7 People Who Used Cannabis To Treat Their Life-Threatening Illnesses

Photo: Sonya Yruel/Drug Policy Alliance


by Owen Poindexter

on November 24, 2014

With the increasing legal availability of medical cannabis, more and more people are understanding and appreciating its health benefits first hand. Twenty-three states plus Washington D.C. now allow legal access to cannabis for patients with a doctor’s recommendation and surveys now show the majority of Americans think marijuana should be legally available for medicinal and adult recreational use. Furthermore, the majority of American medical doctors think cannabis should be legalized and studied as a medicine according to recent polls.

Though people set on keeping cannabis illegal write off its therapeutic uses as an excuse for people to “get high,” the reality is much different. Cannabis, and particularly highly concentrated cannabis oil, has had startling palliative and curative effects on people of all ages with a wide range of medical conditions. 

The U.S. government has an effective system in place that prevents any independent, non-government clinical trials researching cannabis’ potential medical uses. But various studies in other countries have confirmed what hundreds of thousands of medical marijuana patients already know; medical cannabis does more than just mitigate pain (though it does that better than many pharmaceuticals). Personal testimonies are backed up by a growing amount of scientific evidence showing that cannabis can reverse chronic inflammation and reduce (or completely destroy) tumors —  including cancerous ones.

Despite this substantial body of scientific evidence, the federal government continues to list marijuana as an illegal Schedule 1 substance with no known medical value. Because of this, many patients living in the U.S. in states without medical marijuana programs are forced to make the choice between breaking the law for the sake of their own health or suffering needlessly.

Here are the stories of seven people who were struggling with severe illness — some of whom were quite close to death — whose lives were transformed for the better by cannabis treatment, whether or not that treatment was legal:

1. Shona Banda

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Shona Banda, a young woman from Kansas, has been outspoken about how cannabis changed, and quite possibly saved, her life. Banda has Crohn’s Disease, an inflammatory bowel condition. Her condition had worsened to the point where she was told that it was terminal. She had multiple surgeries and tried a host of medications, but they were largely ineffective. She was confined to her bed, and her bowel inflammation was so bad that she barely absorbed any nutrients from the food she ate.

Then, she started taking cannabis oil. Because she lives in Kansas, where marijuana is illegal in all forms, she wasn’t able to obtain the highly concentrated oil that many medical marijuana facilities offer. The concentrated oil requires pounds of cannabis to make. However, she and her husband managed to collect droplets of the oil from their vaporizer and place them into pill capsules. She took the oil capsules three times a day, and her condition started to ease almost immediately. After three days, he said, she could walk without a cane. Her appetite improved, and she gradually began to put on weight. With cannabis oil, Banda went from waiting to die, to fully recovering in a matter of months.

Banda has chronicled her recovery in multiple YouTube videos, and a book, Live Free or Die.

2. Andy Ashcroft

68-year old Andy Ashcroft’s doctors were preparing him and his wife for the end. Ashcroft had already survived longer than most patients with pleural mesothelioma — a cancer of the abdominal lining — and his medication had stopped working. Breathing had become progressively more difficult and he was informed that it was time to explore hospice care.

His wife decided to try giving him cannabis oil. Andy worked his way up from a tiny amount to a gram of oil per day. Now, four years after his initial diagnosis, Ashcroft said he feels healthy. He has stopped taking other medications, and his most recent CT scan showed no growth in his tumor. Cannabis oil appears to have contained Ashcroft’s cancer, and allowed him to continue to live a fulfilling life.

3. Chaz Moore 

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Chaz Moore, 19,  was only the 51st person to be diagnosed with myoclonus diaphragmatic flutter, a rare condition which causes intense spasms in the diaphragm. Moore was heavily medicated, taking 16 different prescription medications per day, and made frequent trips to the hospital.

Smoking marijuana drastically reduced his attacks, immediately dropping them to once a week, as opposed to multiple times a day. Moore was sixteen when he started using medical marijuana, and his high school in Colorado Springs, Colorado did not allow him to come to school while medicated. He had to leave school, which his dad calls discrimination.

“That’s what we get for being up-front and honest with people, is discriminated against,” Moore said in a video.

Chaz finished school via an online program.

Now he advocates for kids in a similar position to the one he was in to be allowed to have their medicine throughout the day without being penalized.

4. Trevor Smith


Photo: Via cureyourowncancer.org

Trevor Smith was 52 when he was diagnosed with bladder cancer. His urologist recommended chemotherapy, radiation and surgery which would remove his bladder and prostate. Before committing to that course of action, Smith and his wife Carole looked into alternative treatments.

He changed his diet, began taking natural supplements, and eventually tried cannabis oil. His condition improved and he opted to not have chemo, radiation or surgery. As of February 2014, two years after the initial diagnosis, Smith has had two consecutive cystoscopies that have shown him to be cancer free, according to his story on cureyourowncancer.org.

5. Joanne Crowther

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Joanne Crowther had battled various forms of cancer for years with conventional treatments. With chemotherapy and radiation, she beat back large B-cell lymphoma, cancerous tumors in her brain, and then a cancerous growth on her thigh. Each time, the cancer returned. New scans found cancer within her brain and her adrenal glands. Unable to handle more chemo, Crowther turned to alternative treatments, including cannabis oil. Soon, her appetite returned, and she began to feel healthier. Two months after she began the cannabis oil treatments, her medical checkup returned this report:

“She is doing remarkably well since being off chemotherapy with continued improvement everyday. The previously described mass in her left thigh actually regressed spontaneously. Her left facial palsy has improved and there is still some asymmetry….On examination she looks extremely well.”

The report provides a range of other details, all showing Crowley to either be improving or remaining as she was, and generally providing the picture of someone whose health is improving.

The following checkup, two months later, said that “she looks totally well,” and noting “no other lymphadenopathy.”

Additional follow-ups showed that Crowley’s cancer stayed in remission.

6. Michael Cutler

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Michael Cutler, a 63-year old grandfather, dodged liver cancer for the first time through a liver transplant, but three years later, his cancer came back. He was given just months to live. With little to lose, he researched alternate treatments and decided to try cannabis oil.

After only three days of ingesting the oil, the brutal pain he’d been living with went away. He continued to improve, and a biopsy in May at the Royal Free Hospital in London showed that his new cancer cells were gone. Cutler has taken to YouTube to share his story, and joined the United Patients Alliance to advocate for legalizing cannabis oil for medicinal use.

7. Charlotte Figi

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Charlotte Figi had her first seizure when she was three months old. It was a sign of things to come. Figi has Dravet Syndrome, a neural disorder, which caused her to have over 40 seizures a day. The many pharmaceutical medications her parents tried did little to stop a torrent of seizures. Eventually they turned to medical marijuana, which required the signature of two doctors.

One of those two, Dr. Margaret Gedde, explained to CNN.com that Figi had been close to death many times and that: “She’s had so much brain damage from seizure activity and likely the pharmaceutical medication. When you put the potential risks of the cannabis in context like that, it’s a very easy decision.”

The results of the cannabis treatment were drastic, reducing Figi’s seizuers to several a month, and allowing her to live a relatively normal life.

Figi has since become a symbol for the legalization movement. A strain of high-CBD, low-THC cannabis, intended for medical purposes, is named “Charlotte’s Web” in her honor, and a bill titled “Charlotte’s Web Medical Hemp Act of 2014” was introduced in the House of Representatives to exclude high CBD/low THC strains from the Controlled Substances Act (which would mean that these strains would not be federally illegal).