A flurry of excitement this week regarding a film just released entitled “What if cannabis cured cancer”.  The press release states

HOLLYWOOD, October 16, 2010 –  Using original and archival footage, the 60 minute documentary presents highly convincing evidence that this forbidden herb has healing properties beyond any other plant on the planet- interacting as it does with the body’s own “endocannabinoid system” to keep us fit and disease-free. “What if Cannabis Cured Cancer” explains how we are all born with a form of marijuana already in our bodies, and when pot is consumed, the “endocannabinoids” inside us-along with any cannabinoids we ingest-fit together like a key in a lock. Thereby promoting the death of cancer cells without harming the body’s healthy cells. A powerful and eye-opening film about the future of cannabis-and perhaps even the future of medicine. Narrated by Emmy-winning actor, PETER COYOTE.

Featuring interviews with DR, ROBERT MELAMEDE, DR. SEAN MCALLISTER, DR.JEFFREY HERGENRATHER, DR. DAVID BEARMAN, DR. MANUEL GUZMAN, DR. RAPHAEL MECHOULAM, and DR. DONALD ABRAMS

Now of course this is utterly counter to the anti cannabis information put around by government, which claims that smoking cannabis is far worse than tobacco when it comes to causing cancer. Anti drug campaigners point to lab experiments which show cannabis to contain known carcinogens and deduce from that the high cancer risk from cannabis smoking and in 2003 the British Lung Foundation even published an alarmist report based on this claims entitled The Smoking Gun which claimed

3-4 Cannabis cigarettes a day are associated with the same evidence of acute and chronic bronchitis and the same degree of damage to the bronchial mucosa as 20 or more tobacco cigarettes a day.

But as this blog has reported before large scale population studies  (Tashkin 2006) have strangely failed to find the expected increased rates of cancer and if anything have actually come up with the exact wrong result

Our results … suggest that the association of these cancers with marijuana, even long-term or heavy use, is not strong and may be below practically detectable limits.

So what’s going on? The answer, it turns out, is that THC seems to kill cancer cells. Science Daily reported in 2007

Marijuana Cuts Lung Cancer Tumor Growth In Half, Study Shows

The active ingredient in marijuana cuts tumor growth in common lung cancer in half and significantly reduces the ability of the cancer to spread, say researchers at Harvard University who tested the chemical in both lab and mouse studies.

The Huffington Post Huffington Post interviewing Dr Andrew Weil of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine

But perhaps most exciting, cannabinoids (chemical constituents of Cannabis, the best known being tetrahydrocannabinol or THC) may have a primary role in cancer treatment and prevention. A number of studies have shown that these compounds can inhibit tumor growth in laboratory animal models. In part, this is achieved by inhibiting angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels that tumors need in order to grow. What’s more, cannabinoids seem to kill tumor cells without affecting surrounding normal cells. If these findings hold true as research progresses, cannabinoids would demonstrate a huge advantage over conventional chemotherapy agents, which too often destroy normal cells as well as cancer cells.

If cannabis does contain a cancer killing chemical, why hasn’ t this been headline news?The answer to that of course rests with the “message” the government wants to send out about cannabis, coupled with the stranglehold the pharmaceutical companies have  over the medical services.

Now of course, whilst this does undermine the claims of the prohibition lobby regarding one of their most powerful anti cannabis claims, it doesn’t mean that rolling a big fat spliff is going to cure cancer. It probably means that a pure cannabis joint, or pure hash smoked in a pipe is not going to be the serious cancer risk claimed, but add the tobacco and the “Smoking Gun” claims are probably true. In any case, breathing in smoke means breathing in more than just the THC which is the anti cancer agent, the other stuff also gets sucked down along with small particles (known as pm10’s) which do cause cancer. The advice with regard to smoking is well worn but worth repeating, the less smoke you breath in the better.

In any case according to Dr Andrew Weil

It is not clear that smoking marijuana achieves blood levels high enough to have these anticancer effects. We need more human research, including well-designed studies to find the best mode of administration.

A trailer for the film “What if cannabis cured cancer” is on Youtube and can be seen here:

It looks like the case for the medical use of cannabis is getting even stronger. The films Facebook page is here.