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Every so often someone in the marijuana universe comes along, often with some quirky invention or some primo strain and earns a place in the pantheon. Jack Herer, Tom Forcade, Brownie Mary, Bob Marley - they're folk heroes who are tangled up in the history of AIDS activism, decolonization and the gradual cancellation of prohibition around the world.
One of those figures is Rick Simpson, whose eponymous 'Rick Simpson Oil' (or RSO) kick-started the mainstreaming of the idea of cannabis as a way to treat cancer. His oil a thick, sticky honey that to be made properly, must be made manually has been used worldwide. Many very sick people, pushed to the edge, went desperately to the underground market to get their hands on some Rick Simpson Oil. What's amazing is that many users reported positive effects after using the oil. Cannabis distillates have grown in the public consciousness as a direct challenger to Big Pharma and much of that began with Rick Simpson.
In the late 90s, Rick Simpson was working in a hospital as an engineer in the boiler room. He fell off his ladder one day, hitting his head. He suffered side effects of the accident for years, eventually finding that cannabis helped treat his resulting tinnitus.
In 2003, Simpson was diagnosed with skin cancer. Instead of the doctor-recommended cancer treatment, Simpson concocted an oil made out of cannabis or hemp the basic recipe that would later become RSO and treated the growths with that. After just a few treatments with his newfound oil concoction, Simpson says the cancer had disappeared due to the cannabis. His doctor disagreed however, and it is here that the basic schism between Simpson and the medical establishment occurred.
For the next half-decade, Simpson continued producing the oil for medical patients. In Canada at that time, medical patients were able to designate specific growers. This meant that some lucky farmers like Simpson were able to grow fields of the stuff to deliver to patients in need. It also meant that the medical growers were a frequent target of Canadian police and Simpson was no different. In 2009, police raided his east coast crop and put an end to his production of the oil. Since 2013 Simpson has lived somewhere in the Balkans, believing that the semi-autocratic governments there are "backed into a corner" and are perpetually on the verge of legalizing weed. (There's also a thriving drug trade there.)
At its most basic level, Rick Simpson Oil is just distilled cannabis oil. There are any number of ways to make this (mostly with the same methods and tools that Simpson himself recommends). Problem is though, anyone and everyone making cannabis oil can label it as "Rick Simpson Oil," regardless of its quality or production method and get the name recognition boost.
Rick Simpson himself has some interesting ideas on the subject of what is and what isn't Rick Simpson Oil. Plenty of people have tried to make a quick buck by passing off something as RSO, so Simpson has a simple message. "The only way to know that you have the real thing is to produce the proper oil yourself." (If you go to his website, this phrase is repeated over and over again.) RSO is less of a single product than a concept or a recipe. It's like Caesar salad dressing or the Cobb salad they're ideas that people make but they both started with someone or somewhere very specific. Everything else is just copies.
The basic gist of the recipe is to take a pound of plant matter and soak it in isopropyl alcohol, stirring it for a few minutes. After this, you strain the mixture and then boil the substance in a rice cooker until it's a thick honey. A pound of plant matter (the recommended way is to use all of the cannabis plant, not just the buds that you'd smoke) will give you 60 grams of the stuff which is enough for a 90 day treatment cycle. The production of RSO requires a little bit of space and equipment but most of all it requires a keen attention to safety. Since you are working with heat and flammable alcohol, it is imperative that if you're hoping to make RSO you do so outside or in a well-ventilated area.
It cannot be stressed enough that you read (and follow) Simpson's own instructions on how to make the oil. Simpson created a 2,600-word essay on production, including thoughts on how to take the medicine, how to use it in conjunction with other things and how to pace yourself when it comes to your own medication. If someone ever puts together a cannabis bible, Simpson's instructions will be a foundational document.
The canonical use for RSO is for cancer treatment. It is important to declare here that this website is not an official source for medical advice and that the science is not definitive on what, if any, effect RSO can have on cancer. But many patients have used it and experienced success in treating a number of cancers.
There are lots of other conditions that RSO is said to aid in the treatment of. Many of these are the same conditions that cannabis can benefit things like inflammation, multiple sclerosis, anxiety, insomnia and others. One of the most touted benefits of RSO is its versatility: many claim it can be used for virtually anything.
Simpson recommends that the oil be used by dropping it under your tongue out of a syringe. Patients are advised to graduate up to the full desired amount. Since it is, after all, a cannabis product, the side effect of getting stoned is to be expected. There are no definitive guidelines on how often to take it but Simpson says: "I suggest that people start with three doses per day, about the size of a half a grain of short grained dry rice. The patient should take this dosage every 8 hours, early in the morning, then again in the afternoon and then they should take their final dose of the day, about an hour before bedtime."
Once you gradually work up to about 1 mL of the oil per day, most patients hold there and continue to take it for around 90 days.
"Usually, within an hour or so after taking a dose, the oil is telling you to lay down and relax," writes Simpson. "Don't try to fight the oils sleepy effects, just lay down and get comfortable, then allow the oil to give you the rest and relaxation you require to heal properly."