Olivia Newton-John: An Outspoken Medical Cannabis Advocate

Stephen Andrews
17 Aug 2022

Australian pop culture icon Olivia Newton-John passed away aged 73 on Monday, August 8. For decades, the British-born actress and singer fought cancer and one of the herbal medicines she used was medicinal cannabis. Olivia Newton-John unequivocally advocated for the use of medical cannabis before her tragic death. "It really is a magical miracle plant," she would say.

The Grammy Award-winning singer devoted her later life to activism in support of cancer research. 

Newton-John passed away peacefully at her home in Southern California, surrounded by family and friends; her husband, John Easterling, shared the announcement of her death. 

"Olivia has been a symbol of triumphs and hope for over 30 years sharing her journey with breast cancer," he wrote. 

The singer and actress was initially diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992 and at the time underwent partial mastectomy and chemotherapy to treat the illness. Her disease returned in 2013 when it spread to her shoulder, prompting the star to postpone some tour performance dates while she was being treated. 

In 2017, the singer once again postponed tour dates because of severe back pain. This time cancer had spread to the base of her spine. A year later, during an interview with the Australian television news program Sunday Night, Newton-John disclosed that she was using cannabis as part of her treatment, describing it as a "magical, miracle plant."

In the same interview, the Grease legend praised her spouse for growing cannabis at their ranch in California and preparing tinctures for her pain and inflammation. 

Newton-John pointed out that the couple is benefitting from the favorable cannabis policy in their home state, where personal cultivation of cannabis is legal.

"In California, it's legal to grow a certain amount of plants for your own medicinal purposes," she said.

"I'm very lucky that I live in a state where it's legal and that I have a husband that is a plant-medicine man."

Newton-John preferred natural medicines over prescription pills and steroid creams. She said that the pain caused by the illness was difficult to handle and sometimes resulted in mobility issues. 

"It [cannabis] helped me a lot with pain because I don't like taking prescription drugs. It's kind and compassionate. It's what should be available for everybody to use," Dame Olivia would say. 

As a vocal supporter of medicinal cannabis use, Newton-John tirelessly lobbied the Australian government to legalize medical cannabis. Her journey with cannabis and other alternative plant-based healing therapies led her to help launch the charity foundation Olivia Newton-John Cancer & Wellness Centre in Melbourne in 2012.  

As news of her death broke, a spokesperson from the charitable foundation said in a statement, "Olivia touched the lives of many people across Australia and the world, but none more so than our cancer services staff and patients at the Olivia Newton-John Centre, who she encouraged, inspired and supported every day." 

The statement continues: "We are incredibly grateful for the special relationship we had with Olivia for many years. Her generous support and gift provided hope and changed the lives of thousands of cancer patients here at Austin Health. She was the light at the end of the tunnel for many, many people."

"Cancer was enlightening," Newton-John told the Observer in 2012. "When you're ill it doesn't matter if you have all the money in the world - it makes no difference. I feel very blessed to have been given the chance to live."

Olivia Newton-John is survived by her spouse, John Easterling, founder of the natural remedy firm Amazon Herb Company, and her daughter, Chloe Rose Lattanzi. 

Stephen Andrews