Sanjay Gupta: 'I Apologize' for Anti-Marijuana Advocacy

In the past Gupta cautioned against legalizing the drug brandishing his medical credentials.

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Sanjay Gupta, left, and documentary subject Paige Figis attend the "Weed: Dr. Sanjay Gupta Reports" screening at Time Warner Center in New York City, Aug. 6, 2013.
Sanjay Gupta, left, and documentary subject Paige Figis attend the "Weed: Dr. Sanjay Gupta Reports" screening at Time Warner Center in New York City, Aug. 6, 2013.

CNN personality Sanjay Gupta, a doctor regularly on air to discuss public health, is apologizing for his past anti-marijuana advocacy.

In a Thursday editorial for CNN's website, the occasionally smug defender of conventional wisdom says his research for the documentary "Weed" - set to air August 11 on CNN - brought him around.

"I apologize because I didn't look hard enough" in the past, he writes. "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's newfound position is notable because in the past he cautioned against legalizing the drug brandishing his medical credentials.

[READ: Marijuana Legalization Advocates Hold Breath After Wash. Dispensary Raids]

"[M]arijuana isn't really very good for you," he wrote in a 2009 op-ed for Time magazine, as Colorado and Nevada considered marijuana legalization. "I'm here to tell you, as a doctor, that despite all the talk about the medical benefits of marijuana, smoking the stuff is not going to do your health any good."

Now, the doctor says marijuana is illegal "[n]ot because of sound science, but because of its absence" and that in the past he "mistakenly believed the Drug Enforcement Agency listed marijuana as a schedule 1 substance because of sound scientific proof."

A review of U.S. medical studies on marijuana, Gupta wrote, revealed that just 6 percent focus on possible medical benefits, while the remainder look at harm the substance can cause.

The drug may be less harmful than prescriptions that can lead to overdoses, Gupta noted, and he expressed optimism about foreign studies looking at its effect on cancer and PTSD.

[RELATED: Rand Paul Upsets Marijuana Activists by Saying Drug 'Isn't Healthy']

"I think we have been terribly and systematically misled in this country for some time, and I did part of that misleading," Gupta said during a Wednesday appearance on CNN's "Piers Morgan Live."

The CNN correspondent's shift comes amid a national pivot on pot. An April poll conducted by Gallup found that a 52 percent majority of Americans support legalization of weed. A Fox News poll released in May found 85 percent support for medical marijuana. Twenty states and Washington, D.C., currently allow medical marijuana and two states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized marijuana for recreational use.

"Patient advocates are pleased to see Dr. Sanjay Gupta come out in support of medical marijuana, a distinct change from his previous position on the issue," Kris Hermes, a spokesman for the pro-medical marijuana group Americans for Safe Access, told U.S. News. "Dr. Gupta follows in the footsteps of medical organizations like the American Medical Association and the American College of Physicians, which have urged review of the federal government's outdated classification of marijuana as a Schedule I substance, [meaning] one of the country's most dangerous drugs with no therapeutic value."

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