MOST OF US know someone who has battled cancer. Words fail to describe what a living nightmare it is for those afflicted, and for those who love them. Over the years, hope has waxed and waned for a cure, and despite the prominence of pink ribbon-embossed clothing, electronics, and buckets of KFC, we don't seem any closer to finding one.
Or, maybe we are closer. Maybe.
In 2003, a Canadian man named Rick Simpson was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma skin cancer. He decided to craft a concentrated form of cannabis oil, reducing a pound of buds into an ounce of thick, black liquid using 99 percent isopropyl alcohol. The oil was about 72 percent THC and 11 percent CBD. After applying the substance, his carcinomas shrunk and disappeared. He then started working with others, some with internal cancers, and was amazed by the results. By his own estimation, some 70 percent of the terminal cancer patients he gave the oil to were cancer free after treatment.
But the Canadian government wasn't super thrilled that he was giving away this cannabis oil concoction. And when they raided his home and found more than 1,600 pot plants growing on his property, he was arrested. A trial resulted in a fine (for 1,600 plants? O, Canada!), Simpson made an internet video called Run from the Cure, and began sharing, at no charge, the formula for making what is now referred to as RSO, or Rick Simpson Oil.
His work was not without precedent. As early as the 1970s, researchers in the US found that cannabinoids shrunk tumors. In the 1990s, a toxicology report showed that rats exposed to THC had fewer tumors and lived longer.
Constance Finley is a Bay Area-based RSO believer. After attending the Oaksterdam University, a program that teaches marijuana-growing skills, Finley began making the oil. She started getting referrals from a "world-class oncologist," whom she refuses to name to protect his privacy and potentially his practice. As of April 2013, she had seen and treated 26 patients with stage-four cancers of the brain, colon, and lungs, and the tumors had metastasized to other organs. By incorporating the RSO with conventional treatments, Finley claims that all but one of the people she treated survived—a jaw-dropping success rate of 96 percent.
It isn't cheap—Finley charges $5,500 for a two-month program. So why not conduct clinical trials? Because if you want to study cannabis in a clinical trial, you can only use marijuana that has been grown on a farm in Mississippi that's owned and operated by the National Institute of Drug Abuse. And good luck getting anything from them, let alone funding.
But until we awaken from the dark ages of being terrified by a plant, you can learn to make your own via a YouTube instructional video. You can also find RSO in most Oregon Medical Marijuana Program dispensaries. I'm no mathlete, but it seems a reported 70 to 96 percent success rate is worth looking into further.