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Dr. Gupta and the Weed

Dr. Sanjy Gupta

Dr. Sanjay Gupta

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, one of the most visible and popular medical doctors in the United States, a popular face on television, has just announced that up to now he’s been wrong about marijuana. He’s discovered that marijuana isn’t the terrible destructive drug he had previously said it was. And now he has a CNN special, called “Weed,”to  explain why he’s changed his mind.

Back in 2009 Dr. Gupta wrote in Time magazine about the perils of marijuana. Back then he opposed prescribing marijuana even for severe medical problems where it would have provided relief. Because back then he was being misled. But it turns out that Dr. Gupta recently did some research on the subject.  Better late than never.

Well, he didn’t actually do the research, but he read a lot of articles and medical papers about it by others who did the research, and it turns out he had been misled.  He doesn’t say so, but we think maybe he also researched the election returns and discovered that public opinion and laws about usage of marijuana have begun to change and some states have already legalized the weed.

Marijuana leaf

Marijuana leaf

Writing on CNN.com on August 8, 2013, he said,  “We have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years in the United States, and I apologize for my own role in that. “

That’s a very interesting sentence. When Dr. Gupta says “we” he seems to be including himself among the people who have been mislead, but in the second half of the sentence he apologizes “for my own role in that.” For his own role in what? His role in being misled? Being  misled doesn’t require an apology unless, of course, you were willfully blind to all the easily available articles giving an alternative view of marijuana. Maybe he’s apologizing for his role in misleading us.  Because he did mislead.

We can’t judge Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s smarts as a doctor, but we do know he’s  a media savvy TV personality. We find it hard to believe that this highly educated doctor, who is himself part of our popular culture,  didn’t know the other side of the marijuana story.  In his article on CNN.com he says, “I hope this article and upcoming documentary will help set the record straight.” We hope so, too.

Nothing Has Changed, Everything Has Changed

Betsy Ross sewing the flag for George Washington by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris

Betsy Ross Sewing the Flag for George Washington, by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris

It’s over! The seemingly endless campaign has ended! As soon as it became clear that Obama would be back in the White House for four more years, it also became evident that he’d be facing essentially the same Congress and certainly the same major players. But while much remains the same, a lot has changed. And some of the changes are remarkable.

Two states, Colorado and Washington, astonished the other forty-eight by voting to decriminalize marijuana. It’s clear that the vote puts those states in conflict with the federal government, but we have no idea what it does to those currently imprisoned for previously illegal pot possession.

And two other states, Maine and Maryland, voted to legalize gay marriage —  a decision which had never before come from the popular vote but only from legislatures or the courts.

A few months ago, Democrats seemed positioned to lose up to six seats in the Senate; instead, they added two. And Tammy Baldwin became not only the first woman senator from Wisconsin, but the first openly lesbian to be elected to the Senate. We haven’t tracked each of them down, but according to the Victory Fund, which supports gay and lesbian candidates, at least 118 gay or lesbian candidates won their races.

All in all, it was a good election cycle for women. There will now be more women in the Senate than ever before. Indeed, New Hampshire will have a woman governor and its entire Congressional delegation will be composed of women.

Medical Marijuana & The Lotus Eaters

Sixteen states plus Washington, D.C., now permit the use of medical marijuana. Federal law doesn’t recognize medical marijuana, and the blue-nose mean-minded Bush administration made life difficult for certain doctors, patients and marijuana dispensaries. State law still doesn’t beat federal law, but the Obama administration has said it won’t prosecute people who use the drug if it’s prescribed by a physician, nor will the feds attempt to close down the marijuana dispensaries. Maybe you thought that California had a lot of marijuana dispensaries; you’re right, it does. But Colorado stands out by having more marijuana outlets than it has Starbucks coffee shops.

Marijuana leaf

Marijuana leaf

Our attention was caught by the names of some of the Colorado dispensaries as well as what they have to offer. The Ganja Gourmet claims to be “America’s First Medical Marijuana Restaurant-Dispensary!” And we believe it’s a reasonable claim. The Herbal Cure doesn’t offer gourmet dining but does provide massage therapy as well as the weed. Then there’s Denver Relief which describes itself as “a wellness and medical marijuana center dedicated to assisting people with making positive and natural changes in their lives.” If that’s too fancy an enterprise for you, there’s the simpler and more direct Discount Medical Marijuana. And we can’t forget Lotus Medical, a name which joins the antiseptic “medical” to Alfred Tennyson’s “The Lotus Eaters,” his extraordinarily lush poem about a land “In which it seemed always afternoon.”

“All round the coast the languid air did swoon,
Breathing like one that hath a weary dream.
Full-faced above the valley stood the moon;
And, like a downward smoke, the slender stream
Along the cliff to fall and pause and fall did seem.”

Tennyson was drawing on that passage in the Odyssey where a few men from Odysseus’s crew go ashore on an island where the inhabitants eat the narcotic lotus and spend their lives in dreamy passivity.  In fact, a couple of Odysseus’s men who eat the lotus succumb and give up all thought of returning home.

It certainly isn’t cool to read Alfred Tennyson today but, you know, the man had a way with words. You’re right, you won’t get high reading a Victorian poet, unless you can read and smoke at the same time.  (It’s not that difficult.)  If you’re curious about the poem you can read it here. It’s really lush.

More Notes


Tim Carmody, in his excellent piece, "How Haiti Became Poor", notes that President Trump's racist policies and vulgar language have sullied the word "shithole" which used to be one of the all-time great swear words. He's right. It's another terrible power this careless President wields.