There’s been quite a bit of outrage from the cannabis community since the DEA announced their decision to deny the recent petitions to reschedule cannabis. Cannabis will remain at its current status of Schedule 1, meaning that it has absolutely no accepted medicinal value. People are rightfully angry, because by now the vast majority of the population knows how ridiculous and false that claim really is. What has made cannabis proponents even angrier, is that part of the United States federal government actually holds a patent for the potential use of the cannabinoid chemical compounds found in marijuana, as a medicine. Patent No. 6,630,507 has exploded on Facebook and Twitter following the Drug Enforcement Agency’s decision. Angry anti prohibitionists have taken to social media to flood these websites with posts about the hypocrisy behind Patent No. 6,630,507. The patent number has become a trending hashtag, while other users are posting pictures of the number written on their hands. While Patent No. 6,630,507 is definitely an example of the government being a bit two faced, there is actually more to it than the oversimplifications lots of people have been posting lately.
To really understand the implications of our government owning the patent for something that they’ve outlawed, we need to take a closer look at Patent No. 6,630,507. The patent was granted back in 2003, to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Despite what you may have read, the patent is not for the whole cannabis plant or even for the psychoactive THC component. It only covers the possible use of the non-psychoactive compounds in cannabis for protecting the brain from degenerative diseases or damage. Cirrhosis is one of the biggest potential diseases that they believed this could possibly be used to treat. It is clearly hypocritical for one government agency to declare that cannabis has no medicinal benefit, as another agency has a patent that definitively defies that. However, technically the government can file and receive patents for illegal things, and it has no bearing on the United States Controlled Substance Act. The National Institute of Health regularly files patents for potential technologies that have passed their evaluation. They have conducted lots of studies on the benefits and harms of cannabis over the years, but the FDA would still have to approve any resulting medicines from this patent.
What really changes things, is that the National Institute of Health isn’t hoarding the patent to themselves. They have made the patent available for private companies to license if they are interested in trying to create their own neural medicines. Five years ago, the company Kannalife Sciences Inc. got a license to use the technology to develop cannabinoid based medicines, to treat a special type of brain damage called hepatic encephalopathy. No other companies have licensed the patent from the National Institute of Health. The institute claims that the patent is intended for others to be able to use as well, plus the patent only has till 2019 before it expires and is truly open for the public. What this could actually be more indicative of is the surgence of cannabis related patents that we can probably expect to be submitted, once legalization does finally hit. Until then, try to remember to take some of those social media posts with a grain of salt, because Patent No. 6,330,507 isn’t quite as black and white of an issue as many of us thought.