What if Cannabis Cured Cancer DVD cover

Len Richmond’s doc takes you on a fantastic voyage inside THC trichomes. But is THC fantastic enough to revolutionize oncology?

Approached as a groundbreaking documentary which proves that cannabis cures cancer — the word “if” appears in the title, not the content – What If Cannabis Cured Cancer falls short of the mark. Nonetheless, the DVD presents compelling evidence that cannabis has the potential to prevent or reverse diseases which began appearing with greater frequency after the advent of the Industrial Age.

Unfortunately, What If Cannabis Cured Cancer makes one claim for cannabis as miracle cure after another, which makes the following disclaimer more baffling: “This film makes no medical claims.”

What do the following quotes sound like to you?

  • Marijuana seeks out the cancer cells and preferentially kills them over the healthy cells.
  • Instructs cancer cells to commit suicide.
  • Tumors will regress and disappear.
  • Cannabinoids cure cancer cells in many cases.
  • Prevents [not “might prevent”] cancer cells from proliferating.
  • Prevents [not “may slow”] growth of tumors.
  • Prevents [not “can sometimes prevent”] cancer from spreading to other organs and tissues.
  • Induces the body to speed the death of all abnormal cells without disturbing normal cells.
  • Cannaboloids kill cancer cells in many cases.
  • We know that it [cannabis] kills cancer cells without hurting the non-transformed cells.

There is not a single dissenting opinion solicited or offered throughout the film’s 48 minutes.

The film is less than a minute old when it presumes no one’s going to bitch about a statement like “marijuana is never toxic or lethal.” Tell that to my 21-year old daughter, Isabelle. This past winter, in the home stretch studying for final exams, Isabelle was scavenging her condo’s cupboards. She found a cookie she had no idea a roommate had “activated.” One bite later, Isabelle had punched her ticket to Boulder Community Hospital’s emergency room — admitted with an elevated heart rate of 185.

According to every major dictionary, the word “toxic” isn’t limited to “deadly,” it also means “capable of causing injury.” So, when the film presents a wheelbarrow full of buds and basically says, “This is the amount you’d have to smoke to seriously injure yourself” … that’s just not believable. If you have the right body chemistry, one bite does the trick.

Isabelle Kohn

The offspring: one inadvertent bite of an activated cookie sent Isabelle Kohn to the emergency room with an elevated  heart rate of 185. So spare me the BS that marijuana has never harmed a fly.

I’m a little mystified why medical marijuana advocates aren’t satisfied calling a wonderful plant wonderful.

That’s not good enough?


They have to sell cannabis as a perfect plant with no downside whatsoever, one which has never harmed a soul in the entire recorded history of mankind. I’m not a regular purchaser of absolutes [“always,” “never”] and I’m not buying one now.

Some people are simply not meant for the weed, no matter how magically it may work for for others. Just like some people don’t do well with gluten. The possibility that someone could be allergic to cannabis does not seem to have been considered by the production team.

Ask Isabelle if she believes the statement, “Each and every one of us is wired to accept cannabinoids.” It’s not enough that many of us do well with cannabis? It has to be all things to all people?

Unless you happen to feel that informal testing on some types of mice substitutes for clinical testing on all types of humans, you, too, might balk at swallowing What If Cannabis Cured Cancer’s bait hook, line, and sinker.

All that said, What If Cannabis Cured Cancer convincingly illustrates cannabis’ promise for treating a broad spectrum of diseases. It tackles cannabis’ holistic properties on the molecular level, explaining how a humble plant biomimics helathy human systems — and it puts it all across in a clear manner a four-year old could follow.

The producers provide the exact right level of detail. The film really succeeds at humanizing the science behind THC, cannabis’ star molecule, resinous pride of the trichomes.

What If Cannabis Cured Cancer’s writing really rocks. Len Richmond’s script dives deep into the chemistry of THC and its pyschotropic sub-compound, Star Trekishly dubbed Delta 9. The chemistry of cannabis is an arcane area where less assured communicators fear to tread. The virtual cannabis course even names names of specific cannabinoids [compounds like CBC], encapsulating each one’s role in maintaining vitality.

Choosing Peter Coyote as narrator was a masterstroke. Coyote’s phrasing is beyond confident. We somehow accept his hour-long Chemistry lecture without “reaching for the remote.” The same subject matter delivered by less soulful voiceover talent could have easily gone over peoples’ heads. I’ve watched this DVD several times with people who were on the fence about legalization. It was obvious that Coyote’s winning intonation — carved in the collective unconscious after narrating for top documentary makers like Ken Burns — was a big reason they opened up to the film’s controversial views.

black and white head shot of actor Peter Coyote

If I were hiring a narrator for a documentary, I’d pick Peter Coyote, too.

Despite my reservations about its unnecessarily brazen claims, I can easily see What If Cannabis Cured Cancer winning converts to the cause. It shows the plant’s undeniable effectiveness as a free-radical scavenging antioxidant, it provides forensic evidence why the aromatic herb fell out of the pharmacopoeia after the 1920s, and it includes footage of various government officials and agencies covering up knowledge about cannabis’ obvious medical benefits.

The graphics aren’t quite as lavish as what we’ve seen in, say, An Inconvenient Truth, but they do a more than adequate job of presenting technical and scientific jargon in viewable form that a chimp could comprehend at a glance.

What If Cannabis Cured Cancer does a great job of anticipating viewers’ questions, like:

  • If cannabis might be the miracle cancer cure that everybody’s been searching for, why don’t doctors everywhere know about it?
  • Why aren’t billions of dollars being directed at organizations that raise money for cancer therapy?
  • Why does the corporate media continue to connect marijuana only with gangs, violent drug dealers, and society’s losers, not the growing number of doctors and scientists who are discovering its benefits?
  • What stops marijuana from being legalized for medical use all over the country?

The DVD tackles all these and more . . . even if the answers don’t quite complete the puzzle. At least director Richmond makes an earnest effort to fill in the blanks and defuse fears about medicinal use.

To its credit, as soon as I heard the documentary’s claims for curing cancer, my first reaction was “Show me,” as in, “Where’s the clip of cannabis destroying cancer cells?” Richmond provides it, albeit it’s a ten-second snippet taken too far out of context to qualify as irrefutable evidence. But he anticipated the viewer’s desire to see it with his own eyes.

What If Cannabis Cured Cancer shows that endocannabinoids present in the plant bear an uncanny resemblance to endocannabinoids in our own body chemistry. We also learn that at least one physician believes marijuana can tame psychosis – directly contradicting the longstanding myth that it causes it.

Suffice it to say that had the film’s producers set out to prove that cannabis was God’s gift, they would have succeeded. But it’s not possible to prove that cannabis cures cancer without a heck of a lot more research. The film sure tries, though!

What’s missing? I would have liked a little more about how chemists can manipulate, isolate, or subtract the psychotropic compounds from THC, clearing the way for calming preparations which could replace a true drug like Ritalin. And more about how medical marijuana initiatives keep the status quo of cannabis as a Schedule One drug in place, blocking clinical studies from taking place in an ironic twist.

The production values of What If Cannabis Cured Cancer are commendable. If there’s a better DVD about the science of cannabinoids, I’d like to see it. Ultimately, the film makes too many black and white generalizations. There is no perfect substance on Planet Earth – cannabis included.

I could recommend the DVD more if it claimed cannabis is a great help for most people most of the time – as opposed to all people all of the time. Nonetheless, blemishes and all, What If Cannabis Cured Cancer should be required viewing for anyone seeking to expand their knowledge of the magical weed.