By Melissa Hutsell
Photo by Davor Pongracic
Rick Simpson turned to cannabis after traditional medicine failed him. The oil he created proved beneficial; not only did he find relief in the plant, but he found its topical use helped cure his basal cell carcinoma. Since then, his extracts, known as RSOs, help countless worldwide find hope and healing.
We previously spoke to the engineer-turned-advocate and author in the Emerald’s Spring 2017 Strain Edition. We followed-up with Simpson to discuss his cancer diagnosis, treatment, and the cannabis movement. Here’s what he had to say:
*This interview has been edited for length.
Emerald Magazine: As a cannabis advocate in Canada, you faced backlash from the government, had plants confiscated, and eventually left. Now, Canada has become the first developed nation to fully legalize cannabis; your response?
Rick Simpson: I am very pleased that the cannabis plant is finally gaining the recognition it always deserved. But I am not satisfied with the manner in which this is all coming about in the U.S., Canada and many other countries.
Big money interests are currently trying to gain total control of the growing and use of cannabis. They are promoting the use of strong regulations to ensure that their businesses become very profitable.
However, it is nice to know that now people in Canada can legally grow four plants. In many countries around the world, the use and growing of this medicinal plant is still prohibited.
[…] Our natural right as humans is to be allowed to have free access to this plant to help deal with our medical issues. Since 2014, I have been living in Croatia with my wife, Danijela, and we are currently calling Zagreb home. I am still quite fascinated with Europe, the history and many other aspects of life here. I truly feel that living in Europe makes much more sense than living in Canada, regardless of the fact that the laws and regulations on the cannabis issues are slowly changing. Real progress is hopefully yet to bee seen.
EM: Countless credit RSO for improving their quality of life. But, as the saying goes, no good deed goes undone. How has becoming a household name has affected you?
RS: For someone in my position it would be impossible to ignore the positive impact of cannabis oil, today known as Rick Simpson Oil (RSO), has had upon the lives of so many people around the world.
I am delighted to see that so many people are now taking their health problems into their own hands and that they are making their own medicine. Many of the testimonials available online in connection with the use of RSO are almost unbelievable, but there is no question that these oils provided a great number of patients relief from their medical difficulties.
[…] I am aware that testimonials cannot be viewed as true scientific studies, but thanks to these courageous individuals who were openly sharing with the world that they had used cannabis oil, the scientific evidence now does exist to back all the claims I have been making about the healing powers of cannabis oil. I feel we all owe them a debt of gratitude for the actions they have taken.
Maybe my name is a household name, but I am just a messenger. The cannabis plant is playing the main role in this story.
RS: When were you diagnosed with skin cancer?
EM: For a few years I had three lesions. One was close to my right eye, another on my left cheek and another on my chest. And they wouldn’t heal. I suspected that this was skin cancer
[…] The first lesion, close to my right eye, was surgically removed in January 2003. At that time, I still did not know that I had skin cancer, until I got the pathology report. In early 2003, I used cannabis extracts to heal three skin cancers I had been suffering with for many years, and I guess you could say that the rest is now history.
EM: What exactly motivated you to use cannabis oil? Why treat topically?
RS: A week after the doctor removed the lesion close to my eye, I was looking at the area where they operated and it was infected. At that moment I remembered the report I heard on the radio back in 1975. They were talking about the Medical School of Virginia study that stated that THC kills cancer cells. I knew the oil I produced had concentrated high levels of THC in it, so I decided to apply the oil directly to the lesions. I put some oil on the bandages and applied them to the affected areas.
EM: What were the results you saw? Do you continue to use it topically, or have you had any recurrences?
RS: I removed the bandages four days after and the lesions were completely healed, and there was no need for further treatment.
I couldn’t believe that the cancer was gone. I started telling friends and neighbors that cannabis oil healed my cancer. Most of the people thought that I was crazy and they were saying: “Yeah, right, Rick, cannabis cures cancer.”
EM: How did your doctor react?
RS: […] I went to my doctor’s office for a copy of my pathology report, which stated that I had basal cell carcinoma. [I told my doctor] I cured my own cancer with cannabis oil, but he had no interest in what this oil had done for my medical problem. I was shocked by my doctor’s behavior and you can say that this was the beginning of my activism.
EM: Your name is used to describe concentrated forms of cannabis. What is RSO, and what is it not?
RS: The only reason my name is [used] today is because Jack Herer […] began to describe these extracts as being the Rick Simpson Oil or RSO […]
I did not try to patent the method I used to produce the oil. When I put up the phoenixtears.ca website back in 2004, my main goal was to spread the knowledge and to make the information people needed to heal themselves free for all to use at no cost.
Yet, I am very distressed by the number of individuals who have misused the information I provided for free to the public to enrich themselves at the expense of patients—many of whom these suppliers provided with extracts [that] possessed very limited healing abilities.
RSO is cannabis oil made from the dried buds of the female flower of the highest quality, sedative Indica varieties of cannabis. The strain should be pure Indica or at least 90 % Indica dominant. When produced properly, THC levels are in the 80% range (or higher) and the oil is amber in color. Therefore, RSO is not CBD oil.
There are many suppliers who are using my name to sell their extracts and some of them even claim to be me, but in reality, I have no involvement with any of these individuals or companies. I do not supply the oil and the only two websites I am affiliated with are phoenixtears.ca and simpsonramadur.com.
EM: The CBD market is growing into a multi-billion-dollar industry in the U.S. But some advocates believe it’s unsafe to promote the use of CBD-only treatments for serious diseases, like cancer. What’s your response?
RS: From my experience cannabis oils that contain high levels of THC are most effective in the treatment of cancer and several other severe medical problems.
It is postulated that the beneficial therapeutic effects of cannabis result from the interaction of different cannabinoids. All these compounds—phytocannabinoids like THC, CBD, and what we call minor cannabinoids: CBN, CBG, CBC, CBL, CBDV and THCV—work together which is known as “the entourage effect.”
I do not dismiss the fact that CBD, in its own right, does have amazing healing powers, but I think that ignoring the benefits of THC could lead many to an early grave.
Much of the research that has been conducted over the years was focused on the study of THC. Even the American Cancer Institute itself openly admits on their own website that THC is very effective in the treatment of several different forms of cancer. […]
EM: You’ve seen the upsides and downsides of the birth of the modern cannabis movement: what has this plant come to mean to you?
RS: I’ve come to the realization that this plant is able to provide a key to the future of our species. [It] has thousands of other applications. […] Medicinal use is just one aspect. […]
As for the cannabis movement, I feel that this movement is so fragmented and there are so many people with hidden agendas and business concerns in our midst that it’s hard to recognize all this as being a movement at all. […] I was hoping to see people united around this plant with the same goal; the total repeal of all laws and restrictions regarding the use of the cannabis plant.
Still, it gives me great joy to see that there are people who are trying to do the same as I did—promote the use of this God given plant and its wonderful healing properties. […]