Cancer hits close to home for me, and likely for every person reading this blog. I have had the first-hand experience of caring for a loved one dear to me that was battling cancer. As a child, I saw the horrific effects of chemotherapy to my loved one’s body, appetite and spirit.

Fast forward nearly 25 years later, I look back and think of all the ways I would have helped my family member today. Among many things, I would have explored cannabis as a medicinal alternative to ease the pain that cancer treatment side effects pose. While this is my personal belief, it is worthwhile for anyone impacted by cancer to, at the very least, consider. Until you walk a mile in someone’s shoes, you cannot dismiss their very personal perspective.

The National Cancer Institute has more information in a white paper, called “Cannabis and Cannabinoids (PDQ®) – Patient Version,” that is a good reference on the topic at large. I found the following passage of particular interest as it relates to the history of the medical use of cannabis:

“The use of Cannabis for medicinal purposes dates back at least 3,000 years. It came into use in Western medicine in the 19th century and was said to relieve pain, inflammation, spasms, and convulsions.

In 1937, the U.S. Treasury began taxing Cannabis under the Marijuana Tax Act at one dollar per ounce for medicinal use and one hundred dollars per ounce for non-medical use. The American Medical Association (AMA) opposed this regulation of Cannabis and did not want studies of its potential medicinal benefits to be limited. In 1942, Cannabis was removed from the U.S. Pharmacopoeia because of continuing concerns about its safety. In 1951, Congress passed the Boggs Act, which included Cannabis with narcotic drugs for the first time.

Under the Controlled Substances Act passed by Congress in 1970, marijuana was classified as a Schedule I drug. Other Schedule I drugs include heroin, LSD, mescaline, methaqualone, and gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB).

Although Cannabis was not believed to have any medicinal use, the U.S. government distributed it to patients on a case-by-case basis under the Compassionate Use Investigational New Drug (IND) program started in 1978. This program was closed to new patients in 1992.

Researchers have studied how cannabinoids act on the brain and other parts of the body. Cannabinoid receptors (molecules that bind cannabinoids) have been discovered in brain cells and nerve cells in other parts of the body. The presence of cannabinoid receptors on immune system cells suggests that cannabinoids may have a role in immunity.

Nabiximols (Sativex) is a Cannabis extract that contains delta-9-THC and cannabidiol (CBD). Nabiximols is approved in Canada (under the Notice of Compliance with Conditions) for relief of pain in patients with advanced cancer or multiple sclerosis.”

As a society, we are limiting ourselves in the advancement of cancer treatment by inhibiting cannabis research.