Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN's chief medical correspondent, has issued his strongest statement on legal weed yet, calling for a full-scale "medical marijuana revolution."
"We should legalize medical marijuana," he wrote in an op-ed published Thursday on CNN's website. "We should do it nationally. And, we should do it now."
Gupta's comments come ahead of "Weed 3," the third installment of his documentary series that explores the plant's medical effectiveness and evolving status in society.
The episode, premiering Sunday on CNN, will include high-resolution renderings of what happens to the brain when individuals use cannabis. It will also follow those engaging in the country's first federally approved clinical study of marijuana on PTSD patients and feature interviews with President Barack Obama and other lawmakers, including Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).
"I see a revolution that is burning white hot among young people, but also shows up among the parents and grandparents in my kids' school," Gupta's op-ed continues. "A police officer I met in Michigan is part of the revolution, as are the editors of the medical journal, Neurosurgery. I see it in the faces of good parents, uprooting their lives to get medicine for their children."
The celebrity doctor wasn't always such a stringent supporter of medical pot, however, even going so far as to explain why he would "vote no" on the issue in a 2009 piece for Time magazine. He first publicly revealed his evolved stance before the first episode of "Weed" debuted in 2013.
"I am here to apologize," Gupta wrote at the time. "We have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years in the United States, and I apologize for my own role in that."
He took those comments a step further in an exclusive interview with The Huffington Post the following year, declaring his support for full-scale federal legalization of medical marijuana. "In terms of making this legal for medicinal purposes -- yes," he said. "I am not backing down on medical marijuana; I am doubling down."
Although 24 states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes, the drug remains a federally illegal Schedule One substance, which means the government considers it to have no medicinal value. However, a growing body of evidence, bolstered by a series of high-profile cases chronicled in the media, suggests otherwise. In addition, a recent CBS poll found that 86 percent of Americans think doctors should be able to prescribe medical marijuana for serious illnesses.
Despite the evidence and overwhelming support, many prominent lawmakers continue to speak out against the issue. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who is largely considered to be one of the Republican presidential front-runners, said in an interview earlier this week that he would continue to enforce the federal ban on medical marijuana should he be elected.
"Absolutely," he replied when asked if he would crack down on states that have legalized pot. "I will crack down and not permit it."
"Weed 3: The Marijuana Revolution" premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. EST on CNN.