Dr. Sanjay Gupta on CNN
CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains why he changed his mind on marijuana. Image from broadcast

This article is an open letter from a San Diego physician to CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta about his conclusion that medical marijuana can be beneficial.

Dear Dr. Gupta:

I invite you to visit my emergency department or any one in California or Colorado before advocating marijuana and its medicinal use. The volume of emergency department visits in San Diego related to marijuana has increased 830 percent from 2006 to 2014.

Marijuana is made up of many chemicals; some are psychoactive like THC and some are not. It is important to distinguish between the two when discussing treatment options, especially for people who have pre-existing mental health issues.

I see patients every day with medical marijuana cards. Those card holders did not require anything that resembled the thorough examination I would give to prescribe actual medicine. And every day I treat patients with psychosis, anxiety, palpitations, chest pain and scromiting (cannabis hyperemesis syndrome) due to marijuana use.

I admitted an elderly cancer patient with chest pain and palpitations after he ate a pot brownie that was promised to resolve nausea from chemotherapy.

Another patient with fibromyalgia passed out and suffered a serious head injury after eating pot gummy bears.

Our emergency departments are facing a crisis in psychiatric boarding and many of those patients are regular marijuana users whose brains are hijacked by the high content of THC in marijuana, exacerbating their mental illness.

The opioid epidemic is in fact fueled by growing marijuana use. This is seen by increased opioid deaths in Colorado, the fact that most people who became addicted to opioids started with marijuana, and studies from medical examiners offices.

Early in the days of tobacco the medical community supported and encouraged smoking. They were wrong. Early in the opioid epidemic physicians encouraged prescribing and ridiculed those of us who stood opposed. They were wrong.

Now, some in medicine are pushing marijuana. They are wrong, and you are too, Dr. Gupta.

There is a common theme to all these substances: money.  Public health should stand before profit.

Roneet Lev

Roneet Lev is chief of the emergency department at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego and a supporter of the San Diego County Marijuana Prevention Initiative.