Women with breast cancer

10 Things I Learned About Cannabis and Cancer

At IMPACT Network and Trill Alternatives‘ recent conference, Cannabis and Cancer, experts and advocates in cannabis treatment gathered to gain insight on latest developments and discuss how to better bridge the gap between cancer patients, survivors, healthcare professionals, and leaders in government and non-profit organizations.

Today, IMPACT has teamed up with dispensaries like Trill Alternatives whose Wellness Consulting Program offers free 30 minute consulting sessions for medical patients; however it is strongly advised to seek private consultation in an appropriate setting with your physician.

The monthly conference was held at IMPACT headquarters in Denver, Colorado where cannabis has been legal for both recreational and medical use since 2012. Speaking at the event was Robin Hackett, Founder of The Hackett Foundation, a treatment facility and non-profit cannabis research organization providing services and counseling to patients in need.

1. Cancer will effect 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women.

In Colorado, there is one group who strives to help cancer patients of all ages to beat the odds one day at a time using cannabis. The Hackett Foundation has treated over 4,000 cancer patients using medical marijuana since 2014.

“There are over 480 natural components to the cannabis plant, 111 cannabinoids, and more to be discovered.” – Robin Hackett, Founder of The Hackett Foundation


Founder of the Hackett Foundation, Robin Hackett presents to a packed house at IMPACT Network headquarters during a recent conference on Cancer and Cannabis.
Founder of the Hackett Foundation, Robin Hackett presenting at IMPACT Network headquarters in Denver.

Specializing in child and senior care, the Denver-based non-profit applies products like Mary’s MedicinalsSweet Mary Jane, and Re:Leaf tinctures in the form of patches, extractions, and edibles to treat children with epilepsy.

According to Dr. Michele Ross, Founder and CEO of IMPACT Network, recent studies indicate how patients in the U.S have been using cancer treatments longer, and not getting a big increase in response.

“Only 39% of treatments result in a success,” says Dr. Ross, and treatment can cost on average $20,700 per year.

Not only are we spending more on less effective methods of treatment, but wasting our money on dead-end therapies including the most recent Juno Theraputics program that was halted due to unexpected deaths. 

“All of our science, all of our knowledge leading us to more death.”

2. Cannabis can stop cancer from spreading, metastasis, and induces apoptosis. 

Within the structure of the cannabis plant are cannabinoids like THC, THCa, CBD, CBN, CBG, THCv, and more which contribute to its therapeutic and medicinal benefits.Essential oils found in the plant called terpenes contain properties that found in food items like mangos, pine trees, oranges, lemons, and other herbs and spices. They give the strain its smell and can also assist patients throughout the healing process.

Media Credit: www.leafly.com

Aside from managing symptoms, cannabis can help freeze cancer. Cannabinoids help suppress nausea and vomiting and prevent angiogenesis (the creation of blood vessels) which provide building blocks for cancer cells to grow, blocking new blood vessels from forming.

Through a process called autophagy, cannabis has been shown to stop cells from dividing and tumors from growing.

Apoptosis, the death of a cell, is a warranted effect of cannabis treatment.

Dr. Michele Noonan Ross, Founder and CEO of IMPACT Network and author of Vitamin Weed speaks on the endocannabinoid system and how cannabis can stop cancer and reduce deficiency.
Dr. Michele Noonan Ross, Founder and CEO of IMPACT Network and author of Vitamin Weed speaks on the endocannabinoid system and how cannabis can stop cancer and reduce deficiency.

Among one the most influential cannabinoids is CBD, a powerful component to cannabis therapy, is anti-inflammatory, anti-convulsive, and eliminates pain. CBD can “change how genes are expressed” like 1D-1, a binding inhibitor gene found in all types of solid tumors.

3. Cannabis treatment can be used synergistically with chemotherapy. 

“There are two paths for cancer patients: people who decide to use traditional medicine, and people who would rather use cannabis,” says Hackett, “and we build a program around both.”

