As more local and state governments relax their policies on the usage of marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purpose, the science has struggled to keep up. Long-held embargos and ethical objections have stopped scientists from performing scientifically rigorous tests on the effects of the drug on various people given their maladies or complaints.
To skirt policies, some scientists have performed their research in a makeshift lab on wheels. Colorado’s state government has fully legalized the use of marijuana for any purpose, but a 2014 federal law prohibits scientists from performing research on the effects of the drug with anything except federally-grown weed. In theory, the law was supposed to help uniformize all tests and keep confounding factors from obscuring the test’s results. The problem, though, is that weed users don’t only use federally-grown pot, and as such, the findings may be generally useless anyways.
Recently, some scientists wanted to apply the logic and basics of pharmacogenomics to the study of marijuana. That is, it’s been long established that users’ reactions to various stimuli, including drugs, pain, and viruses are determined at least in part by their genetic composition. Sometimes, a single gene or a group of genes will direct the speed and thoroughness with which something like a chemical or an intruder is metabolized.
Some cannabis enthusiasts in Canada are claiming that they can harness the work that pharmacogenomicists have done in the past 50 years or so to tailor strains of the plant to certain genomic characteristics. That is, they can assess someone’s genes using the likes of 23&Me and grow a kind of cannabis that will best complement the person’s ability to metabolize. From keeping people from developing a dependence to helping them avoid the dreaded munchies that accompany a high, the geneticists who are championing tailored cannabis believe that they can use genetic markers to develop the best strain for a person.
Acclaimed pharmacogenomicists are nervous to cosign these claims. While they’ve made great strides in tailoring drug cocktails and dosages based on what a person needs and can reasonably handle, the promise of a perfect batch of marijuana for a person’s genome seems a little far-fetched at the moment. Hopefully, the science will progress to that level someday, but given the difficulty the field has run into already with safe and reliable genetics, it may be a ways into the future that this vision of individualized blunts comes to be.