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Cancer and Medical Cannabis

Statistically, two in five Canadians will develop cancer in their lifetime. Cancer is an illness with no discrimination as to who it affects. Most Canadian oncologists support the choice of recommending Medical cannabis as a part of a treatment program for patients affected by cancer.

Marijuana has been used in herbal remedies for centuries. Scientists have identified many biologically active components in marijuana. These are called cannabinoids. The two best studied components are the chemicals delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (often referred to as THC), and cannabidiol (CBD). Other cannabinoids are being studied.

How can marijuana affect symptoms of cancer?

A number of small studies of smoked marijuana found that it can be helpful in treating nausea and vomiting from cancer chemotherapy. A few studies have found that inhaled (smoked or vaporized) marijuana can be helpful treatment of neuropathic pain (pain caused by damaged nerves).

Smoked marijuana has also helped improve food intake in HIV patients in studies. There are no studies in people of the effects of marijuana oil or hemp oil. Studies have long shown that people who took marijuana extracts in clinical trials tended to need less pain medicine.

Recently, scientists reported that THC and other cannabinoids such as CBD slow growth and/or cause death in certain types of cancer cells growing in lab dishes. Some animal studies also suggest certain cannabinoids may slow growth and reduce spread of some forms of cancer.

There have been some early clinical trials of cannabinoids in treating cancer in humans and more studies are planned. While the studies so far have shown that cannabinoids can be safe in treating cancer, they do not show that they help control or cure the disease.

Cannabis in Canada

Access to cannabis for patients in Canada is improving. However, the cost may still an issue for many. Laws may still be restricting the supply of cannabis, making it more expensive than it should be. Even though substantial progress has been achieved, there are still strict protocols in Canada for handling cannabis for medical purposes.

The numerous requirements outlined by Health Canada make it difficult for cannabis to be produced and in turn distributed. Regulations for cannabis are unnecessarily tight. Consequently, much needed research is stagnant.

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