Dr. Mehmet Oz, the popular surgeon and television personality, brought cannabis under the spotlight recently on Fox & Friends. Dr. Oz suggested increasing cannabis use to fight the opioid crisis. How did his “Fox & Friends” hosts (and viewers) react, and could cannabis be the unifying force many Americans say they desperately want?
If we as a nation are politically divided, we’re much less so when it comes to marijuana health benefits: a recent poll shows close to two-thirds of Americans support both recreational and medical cannabis.
So what effect might Dr. Oz’s endorsement have? First, let’s look at his choice of audience for his strongly pro-cannabis remarks.
Fox & (Cannabis-Unfriendly) Friends?
The good doctor chose a controversial platform from which to talk about potential marijuana health benefits. In the past, Fox & Friends’ guests have skewed markedly anti-cannabis. In a clip from August 2017, Kathy Barnette—the host of Truth Exchange, a conservative radio show—came to comment on a CDC study indicating that middle-aged parents are more likely to use cannabis than their teenaged children.
During her short interview, Barnette displayed a keen lack of understanding of cannabis’ potential to help curb the opioid crisis. She seemed to be assuming that cannabis users turn to the drug to enhance the experience of opioid intoxication:
“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.”
Thus far, some data indicate that cannabis is much more likely to be an “exit drug” from opioids rather than a prelude to it.
Barnette also seemed alarmed with cannabis’s growing popularity. In that respect, she claimed that parents are now “spending more on marijuana than on tobacco, alcohol, and personal care combined.”
While we don’t have an opinion on personal care expenditures, in general, we believe that spending less money on alcohol and tobacco is probably a positive for society. That’s considering that alcohol accounts for roughly 88,000 deaths a year and tobacco a whopping 480,000 preventable deaths a year.
Barnette’s interview was hardly an outlier; previously, the program blasted welfare recipients for using their benefit cards to purchase marijuana. Sharp-eyed observers pointed out that, because dispensaries generally don’t accept credit cards, that claim has no basis in fact.
Host Steve Doocy has opined on cannabis in the past, voicing 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.
The Takeaway: Marijuana Health Benefits Gain Exposure
At the end of the day, it’s possible that Dr. Oz’s comments may have no immediate effect on Fox & Friends’ audience, including President Trump.
But regardless of your stance towards the show (or towards Dr. Oz, who in spite of his popularity has been widely criticized for promoting pseudoscience), the elevation of the debate over cannabis legalization to what some describe as the most powerful show on television is major.
Even if the current administration remains dead-set against legalizing marijuana, the tide of public opinion is rising. By bringing the potentially uncomfortable truth about cannabis’ medical potential to a large — and largely conservative audience — Dr. Oz has done cannabis legalization a solid.
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