Globe Editorial

Marijuana genome: Fighting cancer, dude

(Istockphoto/Globe Staff Illustration)
August 20, 2011

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The announcement that a small Marblehead company has isolated the genome of the marijuana plant brought the predictable snickers, but the research seems to hold legitimate medical promise. The company, Medicinal Genomics, published the hundreds of millions of letters of DNA that make up Cannabis sativa in hopes of spurring research into the plant’s cancer-fighting potential.

Medical marijuana is legal in 16 states - not including Massachusetts - but there is still much to be learned about its possible therapeutic uses. Unfortunately, though, the debate seems to bring out the worst in everyone. Foes of drug laws have latched on to marijuana’s medical uses, cynically exploiting them as a way to bring about de facto legalization. By the same token, drug warriors have too often simply dismissed out of hand the possibility that the much-vilified weed might actually be good for you sometimes.

Strip away all the drug-war combat, though, and Cannabis sativa is just a plant. Its health benefits - or dangers - deserve ordinary scientific inquiry unclouded by politics. Here’s hoping that Medicinal Genomics can break the mold.