Causing or Curing? A Look at Cannabis and Cancer

The cannabis movement is full of different perspectives that can at times seem contradictory.

On the one hand, we’ve known for decades now that smoking isn’t good for you, and taking any kind of smoke into your lungs is harmful to lung tissue, sometimes being cancer-causing. On the other side of the spectrum, there is a growing movement emerging touting cannabis as having the potential to “cure” cancer.

So, what is it? Is cannabis a potential cause, or cure of cancer? The short answer is: a little bit of both.

Let’s dig a little deeper on both perspectives.

Cannabis as a Potential Cause of Cancer

According to Dr. Robert Schwartz, a scientist for Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, cannabis contains about 30 of the 70 potentially harmful chemicals in tobacco. By adopting the adage “take the dope out of smoke”, he encourages the cannabis community to recognize the damage that any smoke in the lungs can do.

Similarly, there have been studies, particularly that of Dr. Robert Strongin of Portland State University that look at the potential of concentrates such as waxes or rosins to produce carcinogenic effects. These are the concentrates in your new favourite – dabs – so, as it reads, it’s bad news for dabbers.

There is a concern that heating certain terpenes could convert to benzene, a harmful chemical. However, it should be noted that the conversion in the study happened at a higher degree than which most dabbers heat their extracts to, which doesn’t make these study results as valid for the casual dabber.

The truth of the matter for cannabis and cancer, as with most issues surrounding cannabis, is there is not enough research to show that directly smoking cannabis can cause cancer. Nonetheless, many lifestyle brands are choosing to use vaporizers as a method to cut down the potentially harmful effects of smoke in favour of vapour. The theory is that combustion is the issue. No combustion = no cancer? The jury is hung.

Cannabis as a Potential Cure for Cancer

Those who are examining the potential for cannabis to treat, and “cure” cancer are optimistic about cannabis’ potential to change the way people are experiencing this all too common disease.

While there will always be a lingering concern around smoking to use cannabis, but cannabis is becoming increasingly part of the national dialogue on cancer treatment. The Canadian Cancer Society is even exploring what cannabis advocates have known for a while: cannabis can help significantly reduce the terrible side effects of cancer treatments like chemotherapy.

Cannabis therapy is commonly used to treat the symptoms of the disease and its treatment including pain, nausea and vomiting, and loss of appetite. But, can cannabis cure?

A recent article in the Globe & Mail acknowledged the sad fact that many cannabis dispensaries that are operating illegally are marketing cannabis as a “cure” for cancer. While there are some incredibly strong stories of people seeing their cancer come into remission, or seeing tumors shrink, the clinical research still isn’t there to push cannabis as a cancer cure.

While these marketing tactics jump the gun on the science, there’s hope. There have been some studies that have looked at how CBD injected directly into human and experimental animal subjects that are showing promise for shrinking cancerous tumors. Unfortunately, the climate for cannabis research is too slow, due to a number of political factors surrounding the legality of cannabis.

So, Where Does it Stand?

When taking any stance on cannabis, balance in your own approach and understanding other perspectives is key.

Any cannabis advocate will be able to show that the benefits of cannabis far outweigh the associated (and avoidable) risks, but it doesn’t mean we should tout cannabis as a cure-all. Cannabis is a supplement for health rather than a stand-alone medication and especially with cancer, shouldn’t be taken in lieu of other approaches to treatment and prevention.

You can be conscious about the way you use cannabis so to reduce your risks of smoke inhalation through well-designed cannabis accessories. As a cannabis advocate, you can educate yourself on the promises, and limitations, on how cannabis is being used medically in the fight against cancer.

Looking for more great content? Stream the Womxn, Wellness and Cannabis Conference to learn from the experts and celebrate the feminine cannabis experience.

Anne-Marie Fischer Moodie is a freelance cannabis writer and educator dedicated to cultivating and disseminating important knowledge about cannabis as legalization spreads across the globe. After spending most of her career in academic and research settings, Anne-Marie and her husband moved to Tamarindo, Costa Rica and open a tattoo shop called The Drifter’s Ink while she explored the prospect of full-time writing. By consistently working with clients in the cannabis industry for their professional writing needs, Anne-Marie found a natural connection between her unique skill set and the needs of the cannabis industry. Now, CannaWrite is a freelance professional writing company that seeks to employ and empower other female writers in helping the world’s best cannabis companies.


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