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Canadian Cancer Society perspective on hemp and cannabis products to cure cancer

17 April 2015

You may have read that cannabis products such as cannabis oil, cannabinoids and cannabis extract, which are made or extracted from the cannabis plant (sometimes also called a marijuana or hemp plant), can treat or cure cancer.

Cannabinoids are chemicals that act on certain receptors in our body. THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) is one of the most commonly known cannabinoids and is responsible for the psychoactive effects associated with marijuana.

Our perspective

We believe that there is currently no conclusive and reliable evidence that cannabis products, like cannabis oil, cannabinoids or cannabis extract, can treat or cure cancer. In the face of insufficient evidence of their effectiveness, the Canadian Cancer Society does not advise Canadians to use cannabis products to treat or cure their cancer.

The Society encourages more research about the medicinal benefits of cannabis products so Canadians will have the answers they need about this subject. We are committed to sharing current news about cancer treatments to Canadians. If the evidence does one day show that these substances would be beneficial in treating certain types of cancer, the Society will update its information.

Background

Cannabis oil

Cannabis oil, commonly known as hash oil and sometimes called hemp oil, comes from the leaves of the cannabis plant. It contains the chemical THC in varying amounts, depending on how the oil has been processed. Cannabis oil may also contain other chemicals. There is no reliable evidence to show that cannabis oil can treat or cure cancer. Health Canada has not licensed cannabis oil products as either a pharmaceutical or natural health product. Its manufacturing and purity are not regulated.

Do not confuse cannabis oil with hemp seed oil, which is the oil extracted from the hemp seed and not cannabis leaves. Hemp seed oil is widely available in Canada and contains little to no amounts of the chemical THC.

Cannabis extracts and cannabinoids

There is not enough evidence to show that cannabis extracts and synthetic cannabinoids can treat or cure cancer in humans. There are some hopeful studies that look at the effects of cannabinoids on cancer cells and in experimental animals. However, this research is still in the early stages and much more is needed before any conclusions can be made.

Some cannabinoids are available as an oral spray or pill. Health Canada has approved these products to treat some symptoms of cancer or side effects of cancer treatment, like nausea and vomiting or pain from advanced cancer. They are not approved as a treatment for cancer. These pharmaceutical products should be used only when prescribed by a doctor.

Using approved cannabis products to help you with your cancer is a personal decision and the Canadian Cancer Society encourages you to talk to your doctor if you are thinking about using these products.

Learn more about cannabinoids and how they might help treat side effects and symptoms of cancer.