It can be difficult to discern where the truth ends and exaggeration begins, especially when it comes to alternative treatments. For example, “cannabis cures cancer” is a phrase often touted by the medical marijuana community. While there is some evidence to suggest that cannabis may contain some cancer-fighting properties, can it really be deemed a cure?
Perhaps one of the most convincing and stalwart stories along this vein is that of Rick Simpson, a hemp oil advocate from Nova Scotia who claims that cannabis cured his cancer.
The History of Rick Simpson Oil
Rick experienced a series of medical mishaps that began with a head injury at work in late nineties, and ended with the definitive diagnosis of basal cell carcinoma in 2003. Cancer.
Despite its illegality at the time, Rick considered cannabis after conventional methods failed at treating his head injury. His doctors told him that they did not condone, nor recommend it, but he decided to forgo their advice and try it.
Hemp provided the respite he had sought, but not found – until that point.
Rick consulted his doctor afterwards, hoping to enlighten him to its positive effects. Instead of being swayed, Rick’s doctor expressed concerns over the effect that the drug might have on his lungs. Rick then offered the possibility of hemp oil, which was his idea of taking the naturally occurring cannabinoid resin found in marijuana and concentrating it into an ingestible oil. His doctors did not approve, but told him that it would be less harmful than smoking.
Despite moving to ingestion, Rick found that the oil continued to alleviate all the symptoms related to his head injury – a persistent ringing sound and chronic pain. While Rick did not ever go a prolonged period without it to truly test whether it was time or cannabis that had healed him, science has since determined that cannabis does, in fact, offer benefits to traumatic brain injury sufferers. This science has made TBI an approved condition under may medical cannabis laws. What is less clear is the claim that cannabis also cured his cancer.
Though chagrined with modern medicine when it failed to treat his head injury, Rick did originally turn to modern treatment for his cancer. He had the carcinoma surgically removed. After the excision became infected, Rick decided to topically apply the previously successful hemp oil. He maintains that, after four days of topical application, the infection was gone and his cancer was cured. Yet, to this day, Rick Simpson Oil, which is more widely known as RSO, has a somewhat muddied history.
Rick was condemned for lack of evidence by pretty much every governing body that oversaw the prohibition of marijuana. They saw him as an advocate of drug use, and that was all. Yet they have not made it possible for anyone with real medical qualifications a way to definitively prove or disprove Rick’s claims.
How Legislation Sets Medical Marijuana Up for Failure
The U.S. has been slow in their legalization of marijuana, with only 29 states having active medical marijuana laws – and even then, it remains classified as a Schedule I drug. Many who oppose legalization voice concerns over addiction and abuse, and they continue to undermine the medical benefits of medical marijuana, even as studies confirm them. Take, for example, the recent claims by Jeff Sessions, which came shortly after a study determined medical marijuana could potentially benefit people fighting an opioid addiction.
Why do they continue to do so?
Most advocates believe it is because the government, rich benefactors, and pharmaceutical companies cannot patent and sell marijuana-derived medicines in the same way that they can do with costly synthetic alternatives, which means they would lose money. Many also believe that the continued criminalization of marijuana is less about purported addiction concerns and more about the $70 billion corrections industry, which just so happens to much of its money from the incarceration of non-violent “drug” offenders.
They cannot keep running, though. Sooner or later, they will have to face the truth; at the very least, may soon be forced to explain their reasons for bucking against the testing of medical marijuana – if for no other reason than to explain their attempts to make synthetic strains of marijuana. What they do not know, is that you cannot have the cure without the plant . . . or, perhaps they do . . .
Running from the Cure – Rick Simpson Exposes the Truth
In his documentary, “Run from the Cure,” Rick claims to have treated over five thousand patients (with near unwavering success) for a variety of illnesses, ranging from cancer, to anxiety, right down to stomach upsets and lack of bowel control. He even intimates that it can be used as a weight loss tool. However, each ailment is treated differently.
Cannabis components can be divided into one of two categories: cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBD is the primary component found in hemp plants, which are generally used to make clothing and other items. These plants, though also cannabis, have a THC content of 0.3 percent or lower. THC is the psychoactive aspect of the cannabis plant. Its potency varies from one plant strain to the next.
Rick champions his medication as “hemp oil’, but it is not derived from the ‘hemp’ plant. Instead, it comes from the buds of the female cannabis plant, which is packed full of THC. Each also contains CBD, but the levels vary, depending upon which ailment he is treating.
RSO with a higher THC percentage is typically used to alleviate psychological symptoms, and oils with a higher CBD percentage are used to treat mostly physical symptoms. Rick states that THC is the healing chemical for cancer. However, the website PhoenixTears (with whom Rick is openly associated) contradicts that by saying that Indica strains with lower THC produce the desired ‘sleepy’ effect, which is imperative to healing the body.
It is possible that they are both correct; the body does need sleep to heal, but THC is well-known for its beneficial properties. In fact, it is this whole plant approach that makes synthetic alternatives generally ineffective. Further, certain aspects of each cannabinoid may offer different benefits for different ailments (see our article on cannabinoid strains).
Making Your Own Hemp Oil
Rick encourages those who are interested in his oil to make it themselves, which he claims to be simple. Despite the purported simplicity, it is typically illegal to make it yourself, even in decriminalized states (currently there are eight fully cannabis-legal states, and twenty-six partially legalized states). This illegality (and other concerns related to making your own RSO) is largely due to the volatile and highly dangerous nature of the production process. For this reason, it is suggested that users in legal states find a reputable dispensary that offers an RSO to suit their needs.
Could RSO Work for You?
If you have questions about RSO, or want to know more about how it works, talk to your local dispensary, pain management doctor, or naturopath. Keep in mind that the THC content of RSO may not be tolerated by those that have not used cannabis as a medication before. As such, it is highly recommended that patients start with a medication that has a lower THC content. Cannicaps (cannabis-infused capsules which are usually coconut oil-based) or tinctures may be suitable. Just ensure you speak to your dispensary about dosage. If, over time, you find you need more relief, you can work up to an RSO.
But that still leaves the question of whether you should use it. To this, we can only say:
While much controversy surrounds the famed RSO, it continues to be considered a beneficial drug within the medical marijuana community. It has been used on children, adults, epileptics, and cancer patients alike. Those who use it regularly seem to be more than willing to swear by it, and live by it – and those who do live by it, are more than happy to say that the only reason they do live, is because of it.