* Updated on April 22, 2015
Mainstream media coverage of marijuana continues to enhance the dialogue on marijuana’s legitimacy as medicine. With Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent being one of the most respected celebrity doctors on television, he is well positioned to share serious discussion on medical marijuana with a larger audience.
On April 19, 2015, “Weed 3: The Marijuana Revolution,” the third installment of Gupta’s medical marijuana documentary series, premiered on CNN, and delivered a progress report to those who haven’t kept up with medical marijuana in the news.
“Weed 3” opened with Chrissy Kiernan recounting her husband Sean’s near-fatal overdose on prescription pills. After surviving this experience, Sean, a veteran of the U.S. Army, Airborne Infantry, turned to medical marijuana as an alternative treatment option for his PTSD.
The pathos of Sean Kiernan’s personal story likely pulled in viewers because it is hard for most to ignore the ubiquity of pharmaceuticals and the suffering of our veterans. With the emotional hook in place, “Weed 3” braided narratives from multiple medical marijuana sources.
Gupta featured Dr. Sue Sisley, a clinical psychiatrist, and Rick Doblin, Founder and Executive Director of The Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies, and their attempts to study medical marijuana as a legitimate treatment option for veterans suffering from PTSD.
Between clips of Sisley and Doblin, “Weed 3” incorporated insight from Mahmoud ElSohly, lead scientist for the University of Mississippi’s cannabis research program; Staci Ann Gruber, Ph.D., an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard who is studying marijuana’s effects on the brain; Amelia Taylor, a participant in Gruber’s study; Douglas Throckmorton, the FDA’s Deputy Director of Regulatory Programs; Nora Volkow, M.D., Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse; and many others.
In an exclusive interview with President Barack Obama, Gupta asked the president his thoughts on medical marijuana. “I think carefully prescribed medical use of marijuana may in fact be appropriate and we should follow the science as opposed to ideology on this issue,” Obama said.
The president’s statement may not be all that the media had pumped it up to be, but it does signify his willingness, while still in office, to publicly acknowledge that marijuana may be an effective medicine.
Gupta also spoke with Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., regarding the CARERS Act, which is aimed at reducing the federal government’s interference with state-legal medical marijuana programs, increasing medical marijuana research opportunities and rescheduling marijuana from a Schedule I substance to a Schedule II substance.
“Once you make the class of drug Schedule II, you can then research it and find out what are the medical impacts, and when can you use it, when does it make sense,” Gillibrand explained to Gupta.
Beyond its political implications, the crux of “Weed 3” was compassion grounded in logic. It challenged viewers to open their minds to the possibilities of medical marijuana. And while this documentary may not have taught industry members anything new, this type of mainstream publicity is what will help remove marijuana’s stigma from the collective conscience.