Cannabis has not been shown to definitively cure cancer

3 February 2023
What was claimed

Cannabis cures cancer.

Our verdict

This has not been definitively proven. Research is ongoing but we only have solid evidence for the use of cannabis in symptom management, not for treating cancer itself.

A Facebook post shows a photo of cigarettes captioned “Legal” – “causes cancer” and cannabis as “illegal” – “cures cancer”.

Cigarettes do indeed cause cancer. While they are legal, the UK Government has multiple policies to reduce smoking.

While cannabis is generally illegal for possession or distribution in the UK, medicinal cannabis has been legal to prescribe in certain circumstances since 2018. 

There is evidence some cannabis products can be beneficial to cancer patients, and research on this is ongoing, but there is no current proof that cannabis can cure cancer. 

We have previously fact checked similar claims that cannabis oil can cure cancer.

It may play a part in symptom management and alleviating side effects from chemotherapy. The latter is the only cancer-related use for which cannabis is currently licensed in the UK. 

Cancer Research UK, which has funded several studies into cannabis for skin cancers and is involved in ongoing research, states that “there isn’t a large enough body of evidence to prove that cannabis (or any of its active compounds or derivatives) can reliably treat any form of cancer”.

It also says: “Claims that there is solid ‘proof’ that cannabis or cannabinoids can cure cancer are highly misleading.”

Professor Edzard Ernst, emeritus professor at the University of Exeter, previously told Full Fact: “Cannabinoids have been shown to reduce the size of prostate cancers in animal models. Isolated case reports have yielded encouraging findings also in human cancers, for instance, acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. 

“However, case reports cannot be considered reliable evidence, and there is currently no data from rigorous clinical trials to suggest that cannabis products will alter the natural history of any cancer.”


Image courtesy of Budding

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