Working with various CBD: THC ratios, The Hackett Foundation has treated a number of aggressive cancers.

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According to her research, neuropathic pain associated with chemotherapy is not a side effect of cannabis treatment, but can be treated by certain cannabis products using a combination of topicals and edibles.

4. Whole plant medicine works best. 

A recent article in Leafly suggests that although CBD alone has proven to be beneficial to certain ailments previously unexplored by cannabis medically, there is greater importance in what happens when cannabinoids and terpenes interact with each other through the  “entourage effect”:

“The terpene myrcene, for example, can reduce resistance in the blood-brain barrier, enabling easier passage of other beneficial chemicals. Pinene helps counteract compromised cognition and memory caused by THC. A combination of terpenes pinene, myrcene, and caryophyllene help unravel anxiety. Mixing terpenes linalool and limonene with the cannabinoid CBG shows promise in the treatment of MRSA. THC plus CBN yields enhanced sedating effects. Linalool and limonene combined with CBD is being examined as an anti-acne treatment.”

Although the two most popular cannabinoids can be beneficial on their own, in terms of cancer treatment, it is necessary to utilize as many forms of cannabinoids together as possible.

“Don’t get powdered THC or CBD. You want extracts made from the whole plant,” says Dr. Ross.

“It’s easier to kill cancer when all the components are there,” says Hackett, “the cells respond better to treatment when using the entire plant.”
She explains that the CBD:THC ratios can differ between the patient’s needs and preference and the severity of the disease, but “if THC isn’t your thing, take it while you’re asleep.”

“It is a necessary component to treating the cancer.”

 5. Our bones heal 30% faster on cannabis. 

Among the many benefits of CBD as a “super-cannabinoid” is its ability to help heal bone density and rebuild artery walls in cancer patients suffering from the many side effects of chemotherapy.

Media Credit: www.onthemarkpr.org

6. Cannabis can rebuild artery walls. 

In Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes patients, The Hackett Foundation reports lower insulin spikes and up to a 55% reduction in insulin dependency and returned health to the internal organs.

Products like Sativex by GW Pharmaceuticals have been shown to treat glioblastoma, Lennox Gastaut syndrome, Multiple Sclerosis, a disease effecting over 2.3 million people worldwide.

7. Ingesting cannabis is necessary in order to treat cancer. 
“On human breast cancer cells, raw CBD can reduce metastasis. Throw in CBDA or juice if you are treating with cannabis,” but Hackett explains that smoking cannabis alone will not provide a cure.

Cannabinoid extractions, vaping, juicing with raw cannabis, and edible tinctures are several of the methods described during treatment; doses can range from 300 mg to 1500 mg per day.

“We’ve seen very little result (with smoking),” says Hackett in regards to previous patients. “We moved her to edibles and saw positive results in 2 weeks.”

Media Credit: www.onthemarkpr.org


8. Women metabolize cannabis differently than men. 

Men’s dosages are usually up to three times stronger than women’s. Hackett explains how women store a particular fat cell that differs from men, effecting how cannabis is metabolized in our systems.Regardless of gender, “there is a three day window with cannabis,” says Hackett, “If you up your dose, wait three days before upping again.”She explains how her first patients were often infants. Initially, treatments were a bit nerve-racking as dosing became an act of bravery, overcoming her own fears for the needs of those struggling severely.
 9. Often times, it’s up to the patient to start the conversation about cannabis. 

“Your doctor may know about cannabis, but they aren’t talking.”

 In Colorado, only 6% of medical marijuana card holders are cancer patients, and that number hasn’t changed since legalization in 2013; however, surveys indicate that 92% of pediatric oncologist would help minors receive medical marijuana or point in right direction.

The problem seems to be that doctors haven’t know which quality products to provide patients who do request information. Concerns about the amount of dosing and cannabinoid profile needed for each given disease are common in situations where physicians “are not trained enough on this particular system to make valid recommendation”.

