Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN's chief medical correspondent, has written an open letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions saying medical marijuana could save the lives of up to 10,000 people every year who are addicted to opioids.
Gupta's open letter was posted on the CNN website on Tuesday morning.
"I feel obligated to share the results of my five-year-long investigation into the medical benefits of the cannabis plant," he wrote to Sessions. "Before I started this worldwide, in-depth investigation, I was not particularly impressed by the results of medical marijuana research, but a few years later, as I started to dedicate time with patients and scientists in various countries, I came to a different conclusion.
"Not only can cannabis work for a variety of conditions such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and pain, sometimes, it is the only thing that works. I changed my mind, and I am certain you can, as well. It is time for safe and regulated medical marijuana to be made available nationally.
"I realize this is an unconventional way to reach you, but your office declined numerous requests for an interview, and as a journalist, a doctor and a citizen, I felt it imperative to make sure you had access to our findings."
Gupta noted there was added urgency since the nation is in the middle of a "deadly opioid epidemic." And he said every day, 115 Americans die from opioid overdoses.
"These are desperate times, and while some may consider making medical marijuana widely available to be a desperate measure, the evidence has become increasingly clear of the important role cannabis can have," he said.
He said a study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found a 20 percent decline on opioid overdose deaths between 1999 and 2010 in states with legalized medical marijuana.
"It's not the first time this association between medical marijuana and opioid overdose has been found," he said. "Though it is too early to draw a cause-effect relationship, these data suggest that medicinal marijuana could save up to 10,000 lives every year."
And, he maintained, he has met patients all over the U.S. "who have weaned themselves off opioids using cannabis."
He said making medical marijuana available should be regulated to ensure safety. Gupta added medical marijuana should be kept away from children, pregnant women and some others.
And he told Sessions: "Recently, your fellow conservative (former House Speaker) John Boehner changed his mind after being ‘unalterably opposed' to marijuana in the past. If you do the same, Mr. Attorney General, thousands of lives could be improved and saved. There is no time to lose."
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