentage remains almost constant.
My take is that with societal, parental, school, religious, and governmental educational campaigns, we can turn pot smoking into a social taboo. By turning pot smoking into a taboo, we can keep the % of smokers constant at 2% to 5% and drastically reduce the mad spending of billions of dollars per year on drug control enforcement.

Bad choice

Closed minded doctors will not make good surgeon generals! And the fact that he is a neurosurgeon makes me think he is less capable of handling the US Public Health Corp! They need a less specialized doctor or one that knows about public health, at least!

Gutpa sounds like a Big Pharma and Prison-Industrial shill

I reluctantly find myself agreeing with those who read between the lines that Gupta engages in extremely selectively "drug policy" statements in this Time article.
What? No mention of alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, anti-depressants and other similar under-scrutinized/under-researched Big Pharma products and their deleterious side-effects that are already in our grocery and pharmacy shelves?
If anything, Gupta comes out shooting against marijuana, the rest is window dressing to claim objectivity.
I would take Gupta seriously if he examined, point by point and compared and contrasted the other controversial--but legal--drugs in our society. By not doing so Gupta undermines his claims to objectivity on the marijuana debate.
Where I come from this is known as _intellectual dishonesty_.
I used to prosecute drug law users and their corner retailers. Bust one, another takes their place.
It's a constant. The sole "cure" is to alter the socio-economic dynamics that drive people to embrace their drug of choice as a substitute for other simple, but all too often economically unattainable, pleasures.
Besides, how under God's good earth would the prison-industrial complex profiteers and their enabling employees earn an honest living? How else would we rid ourselves of the chronically unemployed and under-employed (absurdly under-educated minority and marginalized) males caused by our militarist policies under the "Truman Doctrine?"
This updated, drug "Inquisition" provides the perfect, profitable solution: lock 'em up! Gupta is just one more Inquisitor in this sorry chain.

Truman Doctrine

The Truman Doctrine was the policy under which the United States opposed Soviet Expansion. I don't think it has too many effects on people now. Dope.


He may be a brilliant neurosurgeon, but he certainly lacks the "intellectual curiosity" needed to overcome government fed propoganda and is completely hypocritical by ignoring booze and other acceptable mind altering substances. NO for surgeon general.

Surgeon General Gupta

Dr. Gupta,

Your cure is killing the patient.

I figure Obama would prove to be a hippocrit on this issue

I figured Obama would prove to be a hippocrit on this issue, just like Clinton, only gathering up names of those who support it so they can prosecute them somewhere in the future. I hope no one spent any money in the drug law reform world on getting him elected. This Gupta looks Muslim and we know how the Muslim world views any drug use, they kill people over it. Look at what has been happening in Amsterdam and Rotterdam as the Muslims move into the area, there is rampant talk of doing away with prostitution and the coffee houses. Dont let our freedom be destroyed by erroneous hippocrits who are bring us Muslim leadership that we did not elect. The best thing to do is block his nomination and call Obama out on his hippocracy.

Seems a bit racist

Your comments, while on the right track are attacking the wrong aspect of this man. I don't think Dr. Gupta is muslim, more likely Indian. But that doesn't matter, his race or religion shouldn't be attacked because he is uninformed (whether intentionally or not) about medicinal and recreational cannabis use. I also doubt that President-elect Obama will begin prosecuting supporters who claim to have used cannabis. He made the same claim himself.


I second that on the racist rant!


I don't know guys, after hearing the past half dozen "drug czars" and Suregon Generals rail against marijuana like psychopathic nutjobs, Dr. Gupta sounds like a breath of fres(er) air. Sure, he's got to be a dick and tow the federal line and bas marijuana, but he actually ADMITTED, IN PRINT, that marijuana has some benefits, and that, to me is a huge step forward for the Surgeon General. I would not expect Obama to put a doctor in that position who would come out and say "yeah, marijuana prohibition is bullshit and marijuana is obviously good for you", even though everyone knows that's the real deal. Anyone remember what happened to Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders???

Small steps in the right direction are better than bold leaps in the wrong direction, which is what we've been getting for the last 40 years.

In print?

I thought the referral to the anti-prohibition report was a mistake? He definitely sounded like he was anti-cannabis. He seems like a nice enough guy, on TV. Maybe that would make him a bad choice, as well. The wolves in Washington DC would eat him up!

stoned gupta

i'm stoned so take it as you will.

i've seen dr gupta numerous times on tv and he always seemed to be knowlegable about his chosen subjects.

i think there is more than what meets the eye here.

any alterternatives i can think of are less viable

The Writing is on the wall, folks...

Some of you just don't want to read it. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Get ready for more of the same people. A large majority of the people voted for Obama in the "hope" that he'd make the effort to remove Cannabis from it's scheduled status. This last pick (Gupta) should make you see it's not going to happen. Biden. Holder. Gupta. In my opinion, those of you (admirably) trying to remain optimistic resemble beggar children happily scrounging for crumbs, hoping to find a steak. Wash down those stale breads crumbs with.......Some OBAMA KOOLAID!

Just do your own thing and quit worrying about legalization. Just do it.




DOT HS 808 078 NOVEMBER 1993


Drivers under the influence of marijuana tend to over-estimate the adverse effects of the drug on their driving quality and compensate when they can; e.g. by increasing effort to accomplish the task, increasing headway or slowing down, or a combination of these

Drivers under the influence of alcohol tend to under-estimate the adverse effects of the drug on their driving quality and do not invest compensatory effort

I wouldn't use marijuana and drive. But, this proves that marijuana is safer than alcohol. On the issue of Obama & Gupta. The previous commenter is correct. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. People are going to use marijuana no matter what anyone says. This simple fact is what's going to get marijuana legalized one day.

yay . . .you bought it

CHANGE!!! lol . . . sure!

Keep it illegal

The majority of “responsible” Americans support the current laws on marijuana. As a police officer I can attest to the fact that dope makes people really stupid. It is a gateway drug and proliferates criminal activity. Alcohol is abused as well; however alcohol in moderation has not been proven to be harmful to my knowledge. Personally I would not shed a tear if alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana were all illegal. I have never encountered a pot smoker on a high that did not appear to be absolutely embarrassing. These legalization nuts out there simply want law enforcement’s support on a harmful vice and it is not going to happen. Live about the influence, say NO to weed!

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