In states that are non-prohibitionist states, “most doctors will know it’s legal,” says Dr. Ross, “but only 70% knew it was still illegal federally.”

“In medical schools, it seems like the systems they can prescribe drugs on are the ones that they cover. So they cover the dopamine system, they cover the serotonin system because there are drug targets for that and you can prescribe drugs for that. Up until this point, the only drug you could prescribe for the endocannabinoid system was Marinol and that was only used for oncology patients. If there were no pharmaceuticals you could prescribe for, it wasn’t really involved in the conversation because it’s a Schedule 1 drug.” 1.

Haleigh’s Hope, a Colorado-based cannabis oil company provides medication to patients suffering from cancer, Crohns disease, epilepsy, and MS. Haleigh’s Hope offers all-organic, quality high CBD, low THC extractions in ratios ranging from 15:1 to 20:1.With the passing of the FARM Bill, all forms of commercial industrial hemp are federally legal in states that allow hemp cultivation; however, our doctors aren’t trained nor do they spend the time researching the current products on the market. Why would they? They’re busy being doctors. 

It doesn’t take a degree in neuroscience to know, “your doctors are not your lawyers,” Dr. Ross explains. “Don’t depend on your doctor to know your state laws. Be your own advocate. Know your own laws.”

10.  Cannabis is still an illegal treatment for cancer patients in 25 states. 

 Most in the cannabis community concur, “when the FDA approved Marinol, they had to agree that cannabis can ease these symptoms,” and that this thin line of legality is what’s damaging to the industry and to cancer patients alike.

Although most CBD companies will ship out of state, it can be difficult or nearly impossible to reach, requires hours of travel to locate a store in hopes of finding a quality brand, and is risky as to whether it is technically federally legal to do.

Products like Haleigh’s Hope, Sweet Mary Jane and more are available online, and companies are shipping nationwide; however many are still unsure about the potential consequences both legally and medicinally, (as if there should be a consequence for costly medicine).

For example, The Drug Policy Alliance discourages individuals from purchasing products online due to the potential for harmful toxins in unregulated products.

But people need quality products now more than ever.

“The biggest problem in cannabis is getting different tests and showing cannabinoids different in tests results,” says The Hackett Foundation’s Founder.

She encourages using whole plant products that are triple tested.

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“We are just starting to do clinical trials with cancer and cannabis due to government interference,” says Dr. Ross. “We know cannabis is safer than chemo, we know patients who have treated cancer with cannabis. Why can’t researchers study Colorado cannabis products?”

She describes: “because of federal law. Unless the plant is FDA approved NIDA marijuana, we can’t study it.”  

One of the most widely recognized components of the cannabis plant, THC, has been known to “kill lukemia via apoptosis without killing surrounding cells,” but most of these precursor studies have only been allowed to be conducted in petri dishes, not in actual humans.”

In a recent interview with Dr. Ross indicates the significance of re-thinking our curriculum in modern medicine:

“We know now that a lot of different diseases can be caused by vitamin deficiency. For instance, Vitamin D deficiency, 90 percent of us are Vitamin D deficient and it can cause a whole long list of problems, including cancer. So you would think we need to tell doctors to test for Vitamin D levels and have that be a part of medical school curriculum…If it’s not based in pharmaceutical medications, we don’t talk about it. So the omission of the endocannabinoid system isn’t the only glaring thing missing from medical school curriculum.”

IMPACT Network, The Hackett Foundation, and cannabis research programs state-wide would like to study the products in their home, “and the people taking them here.”
“Let’s change policy in Colorado so we can do it. There are no excuses. Everyone is moving here; we have the patients, doctors, products. We have everything we need.”
  1. “Elevating the Conversation with Dr. Michele Ross.” The Las Vegas Premier Cannabis Magazine. N.p., 23 May 2016. Web. 30 Aug. 2016.
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