Two non-psychotropic cannabinoids, cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabidiol-dimethylheptyl (CBD-DMH), induced apoptosis in a human acute myeloid leukemia (AML) HL-60 cell line. Apoptosis was determined by staining with bisBenzimide and propidium iodide. A dose dependent increase of apoptosis was noted, reaching 61 and 43% with 8 microg/ml CBD and 15 microg/ml CBD-DMH, respectively, after a 24 h treatment. Prior exposure of the cells to gamma-irradiation (800 cGy) markedly enhanced apoptosis, reaching values of 93 and 95%, respectively. Human monocytes from normal individuals were resistant to either cannabinoids or gamma-irradiation. Caspase-3 activation was observed after the cannabinoid treatment, and may represent a mechanism for the apoptosis. Our data suggest a possible new approach to treatment of AML.