Dear Stoner: Can this hippie medicine really cure cancer, or are all of these activists just getting too high off their own supply?
Dear Key: Yes, some parts of the cannabis plant have been shown to kill cancer cells in certain cases — though to say outright that marijuana cures cancer is oversimplifying things a wee bit. We stoners do that sometimes.
On the one hand, there's a load of grassroots information and testimonials from patients who swear that concentrated cannabis oil has put their cancer into remission or killed it off entirely. Among the most well-known is the story of Rick Simpson, who insists that his whole-plant extract called Phoenix Tears banished his skin cancer. He even has a series of online videos dubbed "Run From the Cure" to prove it. Simpson's not alone, though: Dozens of patients have similar stories. For example, four-year-old Cash Hyde gained national attention last year after his parents — desperate for anything to help save their son from advancing brain cancer — began giving him cannabis oil for his nausea and pain. They also claim that the oil helped keep tumors at bay.
Even if you don't believe in any of that "hippie medicine" stuff (and we're not saying we buy every claim, either), there's been some actual scientific research done on cannabis and cancer, and a lot of it is promising. Spend a half-hour browsing around the National Center for Biotechnology Information website (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov) and you'll find numerous studies on how various cannabinoids have been shown to slow or even kill tumor growth in everything from breast cancer to prostate cancer to skin cancer, thanks to our body's natural endocannabinoids system.
At this point, all we have is anecdotal evidence and a few small-scale studies. But a lot of what we are seeing is very positive. As a bonus, trying cannabis as a treatment doesn't come with any of the deadly side effects of other "experimental" measures.
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But simply smoking cannabis isn't going to keep anyone out of the oncologist's office, no matter what the guy wearing a fake weed-leaf lei and green suit tells you outside the State Capitol on April 20. Phoenix Tears, for example, is most often swallowed like a pill or rubbed topically on tumors. And the scientific studies use specific cannabinoids like CBD that aren't in high concentrations in most strains of cannabis, and the studies themselves are done in very controlled environments.