Aggarwal, who has become a high profile voice in the fight to legalize cannabis for the treatment of pain, says other countries are way ahead of the United States on this issue.
"If you look across Western Europe, South America and even India, there is widespread use," said Aggarwal. "It has been legal in parts of this world for a long time. We are catching up to the recognition of its uses that has long been known elsewhere. Ultimately we need a sound public health policy for both medicinal usage and as a relaxant for social usage of cannabis."
One problem is the historical stigma the drug carries that is hard to overcome via state and federal laws. Even today, when some states have legalized marijuana, individuals who operate cannabis-related businesses meet up with roadblocks, said Betty Aldworth, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, a trade group that represents nearly 300 cannabis-related businesses at the federal level.
"I think it's safe to say that things like Gupta's change of heart and Holder's statements are reflective of a broader shift in the public's view of marijuana," Aldworth said. "Through polling we know that the vast majority of Americans believe patients should have access to medical marijuana, and that a slim majority of Americans support adults being able to choose whether or not they would like to use it. Once we realize that, it is not too far a step to say that marijuana should be provided by licensed, responsible businesses."