So many of us are becoming more outspoken about counting on cannabis as an integral part of our wellbeing because we truly and deeply believe in the role it plays in promoting positive health and well-being.
There are so many positive stories about cannabis and its effects on people lives. One user may share her story of how cannabis helped her move past her symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and transition into a place of healing. Another may say that it helps with pain associated with endometriosis or that it eased their suffering when western medicine couldn’t. Some may even position cannabis as their savior.
But could we be doing harm by the way our community talks about cannabis as a “cure” or a “treatment” for serious diseases?
Wrist Slapping for Serious Claims
Last year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a series of warning letters to CBD companies, urging them to cease using potentially damaging language in advertisements for their products. These warnings came after several of these companies who were manufacturing cannabidiol made false claims about the compound’s ability to cure cancer.
Despite the fact that many of the companies that manufacture CBD products do disclose that their products haven’t been evaluated by the FDA, they often use language describing cannabis products as “medicine” or “drugs.” The FDA has vowed to crack down on any product that claims to diagnose, cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent disease.
While these warning letters didn’t really do much to upset the cannabis industry as a whole, they definitely helped to open up the dialogue about the terminologies our community uses.
Examining the Power of Language
Language is one of the most powerful tools we have in the movement towards legalization and acceptance. It’s language that helps us frame information about the cannabis plant and helps us advocate for policy changes that decriminalize it and bring it out of the shadows.
But can we really call cannabis a cure? Not quite yet. There is great potential for harm when something is positioned as a “cure” or a “treatment” without substantial scientific evidence.
The cannabis industry is an especially tricky beast. As a result of the abundance of people claiming to be cured or to experience mediation of their ailments, the industry believes in the powerful healing and wellness effects of cannabis.
An important example of language use in cannabis is in the discourse around claims that cannabis can “cure” cancer.
For instance, cancer patient Darren Miller combined chemotherapy with cannabis oil and is now living cancer-free. He credits the use of a specially-formulated CBD oil that “causes tumors to die,” which he obtained from Emerald Room dispensary in Los Angeles. This dispensary has gone on to sell this oil to over 60 additional cancer patients. At the same time, sites like cureyourowncancer.org present testimonials of people who have treated their various diseases with cannabis oil.
Another popular story is that of Charlotte Figi, whose parents helped formulate “Charlotte’s Web” cannabis oil after observing how the CBD-rich, low-THC formula almost eliminated Charlotte’s daily seizures, allowing her to live as a normal child. At first, Target stores sold this product online, but quickly pulled it from shelves due to the attention it was receiving as a “treatment”.
These stories are so promising and seem so plausible, yet cannabis is a severely under-researched plant, both for its medicinal purposes and for its potential as a replacement for some of the world’s most expensive and therefore profitable mainstream treatments.
While the industry has so many great stories and so much empirical evidence regarding the effectiveness of cannabis as a cure or a treatment for medical disorders, these claims simply have yet to be confirmed by the scientific and medical communities.
The Dangers of Misinformation
Why is this dangerous? Misinformation can mean the difference between life and death for someone, especially when it comes to choosing between health treatments. If someone is fed information about a new, alternative “cure” for their ailments, in a moment of desperation they could easily be led to reject scientific treatments, like chemotherapy.
There’s nothing wrong with trying an alternative therapy to treat a medical condition. Equally, there’s nothing wrong with blending different approaches to medical care, reaping the benefits of herbal, spiritual, eastern, and western approaches. However, we are not yet at the point scientifically where we can count on cannabis as a cure with 100% certainty.
Moving Forward with Concrete Cannabis Research
This is where it’s up to the cannabis community to be careful and intentional about the way we talk about our experiences.
In order to help us be able to confidently and accurately describe cannabis as a cure or a treatment, we need to push for more clinical and scientific research that substantiates claims. When we have a full body of clinical studies that show results and have been vetted by the medical community, we will then be able to more confidently and accurately position cannabis as the treatment we believe it to be.
Until then, it’s important for users to share their stories mindfully, as we advocate for more scientific inquiry to substantiate our personal experiences.
We know cannabis is powerful, we just need to make sure we have the proof to back our beliefs before we shout them from the rooftops.
Anne-Marie is a freelance cannabis writer and educator dedicated to cultivating and disseminating important knowledge about cannabis as legalization spreads across the globe. After earning her BA and Masters, she followed an exciting career in the research and education field, finding innovative ways to create collaborations between community needs and research and academic pursuits.
She traveled the world with her husband and settled in Costa Rica where they also own a tattoo shop. She is now a full time writer for the world’s best cannabis companies, advocates and organizations. www.cannawrite.com