What if cannabis cured cancer?

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.


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.


UKCIA is a cannabis law reform site dedicated to ending the prohibition of cannabis. As an illegal drug, cannabis is not a controlled substance - it varies greatly in strength and purity, it's sold by unaccountable people from unknown venues with no over sight by the authorities. There is no recourse to the law for users and the most vulnerable are therefore placed at the greatest risk. There can be no measures such as age limits on sales and no way to properly monitor or study the trade, let alone introduce proper regulation. Cannabis must be legalised, as an illegal substance it is very dangerous to the users and society at large.

21 thoughts on “What if cannabis cured cancer?

  1. I think its important to make as distinction between THC used in laboratory studies (I think on mice in fact) and the impact of smoked cannabis in humans, particularly non-medical use. The two are not the same and IMHO shouldn’t be conflated to promote a particular policy position. I suspect doing so could end up undermining campaigns for both medical and non medical use.

  2. Well, yes and I did make the point about smoking in the blog Steve.

    But the points to make I think are twofold: first that the prohibition of cannabis has closed the door to so many of the medical benefits the plant has to offer; that people should be suffering when an effective treatment is so easily and cheaply available is an indefensible position but is a situation brought about by the drug war.

    Secondly prohibition depends on the creation of scare stories which developments like this undermine. If people come to understand they’ve been lied to, they will ignore everything they’re told and that can lead to much bigger problems. If cannabis is linked to an increased risk of cancer this is largely down to the way it’s used and that can be addressed very easily, but to do that it means giving honest information. Proper regulation and honest awareness allows for the more nuanced approach which is needed.

    The problem with prohibition of cannabis is that it depends on cannabis being all bad; this sort of thing just show that approach to be dishonest.

  3. Cancer is Big Business!. If you Dont bleave me Read Cancer Gate. Thats all i have to say. Theres no profit in a Cure!. Simple. We all know it. Thats the sad part. The truth is simple. Money is Power and those in posession of Both Will not give all that up so you or i can Grow a plant in out gardens its that simple. No connected up attempt to keep us Dumb. Just vested interests in us not knowing the truth. If cannabis was on a par with alcohol or tobbacco it would be legal by now. It because it is what is that it remains illegal. There Shall be no thinking outside the Box. Just conform pay your taxes and go too bed and do it all over again tommorow. Simple. Dont seek the simple happy life stay distraced stay addicted to material wealth and we;ll all be happy!. “We”, those who can cream off the cream that is….

    Peace Dec

  4. I can’t think of any way to lab test for this unfortunately, but I’d be interested to see if the cancer-reducing properties reported are in fact caused by the hallucinogenic properties of cannabis.

    Stronger hallucinogens like LSD and mushrooms certainly give one the feeling of connecting with a deeper, somehow more real version of oneself. It can often feel as if one is having a spiritual deep cleanse, rinsing off all the accumulated nonsense and returning refreshed and reset. Could this resetting include repairing DNA damage that causes cancer?

  5. I like Andy’s point about “connecting with a deeper,… more real version of oneself.. a spiritual deep cleanse”– assuming the “accumulated nonsense” is understood as a tangle of paralysing constrictions and blockages. We are organisms (as Dr. Freud might say: rhymes with working-systems) and we must work or atrophy (die). Function per se is our deeper self; a part of our function is to self-cure and self-decancerize.

    Let me then further hypothesize that our endocannibinoid system readily learns to seize upon ingested cannabinoids and, by empathizing with their evolutionarily allied principle of action, stoke (and/or stroke) up those thriving vigorous processes which constitute our immunity against infections, cancer or whatever.

    An essay exploring some of these issues is in progress at:


    where anyone can sign in and contribute additional insights as warranted.

  6. What an intelligent discussion, guys. Len Richmond here. I wrote and directed the film, “What if Cannabis Cured Cancer” and I just wanted to add a couple points. Smoking cannabis or hash, without tobacco, in a pipe (so you also don’t inhale the paper), may indeed have some small benefits according to Dr. Taskin’s study. He found that people who smoked cannabis had less cancer than people who smoked nothing at all. The researchers are coming to believe that for cancer treatment, cannabis/hash oil is the way to go. It’s not just the high level of THC in the oil but the many other cannabinoids too. I try to outline this in my film. I don’t have cancer, but as a preventative, I am ingesting cannabis oil a couple times a week. Stay healthy – get high!

