Noe Valley Voice October 2011

Author High on Medical Marijuana

New Book Says Drug May Slow Cancer, Alzheimer’s

By Heather World

Journalist and medical marijuana advocate Clint Werner claims there is solid evidence for cannabis’ use in warding off major disease.    Photo by Pamela Gerard 

Clint Werner knew from personal experience that marijuana had medicinal uses—it could ease digestion or treat glaucoma, for instance. But it wasn’t until he came across drug studies while researching a book on the plant that he learned how promising its healing effects were.

“It exceeded my wildest expectations,” says the Noe Valley resident, whose book, Marijuana Gateway to Health: How Can­nabis Protects Us from Cancer and Alz­heimer's Disease, was released by Dach­star Press in September. “It’s not always a remedy, but it’s highly protective against the most dreaded diseases of mankind.”

According to Werner, the part of marijuana that induces its famous “high,” tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), has been shown to kill cancer cells and inhibit the growth of the plaque deposits that cause Alzheimer’s disease.

“This is not some wacky pipe dream that the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers had after eating too many hash brownies,” he writes.

Rather, it’s serious science.

Werner cites a cascade of clinical and epidemiological studies published by established researchers in peer-reviewed journals. Think the Scripps Research Institute and the University of California, Los Angeles, and magazines like theJournal of the National Cancer Institute and the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

“It was unbelievable, the amount of data that’s out there that people aren’t aware of,” he says. “I would have to stop and walk around the house holding my head in hands in amazement: nobody knows this!”

For example, Werner points to a 2010 study published in the journal Cancer Investigation that found THC prevented tumor cells from reproducing, migrating, and invading other areas.

“The effects were so profound that the researchers proposed that THC be used as a regular treatment for cholangiocarcinoma [bile duct cancer], which is devastating and difficult to treat.”

Writer Madness

Werner says the book took about 3,500 hours of “obsessive, maddening, crazed work” done over a year and a half. It started as a history of medical marijuana but quickly became something else, as he uncovered study after study that showed value from the drug.

He knew from his own observations the difference that marijuana could make to someone who was ill. Like many people who had cared for friends wasting away from AIDS in the 1980s, Werner, 51, had seen the drug stimulate the appetite of a friend suffering from nausea and other side effects of cancer and its treatment. His friend died in 1991, and Werner, who has enjoyed the drug recreationally as well, soon became an activist for medical marijuana. He counts among his friends Dennis Peron, the leader of the state’s medical marijuana ballot initiative, which passed in 1996.

In 1994—about the time he moved to Noe Valley—Werner met his future husband, Donald Abrams, a professor and researcher with the University of California, San Francisco. (In 1997, Abrams received a hard-won federal grant to study the effects of smoking marijuana on a group of HIV-infected patients.)

Consequently, Werner was well positioned to start researching a book on marijuana.

“I had unique access to both of these camps, the scientific research and the political activist world,” he says.

In the book, Werner explains the science step by step, using helpful analogies to describe the more complicated biological processes.

Natural health guru Dr. Andrew Weill has endorsed Werner’s work as “a clear and concise overview of the science supporting cannabis as medicine with an engaging account of the politics of prohibition that still keeps it from patients.”

Smoking Out the Truth

While the first part of Marijuana Gateway to Health focuses on the science behind the studies, the second, longer part delves into the history and politics of marijuana. Werner blames some of the public’s misconceptions about cannabis on the media, which tends to treat marijuana’s positive health associations as a joke or ignore them altogether. But he saves his biggest ire for the government itself, particularly the repression engendered by the “War on Drugs.”

“These are wonder drugs blockaded from our use by insane, outdated, ridiculous policy,” Werner says.

The topic is close to Werner’s heart, and not just because he likes to smoke weed. His mother suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, which may run in families. The Scripps Institute’s report detailing how THC slows the progression of the disease was released on Werner’s birthday in 2006, he notes.

“That was a gift because here is something I really enjoy that’s so wonderful and pleasant in so many ways and that also could protect me against Alzheimer’s, which my mother has,” says the North Carolina native.

Werner also cites studies showing that marijuana is not for everyone. One chapter is devoted to the populations who should avoid using the drug, including teens and couples trying to get pregnant. There are those people, too, who simply cannot abide its mental effects, he says.

Still, in Werner’s eyes, pot holds huge promise as a mainstream therapy.

“If we eradicate prohibition, there can be a whole new wave of entrepreneurship in which people find companies to produce supplements that are not necessarily psychoactive,” he says.

Ultimately, Werner hopes the book will provide knowledge and talking points to help eradicate misinformation and further research.

“Science has proven if you use marijuana regularly, you’re reducing your chances of getting various cancers, Alzheimer’s, and other forms of dementia,” he says. “That’s a mind-blower.”


Werner’s book Marijuana Gateway to Health: How Cannabis Protects Us from Cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease can be bought on The author also plans to make it available on his website,