Updated: Oct 20
This article was featured in the Cannabis Commerce + Chemistry Podcast No. 2. Listen now.
Does cannabis cure? Is medical marijuana a miracle?
Some anecdotal testimonies argue that cannabis medicine is a literal cure for a variety of disease states, often referencing cancer specifically. Leading medical authorities, however, typically cringe at such claims, justifying their opposition to the use of words such as "miracle" and "cure" based on the hard science.
Copyright © Higher Learning LV™
What do the leading experts in the cannabis industry, including clinical practitioners and medical doctors, have to say about the issue? To find out, Higher Learning LV™ interviewed two medical doctors, a naturopathic doctor, a registered dietitian nutritionist, a retail business founder/CEO, and an executive coach. Their responses appear below.
Higher Learning LV
"Some cannabis consumers claim that marijuana can literally 'cure' cancer and other disease states. What is your opinion of calling cannabis a cure for cancer—or any other disease?"
Ben Caplan, MD (CED Clinic)
"The medical use of cannabis unlocks dramatic relief for a surprising number of illnesses across the medical spectrum. The liberation from lasting suffering that many people have experienced with their cannabis consumption is incredible, and people often use words like 'cure' and 'miraculous' to express their delight with finding such a satisfying treatment. While some of the specific mechanisms by which cannabis impacts illnesses are known with precise detail, what we know seems to be a tiny fraction of what is still left to learn and explore.
Ben Caplan, MD of the CED Clinic
"The compounds consumed with cannabis are multi-system operators that influence many organ systems simultaneously, and many of the interactions have cascades of influence and feedback affects on other body systems. The term 'cure' for an illness suggests that a permanent escape has somehow been reached, without a need for ongoing treatment. In my experience, among the individuals who have found cannabis to be an effective therapy for an illness, whether it's sleeplessness, anxiety, depression, pain, or cancer, most of them choose to continue using it indefinitely.
"The term 'cure' for an illness suggests that a permanent escape has somehow been reached, without a need for ongoing treatment." — Ben Caplan, MD
"For the few who decide to move on from cannabis, almost all seem to experience a resurgence of their ailments, including cancers. Some of the most striking improvements I’ve witnessed with cannabis have come from the management of severe mental health battles. For those suffering through severe stability battles, including depression, crippling anxiety, and debilitating OCD or PTSD, it is often the patients’ antidote of choice, but cannabis appears to be more of an impermanent agent of repair than a means of permanently replacing some missing puzzle piece."
Sunil Pai, MD (Sanjevani Integrative Medicine Health)
"Calling cannabis a 'cure for cancer' is misleading and can be dangerous. As an Integrative Medicine MD who has helped patients overcome cancer daily for the past 22 years, when I hear statements like that it basically tells me that the person saying it doesn't really understand cancer.
Sunil Pai, MD of Sanjevani Integrative Medicine Health & Lifestyle Center
"More importantly, they don't understand the complexity of cancer, cancer cell metabolism, epigenetics, nutrition, inflammation, immune system functioning and overall factors that bring one back to optimum health. Is cannabis/hemp an important natural product that has many benefits for helping my cancer patients? Absolutely. Do I use it daily with my cancer patients to help with their immune system and inflammation support? Yes.
"But it's not the only item I use to help my patients improve their outcomes with cancer. If anyone believes that cannabis is the only item they need to overcome their cancer, then the odds are not in their favor. Are there people that will claim that cannabis 'cured' them? Yes. But when I have taken a detailed medical history from them of what else they have been doing, it encompasses strict dietary and lifestyle changes, off-label medications and dozens of natural supportive therapies, in addition to cannabis/hemp.
"Over the past few years, it has become very fashionable on the internet and social media for cancer survivors to want to become 'self-cured cancer celebrities' and monetize their story. To gain attention and distinguish their story from other survivors, usually the cannabis part is only discussed. This furthers the myth of it alone being a 'cure for cancer.'" — Sunil Pai, MD
"Over the past few years, it has become very fashionable on the internet and social media for cancer survivors to want to become 'self-cured cancer celebrities' and monetize their story. To gain attention and distinguish their story from other survivors, usually the cannabis part is only discussed. This furthers the myth of it alone being a 'cure for cancer.'
