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Adding to the long list of reasons why marijuana prohibition is rather ridiculous, a new study published in the journal Anticancer Research found that components of the illicit plant kill cancer cells and may be an effective treatment for leukemia.

In the UK study, researchers tested six different types of non-psychoactive cannabinoids — not including THC, which produces the high — and found that all destroyed cancerous cells when used alone or in combination.

Study author Wai Liu of the University of London’s St. George’s medical school told U.S. News and World Report, “There’s quite a lot of cancers that should respond quite nicely to these cannabis agents. If you talk about a drug company that spent billions of pounds trying to develop these new drugs that target these pathways, cannabis does exactly the same thing – or certain elements of cannabis compounds do exactly the same thing – so you have something that is naturally produced which impacts the same pathways that these fantastic drugs that cost billions also work on.”

Cannabinoids damage cancer cells in more than one way, affecting “a number of important processes that cancers need to survive,” said Liu.

OK, so this doesn’t necessarily mean that smoking weed will treat cancer. But the findings are consistent with hundreds of other studies that show medical benefit to marijuana, despite the fact the the DEA classifies it as a Schedule I controlled substance — meaning it has “no known medical benefit.” The U.S. government makes it extremely difficult to research marijuana, diminishing the chances of developing valuable treatment options.

Instead of criminalizing a non-poisonous plant, it seems we should be studying this mysterious and potent flora to find out how it can benefit our health. People’s lives could depend on it.

Image by Sarah Thomas