FEB 1, 2016 How Marijuana Helps People With Cancer There is a lot of exaggerated rhetoric in the cannabis world surrounding cannabis and cancer. Some people will go so far as to claim that cannabis and cannabis alone can and will kill all forms of cancer, despite the stage of the cancer’s progression and the type of cancer. Even a cursory review of information shows this to be inaccurate, as hundreds if not thousands of people using cannabis die of cancers each year. Still, even if cannabis isn’t the miraculous cancer panacea some would paint it to be, there is little question that most cancer patients, even pediatric cancer patients, can benefit from cannabis medicine. In some cases, where there is safe, reliable access to high-quality, professional-grade cannabis extract, cannabis has been shown to effectively shrink tumors or kill cancer cells. Even in cases of untreatable pediatric cancer such as the case Logan Ewell, cannabis oil has shown immense promise as a first line of defense. Unfortunately, because of prohibition, most of those who depend on cannabis extracts and concentrates are at the mercy of the unregulated market and must depend on the word of their providers as the sole standard of efficacy. Without independent laboratory testing to ensure a standardized dosage and cleanliness of product, many medical marijuana patients find that potency and efficacy vary between batches of product. Additionally, many doctors are loathe to recommend cannabis, despite being aware that it may alleviate unpleasant side effects from conventional treatment, which can make it hard for many people going through chemotherapy or radiation treatments to realize it may help them. Dora Rivera, a 28-year-old Vermont resident, is currently using medical cannabis to fight stage 2 malignant melanoma (skin cancer) on her scalp. While she was receiving medical treatments for her cancer, she would often stay in the hospital for three or four days at a time, suffering extreme side effects including paralysis in her right leg and seizures. At one point, she was taking nineteen different medications for her various conditions and side effects from treatments for them. When she began using medical marijuana, she experienced a drastic reduction in symptoms and a correlated drastic improvement in her quality of life. These days, she is down to two daily medications and has regained full function of her right leg and is cancer-free, which she believes is due to her medical marijuana use. When asked about her medical use of cannabis, she feels the need to defend herself, as so many people are judgmental of her personal medical decision. “I don’t abuse the right to use marijuana. I’m not doing it in front of my children, but I don’t hide it from them either…I have babies; they need their mom. I’m only 28 years old, too young to lay down and die.” Rosie Johnson, from Kentucky, is battling stage 4 vulvar cancer and rectal cancer and will not apologize for her choice of medicine. After all, her own doctors have written her off as a lost cause, so why should she worry about what anyone thinks about her at this point? When speaking of her cancer and cannabis, she gets right to the point, as people with serious illnesses are wont to do. “Regardless if it (the cancer) takes my life, I know the oil has helped prolong and enhance the quality of my life.” After she underwent both chemotherapy and radiation treatments for her cancer, her doctors suggested radical surgery, which she refused. She met someone online who was able to send her cannabis oil for free. She eats it every day and uses a topical cream she makes from the oil. She also uses other essential oils, frankincense, orange and thyme, topically, and is working up to taking certain oils internally, beginning with the frankincense oil. After beginning her cannabis oil treatment, she gained forty-five pounds and was able to go back to work. She is still fighting her cancer, but happily states “the quality of my life is so much better.” There is only a moderate amount of research on cannabis’ ability to destroy cancer cells, but there is a ready consensus among doctors that cannabis alleviates the terrible symptoms that accompany traditional cancer treatments, such as cachexia,which can often be fatal. Some studies have shown that cannabis is able to kill cancer cells in cases of leukemia and even severe brain cancers such as gliboblastoma. Most studies indicate a combination of cannabinoids or whole plant medicine are better than single-cannabinoid extracts at fighting cancer and tumors, though additional studies on various types of cancers should be performed to determine the efficacy in different cases. Cancer is a complex issue; there are many types of cancer which respond differently to treatments, and every person undergoing cancer treatment has different needs. However, the potential of cannabis’s anti-tumor properties and its ability to combat the worst side effects of standard medical treatments for cancer should make it one of the first substances recommended by doctors when their patients are diagnosed with the dreaded “c” word. For those who are battling cancer, their loved ones, and the medical professionals truly devoted to helping eradicate this scourge, cannabis should be a readily available option for treatment, not something discussed “off the record” and obtained on an unregulated market. To maintain the federal prohibition of cannabis, the United States government must ignore not only years of scientific research and compelling anecdote, they must also downplay their own patent, which secures their right to the development of cannabindoids as anti-oxidants and neuroprotectants (anti-oxidants are correlated with decreased risk of cancer). There can be little question that cannabis is beneficial to cancer patients, regardless of the type or severity of cancer being fought. For cancer patients and their caretakers, cannabis should be a first line of defense and not a last resort. It should be used in conjuction with traditional therapies, instead of being the last option when those therapies fail. Unfortunately, until federal policy on this amazingly helpful plant changes, thousands, if not millions, of sick people will be denied information on this plant and its potential because of an antiquated social policy and its influence on the medical community.