An Initiative To Legalize Marijuana In California To Appear On Nov. Ballot

#facingtheissues, Meg Fitzgibbons

“…We already know it can help alleviate pain, increase appetite, and reduce stress, so why not?”

When John, a ​twenty-seven year old patient being treated for a brain tumor at ​a major national cancer center was asked whether he would consider a clinical trial involving marijuana to help with his cancer, he said “I would be interested in it. We already know it can help alleviate pain, increase appetite, and reduce stress, so why not?”  Thirty-eight year old Jay, treated for the same diagnosis, said of a marijuana treatment for brain tumors, “If we lived in a world where this approach to treatment was tested, proven, and accepted by medical professionals, I personally would have no problem consenting to it.”

Marijuana, or cannabis, is a plant that hails from Central Asia. Now grown throughout the world, the cannabis plan produces compounds known as cannabinoids. These are the active chemicals in marijuana that impact the body – from the central nervous system to the immune system.

So what exactly does marijuana have to do with cancer?

The assertion that marijuana’s cannabinoids alleviate some of the symptoms of cancer and treatment (such as chemotherapy) is not a new one​, but one that is still highly (excuse the pun) debated.

The American Cancer Society relays that “marijuana is promoted to alleviate pain, control nausea and vomiting, and stimulate appetite in people with cancer.” In 1997, the Office of National Drug Control Policy commissioned the Institute of Medicine to assess marijuana’s health benefits and risks pertaining to cancer treatment.

The results confirmed that there are positive effects of marijuana during cancer​​. However, because marijuana contains numerous active compounds, it cannot be expected to provide precise effects unless the individual components are isolated.

More recent laboratory studies have shown that delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and other cannabinoids slow growth and/or cause death in certain types of cancer cells. Some early human clinical trials of the effects of cannabinoids on cancer have indicated that they can be safe in treating cancer, but they have not been shown to control or cure the disease yet. A brand new study out of the University of London suggests that two of marijuana’s key ingredients, THC and cannabidiol, can help to shrink brain tumors. This article highlights the results of the study and explains how the cannabinoids act on the glioma cells (cells in the brain)​.

There is a lot of information about marijuana use and cancer (both pro and con). You can find additional information related to the use of cannabinoids to treat cancer and its side effects below.

  • The National Cancer Institute addresses cannabinoids’ antitumor and appetite stimulation effect here;
  • This American Association for Cancer Research journal article reviews recent work examining potent, nontoxic, and nonhabit forming cannabinoids for cancer therapy;
  • And here, the University of Sydney reviews the limitations of cannabinoids’ effects.

It is important to note that possessing or selling crude or raw marijuana is still illegal under federal law in the United States.

The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults does not condone the use of marijuana recreationally or without guidance or supervision of a physician.