Who would've thought that CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta would become one of the leading voices for medical marijuana? But he has, as evidenced by his fourth cannabis documentary, Weed 4: Pot vs. Pills, which aired Apr. 29.
Once again Gupta has picked a cutting-edge topic: how marijuana can manage pain and help people wean off of opioids. He mainly focuses on the plight of professional football players. After Tampa Bay running back Michael James broke his leg, he got hooked on pain pills prescribed to him by his team. Former NFL offensive lineman Kyle Turley suffered numeorus injuries that were treated with opioids. Both now use marijuana instead and swear by its efficacy,
An active player, James has appealed to the NFL to give him a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) for marijuana, but the league refused, citing the drug's federal prohibition.
Gupta makes a good case for cannabis as an addiction interrupter and even gets NIDA director Dr. Nora Volkow to admit it's "safer than opioids in terms of overdoses, absolutely." He also interviews Drs. Julie Holland, Mark Wallace and Sue Sisley on the subject as well as Yasmin Hurd from Mt. Sinai's Addiction Institute.
A segment is devoted to the potential FDA approval of GW Pharmaceuticals' CBD drug, Epidiolex. It's made from whole cannabis and is used as a tincture. Gupta views CBD as a wonder drug, especially for pain and inflammation.
Other scenes depict the recent Hash Bash in Ann Arbor, retail outlets including Shango in Las Vegas (Turley's favorite) and the Integr8 Health clinic in Falmouth, ME. On the anti-side, there's SAM's Patrick Kennedy, a brief statement by FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, Volkow and too many clips of AG Jeff Sessions.
Gupta's righteous indignation come through from start to finish as he calls cannabis "a gateway to recovery" while acknowledging "the power of this plant."