"In my opinion, anytime anyone tells you that a single agent—whether it is a pharmaceutical drug, cannabis, or a dietary supplement—will 'cure' you, they usually want to sell you something. They typically do not have the clinical experience and knowledge to really help their customers with cancer and all of the intricacies that are involved with healing."
Rob Streisfeld, NMD
"As someone who is not only a trained health professional, but also one who speaks publicly on this topic on a regular basis, the word 'cure' is one of the four letter words I do my best to avoid. The disease process can be complicated; it varies from person to person.
Rob Streisfeld, NMD from the Concierge for Better Living podcast
"I personally believe that nearly everyone has some type of cancer cells in their body at some point in their lives. How the body reacts to those cells can be impacted by the individual's genetics, nutritional or biochemical status, emotional well-being, and more. That said, we all have an endocannabinoid system in our bodies that helps maintain homeostasis—in addition to producing health promoting endocannabinoids. It also features specialized receptors for phytocannabinoids from the cannabis plant.
"While some people are fortunate enough to go into remission or see a reduction in tumor size while utilizing cannabis, saying 'cure' is something I would avoid." — Rob Streisfeld, NMD
"Cannabis is a medicine and can help alleviate symptoms and address many ailments found in society today. I believe cannabis can be part of an integrated treatment protocol for those with cancer and other illnesses. While some people are fortunate enough to go into remission or see a reduction in tumor size while utilizing cannabis, saying 'cure' is something I would avoid."
Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RDN, FAND (Jannabis Wellness)
"Cannabis is an amazing plant-based medicine that has been shown to help treat many diseases, including cancer. While there are some cases where cannabinoid therapy has shrunk or killed cancerous tumors, it is most often used to manage symptoms associated with cancer treatment including chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV), anorexia/weight loss, fatigue, anxiety, insomnia, and pain.
Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RDN, FAND of Jannabis Wellness
"Phytocannabinoids, including THC and CBD, may have anticancer properties. In animal models these cannabinoids have been shown to decrease cancer cell migration/metastases and tumor growth, inhibit new blood vessel growth to cancer cells, and promote tumor cell death. However, there is no clinical evidence to suggest that cannabis can cure cancer.
"It's important to work with a qualified cannabis practitioner since there are potential interactions with certain chemotherapies and cannabis may be contraindicated with immunotherapy treatment." — Janice Newell Bissex, RDN
"Cannabis can certainly be an important component of cancer therapy. It helps mitigate side effects to allow patients to be stronger both mentally and physically to better tolerate their treatments. In addition, cannabis may work synergistically with some chemotherapies and radiation treatments to amplify the anticancer effects.
"It's important to work with a qualified cannabis practitioner since there are potential interactions with certain chemotherapies and cannabis may be contraindicated with immunotherapy treatment.
"We need more research to fully understand how best to use this medicine in the fight against cancer. Cannabis is classified in the U.S. as a Schedule 1 substance and is federally illegal, which severely limits researchers' abilities to conduct clinical trials. It's critical that cannabis is legalized so more rigorous research into cannabinoid medicine for the treatment of cancer and other diseases can take place."
Dena Putnam, Founder/CEO (Leafwize Naturals)
"I think it's dangerous to call cannabis a 'cure' for anything, especially cancer. We've seen it do some miraculous things, including shrink tumors and put some people in remission, but not every person or every time. It's not universal for everyone and it's likely that multiple factors are at play including the strength of a person's immune system or how they eat. I still highly recommend cannabis, but would never call it a cure."
John Bailey, Executive Coach (The Mindset Genesis)
"My opinion is that we shouldn't park conviction in the idea that cannabis cures anything. Even more, it isn't very sensible to use it in a marketing sense. As an advocate of this sacred and still very mysterious plant, I have to say that cannabis has an overwhelming amount of 'healing' properties because of its interaction with the endocannabinoid system.
John Bailey from The Mindset Genesis
"Healing properties keying in on receptors throughout the vertebrate central nervous system and peripheral system trigger complex orchestration in our immune system, nervous system, and the body's organs. This bridge between body and mind can genuinely expand cannabis's capabilities and, for that, we must continue with research to break open the complexities and validate the circulating theories.
"When asked, I tell people that cannabis should replace everything in my medicine cabinet. I also encourage that it is a personal journey that I continue to explore from an analytical and purely anecdotal mindset in identifying which strain, terpene combination, and method of ingestion can focus on the specific ailment I am relieving."