Cannabis Manual: Tarry Wisdom

What Is Rick Simpson Oil?

Joshua Lee
4 min read
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You’ve talked about it. You’ve wondered about it. You’ve considered it. But you haven’t been able to work up the nerve to try Rick Simpson oil (RSO)—the black tar in a syringe they keep at the far end of the dispensary counter.

You’ve asked about it a few times. It looks viscous and gummy, refusing to shift as you roll the syringe in your hand. They say you’ll have to eat some of it—a dose the size of a grain of rice. You asked how it tastes and the ‘tender made a face. You hemmed and hawwed and eventually lost courage. It just seemed too hard to make the commitment.

And who the heck is Rick Simpson, anyway?

According to High Times, back in 1997, Simpson was working at a Canadian hospital as an engineer. While treating the hospital’s pipes with a potent aerosol glue for asbestos, toxic fumes from the glue caused him to fall off a ladder and hit his head. After the injury, Simpson developed post-concussion syndrome, causing him to suffer from an incessant ringing in his ears. According to Simpson, he was
unable to successfully address the problem with traditional pharmaceuticals and decided to try a different tack after seeing a television program called “Reefer Madness 2.” The special highlighted people who were using cannabis for medical reasons—a novel idea at the time.

Simpson began
growing his own plants and developed a method for extracting THC and other cannabinoids from them. He claims that he used the extract to help treat his head injury and cure the ringing in his ears. He also says he began giving the oil to sick Canadians for free.

Doctors later diagnosed Simpson with basal cell carcinoma—a type of skin cancer. Simpson says he decided to treat the associated tumors himself by putting the oil onto bandages and applying them to his arms. He claims that after only four days the tumors disappeared.

Simpson continued to give out free samples of the oil to friends and even
published the recipe for his oil for free online. But in 2009, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police raided his home in Nova Scotia and shut his operation down. Simpson was in Amsterdam at the time and decided not to return to Canada to avoid incarceration. In 2013, he moved to Europe. According to a statement, he can return to Canada but has decided against it.

Simpson has made some pretty big claims about his oil—none of which have been corroborated. “This harmless non addictive natural medication can be used with great success,”
he writes, “to cure or control cancer, MS, pain, diabetes, arthritis, asthma, infections, inflammations, blood pressure, depression, sleeping problems and just about any other medical issues that one can imagine.”

If you’ve ever heard someone claim that THC “cures” or “kills” cancer, then you were probably speaking to a Simpsonite. They can have very compelling arguments, but the veracity of their claims has yet to be tested properly.

And while no self-respecting doctor would say that cannabis “cures” cancer without enough evidence, one study published in the
Journal of the National Cancer Institute back in 1975 found that tumors in mice seemed to shrink in relation to THC and CBN dosage. The same study found that ingesting CBD had no effect on tumor size. So there could be something worth looking into there, but much more testing would be required to prove anything.

What we do know is that RSO can be some potent stuff. This extract option can produce an oil with a THC content of over 90 percent. It can easily be produced at home with a good amount of discarded cannabis stems, a solvent like isopropyl alcohol or Everclear and a small rice cooker. Simpson recommends making your own to ensure its potency and purity, but
Weekly Alibi says: Leave it to the professionals. The solvents involved are highly flammable, and handling them in the kitchen can be extremely dangerous.

The process is quite simple, though. Professional extractors will steep plant matter in solvent until the trichomes have separated. Then they burn the solvent off slowly over low heat to activate the THC. The resultant substance is a dark, sticky oil that can be mixed into foods, vaped or eaten directly (although it tastes horribly bitter).

And while it might not cure cancer, it certainly will give you a psychotropic kick in the pants. And that’s plenty valuable on its own.
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