​VERA FILES FACT CHECK: US gov’t DID NOT admit marijuana is cancer cure

UPDATE: Website Healthy Food House has corrected their story on Oct. 15, 2019

A three-year old Healthy Food House article made the rounds on Facebook (FB) with a clickbait headline saying the United States government has recognized the cannabis plant’s cancer-curing abilities. This claim is false.

The article’s link as seen on Facebook, bears the false headline:

“U.S. Government Finally Admits Cannabis Really Does Kill Cancer Cells.”

Clicking the link leads to a “health” piece with a different title, purportedly published on Oct. 20, 2016:

“Cannabinoids May Be Useful in Treating The Side Effects of Cancer and Cancer Treatment.”

The story is false on several levels.

First, a keyword search of the false headline as seen on Facebook yielded the earliest archived version of the article which bore the title “U.S. Government Finally Admits Marijuana Really Does Kill Cancer Cells.” The feature explicitly claimed “the fact that cannabis successfully destroys cancer cells is no longer a conspiracy theory in the U.S.” This is untrue.

A study conducted by The University of California San Diego found that cannabis -- commonly known as marijuana -- can be used for pain relief in patients with specific medical conditions. The District of Columbia Health Department also said “studies generally showed improvements in pain measures with cannabis and cannabinoids,” including in the treatment of pain due to cancer. Several states in the U.S. have passed laws and policies legalizing the use of cannabis for medical or recreational purposes.

The country’s federal or national government, however, still classifies the cannabis as an illegal drug. It is categorized as Schedule I under The Controlled Substances Act of 1970.

Schedule I substances fulfill the following conditions:

  • The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.
  • The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
  • There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.

Second, the uniform resource locator (URL) or web address of the current Healthy Food House article (https://www.healthyfoodhouse.com/u-s-government-finally-admits-cannabis-really-kill-cancer-cells/) is similar to the URL of the archived copy, only differing on the words “cannabis” and “marijuana.” In this version, the body of the report was drastically changed, with the claim reduced to “numerous people” believing cannabis is a “successful cancer cure.” Although the article claims to have been published on Oct. 20, 2016, a check of the webpage’s source code reveals it was updated just last Sept. 28.

The Healthy Food House’s article aggregates two articles by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) which discuss various scientific studies on the use of cannabis plant and its component, cannabinoid, in the treatment of cancer and its therapy’s side effects.

However, while the two NCI articles featured studies which pose the possibility of using cannabis and cannabinoids in curing cancer and its related symptoms, they both explicitly declare that on going studies on the matter are mostly laboratory and animal studies, with the only published clinical trial on humans demonstrating “no significant clinical benefit.

The earliest known presence of the false article on Facebook was on February 2017, according to social media monitoring tool CrowdTangle. It was reshared sporadically until this year, but did not gain traction from netizens.

It was Facebook page Medical Marijuana a New Beginning’s Sept. 28 post of the report which got the most number of engagements -- it was shared 35,000 times and could have reached around 23.3 million social media users.

Both the Healthy Food House website, which was created Sept. 7, 2012, and FB page Medical Marijuana a New Beginning have a reputation of posting numerous articles on the medical use of marijuana.

The article on cannabis being a potential treatment for cancer and its related symptoms and effects, which made the rounds on the internet as the Childhood Cancer Awareness Month of September was wrapping up. Its top traffic generators are Facebook pages Medical Marijuana a New Beginning, Underground News Wire, and Illumi-Leaks.


(Editor's Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)

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