Whether or not the potential medical benefits of marijuana outweigh the dangers is a long-debated issue and currently a political hot potato.
A recent Israeli breakthrough adds a new twist: a 25-year old Hebrew University doctoral student has developed a derivative of the cannabis plant which has been shown to be effective in arresting cancerous growths in laboratory and animal tests.
Kogan's accomplishment involved developing new compounds - known as quinonoid cannabinoids - that her research has shown to parallel in their activity a group of anti-cancer drugs, the best known of which is daunomycin.
"Quinonoid cannabinoids are derived from hashish - but when they go through an oxidation process, they takes on the chemical structure of anti-cancer drugs like daunomycin," Kogan told ISRAEL21c.
However, while daunomycin is toxic to the heart, Kogan, with Dr. Ronen Beeri and Dr. Gergana Marincheva of Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Kerem, found that the quinonoid cannabinoids are much less cardiotoxic.
Born in the Ukraine, Kogan immigrated to Israel in 1995 with her parents, and earned B.Pharm and M.Sc degrees at the HU School of Pharmacy, graduating with excellence.
"I've been interested in cancer research for many years. I've actually been sitting in the same school of pharmacy for nine years now," she said with a laugh. "My goal was to develop new drugs, and working as a lab technician for Prof. Mechoulam, I got interested in cannabinoids."
Mechoulam was one of the first researchers to discover the medical potential of cannabis. Cannabis-derived molecules are already used to prevent nausea from chemotherapy, improve the appetite of AIDS patients, alleviate anxiety, and treat sleepwalking.
"Almost every pharmaceutical in the world uses the active ingredients in cannabis as a basis for existing drugs and those under development," Mechoulam told Globes.