At the daily press briefing on Tuesday, the White House declined to comment on whether or not Sanjay Gupta’s public reversal on his opinion regarding marijuana has changed the administration’s stance on the drug.
CQ-Roll Call reporter Steve Dennis questioned White House spokesman Josh Earnest about the administration’s reaction to Gupta’s widely publicized August 9 column, “Why I changed my mind on weed,” an online op-ed Gupta wrote for CNN and precursor to the network’s subsequently aired documentary Weed. In the piece, Gupta discusses the scientific research on marijuana and its benefits in comparison to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Schedule I classification of the drug. Gupta concludes that marijuana has a low abuse potential and “very legitimate medical applications,” and issues a public apology for his previously negative stance on marijuana.
“I have apologized for some of the earlier reporting [on marijuana] because I think, you know, we’ve been terribly and systematically misled in this country for some time,” Gupta said in an interview with CNN. “And I did part of that misleading.”
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Gupta is the chief medical correspondent for CNN, and was the president’s choice for the position of surgeon general, though the doctor declined the offer.
But the White House refused to issue a reaction to the piece. In response to Dennis’s questions, including his query about whether Obama had personally reconsidered his stance given that national polls show increasing support for marijuana legalization, Earnest replied, “I have to confess I did not see the Sanjay Gupta column you’re referring to, so it’s hard for me to comment at this point.”
The Obama administration has targeted medical marijuana particularly hard, with a recent report suggesting that nearly $300 million has been spent by the administration on medical marijuana intervention in the form of lawsuits, indictments, and asset forfeiture attempts. In contrast, public opinion on marijuana has shifted in the other direction. Numerous polls conducted recently, including those by the Pew Research Center and HuffPost/YouGov, show that more than half of Americans support marijuana legalization.