US Patent on Key Medicinal Values of Cannabis
Few know that more than 15 years ago, the U.S. government fired the first shot in the patent war over cannabis. Back in February 2001, the federal Health and Human Services department filed for patent 6630507 on two key medicinal values of cannabis: its antioxidant and neuroprotectant properties. That patent was issued by the U.S. Patent Office late in 2003.
In other words, while continuing to criminalize marijuana and restrict medical cannabis research and use, the government has quietly taken control of the rights to certain key medical values of the drug.
Namely, cannabis’ ability to treat certain neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and HIV dementia. The patent is so specific that it relates to specific cannabinoids found in the cannabis sativa plant, not just the plant itself.
The United States government made global marijuana headlines this month after the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) issued a statement saying it would not remove cannabis from the list of “Schedule I” narcotics. Schedule I is a classification assigned to drugs the government considers highly addictive and of no medical or social value.
The statement created a firestorm of backlash, as the medical benefits and potentials of cannabis have been documented for years.
Now, people are learning that the government itself has acknowledged the medical value of cannabis, and long ago, even as its drug and law enforcement agencies continue to stand behind punitive criminalization for cannabis drug offenders more than a decade later.
Patenting Mother Nature
U.S. Patent 6630507 is specifically for a set of cannabinoid that were found to be “useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.”
Cannabinoids are chemical compounds which exist in different quantities depending on the strain of marijuana. The two most prominent are CBD, cannabidiol, and THC, the psychoactive cannabinoid that gets users “high.”
CBD especially has been found to be a potent medicine in treating neurological disorders like epilepsy, decreasing the frequency of seizures, and even treating traumatic brain injuries.
A Looming Patent War?
But the U.S. government isn’t the only one getting in on the game of patenting cannabis. In fact, just last year, US officials issued the first ever cannabis patent to breeders. That little snippet of cannabis history happened on August 4, 2015.
Patent 9,095,554 is a massive 145-page document that lays out a complex scientific analysis of a range of hybrid strains with high-THC ratios.
With the growing acceptance and legalization of medical and recreational cannabis, more breeders and growers are interesting in carving out their bit of intellectual property rights to hugely successful and innovative strains.
“It’s going to be a mess,” said Tim Blake, longtime grower and the activist who founded California’s annual Emerald Cup cannabis competition. Marijuana growers developing new varieties, he added, “are going to have to spend a lot of money on attorneys.”