Medical Marijuana and CBD Oils For Cancer - Pros & Cons

by Jane Ashley

Medical marijuana/medical cannabis is now legal in 31 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico. However, most of us don’t understand the different types of medical marijuana that are available and how medical cannabis differs from “smoking pot.” We’ll try to help you understand the differences and how medical cannabis and/or CBD may help you in your cancer diagnosis.


Medical Marijuana in the Treatment of Cancer


Two cannabinoids, dronabinol and nabilone, are approved by the FDA to prevent/treat nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy. However, the FDA contends that there is not enough evidence to recommend cannabinoids for the treatment of other chemo-related side effects.

Federal Law makes it illegal to possess cannabis/marijuana. In the last 10 years, more states have taken it upon themselves to pass laws to legalize medical marijuana. Some states have gone even farther and permit the adult use of marijuana for recreational purposes.

Evidence continues to grow regarding the anti-tumor properties of cannabis. Yet, the use of medical cannabis is uncharted territory because no clinical trials have been done. Researchers must jump through lots of hoops to obtain a Schedule I license and get approval from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

So … for now, potential patients must rely on anecdotal evidence to help them in their decision making.

Different Types of Marijuana

Because medical marijuana has been legalized in over half of our states but remains illegal to possess in the eyes of the federal government, prescribing information is sometimes sketchy and confusing to potential patients. Patients and their loved ones have to guess what to buy.

Marijuana Flower

According to Wikipedia, there are at least 113 cannabinoids (chemical compounds) that can be isolated from the cannabis plant. So it’s no surprise that potential patients are confused. However, there are two primary cannabinoids that can be considered by cancer patients.
THC. Tetrahydrocannabinol is the official word for THC. It has psychoactive properties. It has medicinal properties but can also alter mood and provide a “high.” Medical properties include:

• Anti-inflammatory
• Helps prevent muscle spasms and tremors
• Pain relief
• Appetite stimulant
• Lowers blood pressure
The psychoactive effects (feeling high) include:
• Heightened sensations
• Feeling giddy
• Confusion/anxiousness
• Dizziness/fainting
• Increased heart rate

The potential use of THC should be fully discussed with your medical team. The FDA-approved drug dronabinol is a synthetic version of THC and is used to reduce nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy. It is also used as an appetite stimulant.

Edibles containing THC represent a new way to deliver cannabis but carry a risk of “overdose.” They are high in potency. When they ingested, their effects tend to last longer (6-8 hours) and with greater intensity. Edible marijuana products come in the form of cookies, chocolate bars and gummies. If you’re considering edibles, only eat the recommended amount and store the product so that children or pets can’t inadvertently eat your edible cannabis.

Remember that THC, derived from the marijuana plant, is only legal in nine states and the District of Columbia.


CBD oil is extracted from the hemp plant (a type of cannabis but lacks the high concentration of THC, the ingredient that makes a person high). Hemp contains about 0.3 percent dry weight of THC compared to up to 30 percent for the marijuana plant. Hemp also contains more CBD, which is non-intoxicating and provides multiple medical uses.


Hemp is grown worldwide to produce rope, clothing, and other textile products and can be used in construction. Its seeds are edible. The United States is the only developed country that prohibits growing industrial hemp. However, 17 states now allow farmers who apply for and receive a permit to grow hemp for commercial purposes.

The CBD extract is added to an oil and is marketed as CBD oil. Suggested uses for CBD oil include:
Arthritis pain
• Multiple sclerosis spasms
• Chronic pain

Potential other uses include smoking or drug withdrawal symptoms, epilepsy and/or seizure disorders, insomnia and anxiety … some research even suggests helping people with Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, type 1 diabetes and cancer.

If the CBD oil you purchase is hemp-derived, not derived from the marijuana plant, it’s legal in almost every state. However, if you live Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska or South Dakota where all marijuana-derived products are illegal, make sure you know the source of the CBD oil in any product that you possess.

Again, if you are in active cancer treatment or are a cancer survivor, speak to your oncologist before taking CBD oil to ensure that it doesn’t have the potential to cross-react with your current medications.

The Bottom Line …

As of now, CBD oil, when derived from the hemp plant, is legal to possess. But due to the hodge-podge of 50 different state regulations, you had best use the “Buyer Beware” mentality in choosing where to purchase CBD oil. THC is legal in nine states and the District of Columbia, and these states appear to have regulated supplies that conform to state laws.

There are no studies that show that cannabis in any form cures cancer, but THC and CBD oil may help relieve symptoms of cancer treatment. Be sure to talk to your oncologist before consuming any cannabis-based product.

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