By David Casarett, M.D.
for Huffington Post
Dear Mr. Rosenberg:
When I heard you say recently that you thought medical marijuana was a “joke,” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. But I knew then what I think you’re beginning to figure out now, which is that saying something like that gets you in a whole heap of trouble.
As I think you’ve realized, those opinions are direct repudiation of the beliefs of all of those people who are using marijuana for medical reasons. (Even the most conservative estimates based on registered users conclude that well over a millionpeople in the U.S. alone are using marijuana medically).
So I’m sorry for what you’ve been through in the past two weeks. Especially those pesky people (about 100,000 of them) who have signed a petition calling for your resignation. That must be bothering you a bit.
But don’t give up. All is not lost, and you could learn to see marijuana differently.
I can say that with confidence because two years ago I thought medical marijuana was a joke too. I figured it offered no real medical benefits, and that it was just a way to get high legally.
My (re)education started in my work as a palliative care physician, when one of my patients asked me whether I thought medical marijuana might help her. The answer I gave her, I’m embarrassed to admit, is pretty much what you told people of United States: Marijuana has no medical benefits. Put simply, I told her that the idea of “medical” marijuana is a joke.
That patient of mine could’ve walked out of my office to look for another, more open-minded doctor. But, luckily for me, she didn’t. Instead she handed me several reprints of randomized controlled trials showing that in fact medical marijuana does offer real medical benefits.
So in that moment I had to admit that my patient knew more than I did about the science of medical marijuana. And I figured if I was that ignorant about marijuana’s benefits, then many of my colleagues probably were too. That’s when I decided to spend two years researching and writing a book about the medical benefits of marijuana.
In the last two years I’ve had to admit that I was wrong. Very wrong. (In much the same way, and for the same reasons, that you’re wrong now.)
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