The makers of a new documentary have teamed up with Cannabis Science, Inc., a Colorado firm, to promote the idea that marijuana can cure many types of cancer.
"Chronic Future - Killing Cancer," a 76-minute film by local guys Henry Miller and Corey Pritchard, is scheduled to premiere tomorrow (Thursday) at Harkins Theater Shea 14.
Originally planned to be called "Chronic Future - the 2811 Story," the film features the activities of medical-marijuana-marketer Al Sobol and the 2811 Club, LLC., one of the clubs we told you about last year that arose from the chaos of Governor Jan Brewer's decision to stall the roll-out of voter-approved dispensaries. Sobol's place was raided by Phoenix police in October while Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Dean Fink pondered the legality of such clubs in response to a lawsuit filed against them by state Attorney General Tom Horne. That case is still pending.
Sobol, known for his attention-getting antics, sent out an e-mail a couple of days ago blasting the movie and apologizing to his friends and associates for being "scammed" by the filmmakers.
"The producers rented the theater for a night to show the movie as part of a grand marketing scheme to sell Hemp Oil," Sobol wrote. "I fear these marketers, like the snake oils salesman before them, are selling nothing more than false hope for presumably big bucks. That is cruel for the people that suffer with real diseases."
Sobol's also steamed because, he claims, he was promised hundreds of "VIP tickets" to the premiere that never came through.
"He was never promised anything," he says. "He's very bitter. He's in it for himself instead of trying to help people.
Miller says he and his partner created their own, objective, movie and only later made a distribution deal with Cannabis Science to have it shown in other theaters.
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Cannabis Science, a public company, issued a news release last week stating, "Cannabis Science Reports Its First Documentary Release Date..." and its penny stock shares reportedly rose slightly in value. The company also plans to make its own documentary on medical marijuana with the help of Kevin Booth, creator of 2007's "American Drug War - the Last White Hope."
Whatever the reason for the pissing match between Sobol and the filmmakers, the claims made by the documentarians and Bob Melamede, president of Cannabis Science, are hard to believe.
Miller claims that during the months of filming, he personally witnessed patients with breast cancer and lung cancer receive injections of "hemp oil" who appeared to undergo miraculous recoveries.
One man with lung cancer who "had two weeks or less to live" returned to peak health after receiving the injections, Miller says.
Melamede, a University of Colorado associate professor of biology and marijuana activist featured in the film, also says he's seen amazing things happen when cancer patients ingest marijuana.
His Web site features pictures of four skin-cancer patients who allegedly were helped after using medicine made from marijuana. Melamede says his goal is simple: To change the world. His company is now trying to received approval for one of its products by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Yet the pictures on his company's site, though graphic, don't necessarily prove anything. The pictures from the fourth patient pictured on the Web site were submitted to Cannabis Science from the patient himself. Melamede says he's confident the pictures are valid.
The concept of marijuana as cancer-fighter isn't as radical as you might think: In 2007, Harvard researcher Anju Preet announced a study that showed THC (the main active component in pot) shrinks tumors and halts the spread of cancer. Her work came on the heels of other studies that also showed promise.
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Whatever the potential of pot, cancer doctors haven't caught on. And this is where Miller and Melamede turn to a type of conspiracy theory: They say oncologists are afraid to try this wonder drug because of pressure from "Big Pharma" and anti-drug activists. Miller goes further, saying that hemp oil as medicine is supressed by the medical community because "there's no money in cures."
Yet if pot worked as well for cancer patients as Miller and Melamede say it does, then by now it should have been embraced like the vaccines for smallpox or polio. After all, wealthy, powerful folks -- including those who work for drug companies -- get cancer, too, and presumably wouldn't want a miracle cure sitting on a shelf if they were suffering.
Documentaries may help Cannabis Science promote awareness of marijuana as medicine. But the extraordinary claims of Miller and Cannabis Science will require hard evidence that's equally as extraordinary.
Without that evidence, the filmmakers and the company do seem to run a risk of, as Sobol notes, giving cancer patients false hope.