  7. Hi Len

    Thanks for the comment, good to hear from you.

    Accepting the issues over smoking and putting them to one side, to suggest using cannabis is actually a preventative measure is quite a step to take isn’t it?

    It may turn out to be true and if it does then wow indeed, but until there’s real and solid proof isn’t it better not to – as we say – over egg the pudding by making extreme claims that if proved false would undermine the really strong argument this already gives for law reform?


  8. Hi Sean,

    The DVD of “What if Cannabis Cured Cancer” has been out for a few months and can be ordered on Amazon U.S.A. at: http://www.amazon.com/What-if-Cannabis-Cured-Cancer/dp/B003SSBSQQ – Cheers, Len

    Hi Derek,

    Solid proof is hard to come by when precious few are willing to fund the research and Governments actively discourage scientists from the getting the cannabis they need to work with. With the grave harm that pharmiceudical
    drugs do and the gentleness of this fragrant herb – what’s the harm in believing? Almost every relative I have got cancer. They all went for chemo and radiation and they’re all dead. I am 67, a pot lover all my life, and in perfect health. I’ll place my bets on nature not a commercial medical system that puts profits first. I have received emails from all over the world from patients who believe cannabis saved their lives and say they are now cancer free. I believe them! – Len Richmond

  9. If the government can ban cannabis as a recreational substance on the basis that it may cause schizophrenia (it has been proven that there is no connection at all) why can’t they open up the medical use on the basis that some people report favourable medical outcomes after using it ?

    I don’t know about it being a cure for cancer but it has been known for a long time that it does halt the growth of cancers. It has been known for many years that cannabis (not mixed mixed with tobacco) smoke causes more pre-cancerous lesions in the lungs than tobacco smoke but they don’t usually develop into cancer. Instead of investigating this unusual phenomenon it was used as an indication that cannabis is more dangerous than tobacco (on the basis that more lesions mean more potential cancer ).

    I have personal experience of arthritis and it does halt (or at least greatly slow down) the development of this disease. Maybe it is not just a cure but a preventative medicine and that is much harder to measure because it is impossible to guess how ill some one would have become if they had not taken it. I do know arthritis sufferers that have taken all sorts of medicines/remedies in a desperate attempt to get some relief from their condition and I am sure a properly supplied preparation of cannabis (maybe a drink or tablet) would have been no more harmful than these substances. Maybe the same approach would suit some one with a strong family history of cancer as may be the case with Len Richmond who commented above. After all doctors recommend that people with a history of certain kinds of heart disease take aspirin daily as a preventative measure and this is a far more dangerous substance than cannabis.

  10. As Phrato says

    Maybe it is not just a cure but a preventative medicine and that is much harder to measure because it is impossible to guess how ill some one would have become if they had not taken it.

    Indeed, that’s the problem.

    My mum’s father went through the trenches in WW1 and came out the other side untouched physically, he also drank like a fish and smoked (tobacco) like a chimney. He died at the grand old age of 99. But that doesn’t mean his lifestyle was a healthy one or that any of these things he did were good for him.

    It’s an amazing development to show that far from causing more, cannabis actually retards the development of cancer and an utterly fantastic development if it can be proven to kill cancers. Either of those two claims is wonderful news for law reform campaigners and for cancer sufferers. Honestly, we don’t really need to push it any further.

    I really do feel that claiming cannabis is a preventative medicine against cancer is really going too far, sorry. We can’t possibly prove it and it would be used against us as just more “pot evangelism”.

    Incidentally our TV systems are different, will an American format (NTSC) DVD play in the UK where we use PAL?


  11. Derek,

    Many DVD players are or can be converted to region free meaning any region DVD can be played. THis is usually a simple procedure of entering a code via the remote. Search for your dvd player and region free hack to see if your dvd player can be converted

  12. People who have purchased “What if Cannabis Cured Cancer” in the U.K., so far, have not had a problem viewing it. As Druidude says, above, most new DVD players can handle NTSC and for those who have older machines, they seem to be able to play the DVD on their computers.

