Marijuana Health Benefits Get a Shoutout on...Fox News?

May 2, 2018

Cannabis got a big boost in the public eye when Dr. Mehmet Oz, the popular surgeon, and television personality, suggested increasing its use to fight the opioid crisis. Perhaps even more significant was where he made this statement: on “Fox & Friends,” the centerpiece of American conservative media. Taking the opportunity to promote the growing popularity of marijuana health benefits on this program was, in many ways, a huge step forward.

Historically, the program and its hosts haven’t been particularly welcoming towards cannabis or its advocates. But Dr. Oz’s status (and popularity) in this country puts him in a different league than most other guests, and the surge of positive and grateful viewer comments received after the broadcast speak volumes. And it raises an intriguing question: Could cannabis be the unifying force many Americans say they desperately want?

Though America’s political scene is perhaps historically fractured, its citizens are increasingly unanimous when it comes to marijuana health benefits. A recent poll shows close to two-thirds of Americans support both recreational and medical cannabis. That number spikes even higher when the question is limited specifically to medical use.

Cannabis-Unfriendly Fox

Doctor Oz made a gutsy move in addressing this issue on Fox & Friends.

Back in August 2017, guest Kathy Barnette—the host of Truth Exchange, a conservative radio show—took a decidedly different stance on the issue. Barnette commented on a recent CDC study indicating that middle-aged parents are more likely to use cannabis than their teenage children.

Barnette's approach to the issue wasn't quite scientific. Apparently assuming that cannabis merely enhances the effects of opiates, she stated: “We have an opiate as well as a mental-health disorder crisis in our nation right now, and many people are self-medicating and masking it.” Barnette was also alarmed at the growing popularity of cannabis, claiming that parents are now: “…spending more on marijuana than on tobacco, alcohol, and personal care combined.”

Actually, studies indicate that cannabis is more likely to be an “exit drug” from opioids rather than gateway one.

We’re  also curious about Barnette’s math, given the breadth of all the industries that comprise “personal care.” But more to the point: less money spent on alcohol and tobacco is probably a positive for society. Given that alcohol accounts for roughly 88,000 deaths a year and tobacco a whopping 480,000, a decline in revenue for those industries doesn't seem like a bad thing.

So yes, please: Spend more on cannabis than tobacco and alcohol.

Barnette's visit wasn't the first time Fox & Friends rallied against cannabis.

Previously, Fox & Friends’ hosts had blasted welfare recipients for using their benefit cards to purchase marijuana. Sharp-eyed observers quickly pointed out that, because virtually no dispensaries accept credit card payments, the number of recipients actually making these purchases is likely at or near zero.

Co-host Steve Doocy, in particular, has attempted to speak about cannabis policy in the past. He has voiced concern that a Washington, D.C. program to help low-income residents purchase medical marijuana might be abused as a money-making scheme for would-be drug dealers.

Marijuana Health Benefits Gain a Wider Audience

Of course, it’s possible that Dr. Oz’s comments may have no immediate effect on Fox & Friends’ audience, including its “#1 fan,” President Trump.

No matter how you feel towards the show or towards Dr. Oz, who is widely criticized for promoting pseudoscience. Regardless, elevating the debate over cannabis legalization to such a popular morning program is a major step.

While the current Administration remains dead-set against legalization, the tide of public opinion is rising. By bringing the truth about cannabis’ medical potential to a large and largely conservative audience, Dr. Oz has done cannabis legalization a huge favor.

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