An ever increasing number of young people smoke cannabis on a daily basis, and, let’s face it, the smell of weed has become a typical aroma of student halls. Whilst some argue that an increasing consumption of marijuana leads us nowhere but towards a regress of our society, scientists have proven that cannabis, in fact, might not all be bad.

Believe it or not, throughout the last 40 years, various studies have proven that chemicals mostly found in marijuana, cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in particular, stimulate tumour cell death. Not only are they thought to have potential as effective tools in treating cancer, but THC is also an alternative painkiller that alleviates symptoms of other diseases, including AIDS, glaucoma and even Alzheimer’s disease.

According to the National Institute of Health, a 2009 population-based study found that moderate marijuana smoking over a 20-year period was associated with reduced risk of head and neck cancer. This is significant given that, according to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 55,070 members of the US population will develop this type of disease in 2014.

Cannabis oil seems to be the most efficient and most prominent alternative to chemotherapy. It is also cheap and easy to make at home rather than purchasing a bottle, and Youtube and Google offer numerous instructive resources describing how to produce your own hemp extract.

Marijuana instead of chemotherapy Auguste Chocianaite
Potentially controversial evidence suggesting a beneficial role of marijuana compounds in cancer treatment has reignited the debate surrounding our instant dismissal of drugs // Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Mike Cutler, a 63 year old man from Wales, has experimented with the benefits of home-produced hemp. In 2013, his liver cancer returned and doctors stated that he had no more than 3 months to live. It seemed that there was no hope left. “In the end they gave up and sent me home to die with a large bag of morphine,” Mike said.

However, he decided not to give up. Rick Simpson’s online video tutorials about the process of making hemp oil inspired Cutler to produce it by himself and consume it every single day. “I can make six month supply for pennies,” he said. When asked how his family and friends reacted Mike answered, “No one was happy that I was taking cannabis oil, they all tried to make me stop, one even threatened to inform the police.”

Three days after starting to take the hemp oil, the pain caused by the disease had faded away and he stopped taking morphine. Everything was fine for a couple of months until he started coughing specks of blood. He bought a microscope and found that he was coughing up dead cancer cells. A consultation with his physician following a biopsy confirmed that his cancer was in remission.

Scientists, however, do not recommend such self-medication. Some insist that using the correct concentration is vital and suggest that marijuana is a hallucinogenic substance overall, which can cause numerous side effects, such as low blood pressure, a fast heartbeat, dizziness and slow reaction time.

Mike Cutler, however, does not feel any kind of mental deterioration. “I have not felt any side effects apart from feeling high sometimes when the dose of oil I have taken has been a bit strong,” he said.

Significantly, there is not enough scientific evidence regarding how we could use cannabis to treat cancer: by smoking it, consuming hemp oil or mixing marijuana buds with salad. However, there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of people who are now considering these options because of the benefits of the natural chemicals found in cannabis.

Treating cancer with various cannabis products might be dangerous and purchasing or growing it is illicit. Even though experimental results are positive regarding the beneficial THC impact on cancer-prone mice, no precise dosage for human beings has been discovered yet and safety, particularly of long term use, has no yet been investigated. At any rate, scientists are making progress towards harnessing this controversial hallucinogenic plant.

By Auguste Chocianaite