    Regarding my pudding being over-egged,well, look, it’s only pudding. I fear that, like Obama, we are too anxious to please our enemies. At my ripe old age, I realize it’s a waste of time – there is no pleasing them. The ignorant, misinformed, and frighted are not often open to having their minds changed by “evidence”. Good God, look at the “Tea Party” movement in America – they wallow in their righteous anger and ignorance. Do you think they will ever admit they’re wrong? Screw ’em I say and declare proudly what you believe in – even if it’s not iron-clad “hard evidence”. At least in America, people get swept along by enthusiasm and belief more than hard facts. (Although, I am proud that “What if Cannabis Cured Cancer” IS filled with hard science – and some soft.) The anti-pot crusaders FEAR marijuana. Good luck with changing that – unless they have a family member with cancer and then THAT fear may outweigh the other fear. I repeat: Stay healthy – get high!” -Len Richmond

  13. Well, we’re on the subject – I just now received this heartbreaking message from a person who is corresponding via the “What if Cannabis Cured Cancer – Office Site” on Facebook”. I think it illustrates, in emotional terms, what I’ve been trying (in my clumsy way) to say…
    “Re: Hello!
    70 yrs of brain washing doesn’t help the situation. I have 5 children and my oldest that will be 17 in March and his Dad (my ex) confronted him about smoking and he was honest with him and told him that he has. He broke his back a while back and doesn’t want to take man made drugs and is totally against alcohol but smoking helps with his pain. His Dad acts like he has done crack or something. CRAZY!
    I have done so much research over the yrs and try to knowledge myself on this subject good or bad but his Dad is one of the millions of people in the world that have let the gov brain wash him.
    I am sorry to have bothered you with this but you have brought me so much inspiration going through this battle daily with his father. I try to be an open minded non judgemental Christan.
    A nice big hug I send you! Maybe I will have the opportunity to meet you one day! :~)
    Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!
    God will bless you more than you could imagine!”

  14. “…cannabis… smoke causes more pre-cancerous lesions in the lungs than tobacco smoke but they don’t usually develop into cancer”

    Here I suspect some hot burning overdose bias in all the studies, i.e. they follow the lead of the US NIDA supplying cannabis to a few patients in the form of fat 900-mg. $iggarettes, and no one (with any research money) seemed to be ready so far to check whether those lesions are actually caused by an abusive administration method (suck hard, burn hot) and then conveniently chalked up to the cannabis.

    (Don’t forget since about 1913 most commercial tobacckgo $iggarettes have contained “cured”, i.e. pre-toasted tobacckgoes laced with all kind of anti-coughing-fit “mildening” drugs to disguise how harmful they are.)

    Even not having the money to buy a Volcano vapouriser is no excuse here. Check out the paragraph “Vapourising with a one-hitter” in Wikipedia: “One hitter (smoking)” and other cannabis-related articles. Contrary to long-accepted ignorant hearsay the vapours you really want are not generated in or by the “smoke” but by the heating of as-yet unburnt neighboring parts of the herb.

    The lesions referred to above will I trust soon be a lesson from ancient history, attributed to the trillion dollar hot burning overdose $iggarette Hatefearteasing (advertising) War of the past 1-1/2 centuries.

  15. Cheers for this. I’ve been involved in this debate for a long time now and pretty much thought I had all the best logical arguments to defend my position. After just watching the full film I’m shocked to find that there’s such a huge argument thats missing from my repertoire! How much longer can the idiotic notion of prohibition go on now. The cat is not just out of the bag, it’s curled up front of the fire after having enjoyed a large bowl of cream!

    Great video, everyone should see it!!

  16. Cannabis Cures Cancer!. We’ve no need. Certain Cancers in lab rats have been shown to halt in there growth due to a reaction of the blood vessels supplying them halting the process, pretty Wacky ant it!. Thats enough to scare the Hell out of any Drug Company.. They fund the War on Drugs, U.S Style we know what goes on, come on it 2011. The World isnt that complcated stick your Conspriacy Stuff its not that complicated folks. Cannabis wont Cure Cannabis. In some i beleave it COuld GIve em a Lot more time to enjoy This Gift of LIfe. Religion aside folks. Park that at the Door. Yes Cannabis is a Herbal non Toxit Medicine treat her with respect and your ass will follow in that direction. Come on Give us a Break .Sativex?. Cannabis has no Medical Value?. What?. Come on. Come on.

  17. Amazing documentary- it does a wonder full job educating not only the general public, but “experts” themselves on some of the many exciting studies that have only been possible within the past few decades.

    Well done 🙂

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