Sure, the fact that Illinois and New Hampshire legalized medical marijuana this summer and dispensaries opened in a handful of states in recent months has generated a fair share of excitement in the cannabis industry.
But the biggest marijuana-related development of the year for the media, and perhaps the general public, is tied to something else all together.
Last week, Dr. Sanjay Gupta – an influential, well-known brain surgeon who rose to international prominence as CNN’s chief medical correspondent – dropped a bombshell by apologizing for his previous dismissal of medical marijuana and saying that he now believes cannabis does have legitimate uses for people with certain ailments.
Gupta said he had a change of heart while researching cannabis and interviewing patients for his CNN documentary “Weed,” which aired on Sunday.
Better late than never.
“I apologize because I didn’t look hard enough, until now. I didn’t look far enough. I didn’t review papers from smaller labs in other countries doing some remarkable research, and I was too dismissive of the loud chorus of legitimate patients whose symptoms improved on cannabis,” Gupta wrote in a column on CNN.com. “Instead, I lumped them with the high-visibility malingerers, just looking to get high.”
The column has received nearly 30,000 comments from readers and been shared hundreds of thousands of times on social media. News outlets have reported and dissected the column, and cannabis advocates have hailed it as high-level validation of their cause.
So what does it mean for the cannabis industry itself?
On the surface, not much. Gupta doesn’t have the power to change laws or directly influence those who do, of course.
But his admission – and the documentary itself – could boost the medical marijuana industry in intangible ways. For one, Gupta is a respected medical professional with a global platform to air his views, so he gives the business some much-needed credibility.
The intense media interest will also help the medical cannabis industry on a public relations front and help persuade countless individuals who are on the fence about MMJ. Additionally, his apology could eventually spark a debate in the circles of power and perhaps encourage other prominent medical leaders and experts to come out in support of MMJ.
“When well-known, respected doctors have the courage to change their minds about medical marijuana, it makes it easier for others in positions of power to follow suit,” Brad Burgehe, communications director for the Multidisciplinary Association For Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), said in a piece on the website Salon. “If patients are lucky Dr. Gupta’s gutsy admission will show regulators that even after decades of denial, it’s never too late to change their tune.”
At the very least, the industry has a high-profile medical expert in its corner, and Gupta’s apology is yet another indication that the tide is turning when it comes to medical marijuana.
Also last week, MMJ Business Daily reported that medical marijuana sales via dispensaries in Colorado are soaring, reaching an estimated $300 million during the state’s last fiscal year, which ended June 30. That represents a nearly 40% increase from the same period a year earlier – a remarkable growth spurt for a mature medical cannabis state.
The numbers show that the MMJ industry is thriving in Colorado despite a decrease in the overall number of dispensaries. Cannabis businesses that survived recent consolidation are now stronger than ever, and some dispensaries are reporting healthy profits for the first time.
Other top stories in MMJ Business Daily last week: