Depending on how well you keep up with marijuana news, you may or may not have heard that the U.S. government holds a patent (U.S. patent number 6,630,507) on certain cannabis compounds for their health benefits and potential ability to treat several different chronic medical conditions.
Of course, this has caused weed advocacy groups to go haywire over the years with calls of ‘hypocrisy,’ given the fact that all forms of cannabis are still classed by the federal government as Schedule I narcotics, with “no currently accepted medical use.”
In this article, we try to make sense of this whole governmental mess and get to the bottom of what the research-based patent actually says about cannabinoids – and more specifically, about CBD. What does it plan on doing with the patent? Does it plan to sell it and make money off of it? Does it plan to “hold the rights” to CBD so other businesses can’t profit off of it? Is the U.S. government already using CBD without us knowing it? Are marijuana advocates right to be upset about the whole deal?
Keep on reading to find out.
U.S. Patent #6,630,507: What is a Patent?
Before we start getting into the language of the patent and breaking down what it actually says, it’s important to know what the term ‘patent’ actually means – or perhaps more importantly, what it doesn’t mean.
A lot of people would assume that since a drug or chemical compound is patented for a specific use, it means the drug is immediately ready to start being prescribed by physicians and used on a large-scale basis.
This is far from the truth.
In reality, before any drug or medication can be prescribed by a physician, it has to first be approved by the FDA to show that it is “safe and effective for the intended purpose.” This involves isolating the chemical compound into its simplest molecular form, and showing through multi-phase clinical trials that it can carry out its desired effects with near 100% consistency – something that cannabis-based drugs are far from being able to accomplish due to their current Schedule I status under DEA jurisdiction.
Mark Rohrbaugh, National Institute of Health Special Advisor for Technology Transfer, said it pretty clearly in a statement made to the Denver Post back in 2016: “The patent [U.S. #6,630,507] doesn’t prove the chemical compound is effective in the stated treatment.”
So if the patent itself doesn’t mean that the drug is actually ready to be “used as a drug,” then what does it mean – if anything? And why was it patented in the first place?
U.S. Government Patent on Cannabis: What Does it Say, And What Does it Mean?
The scientific language of patent #6,630,507 says that “cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties,” and also that they have “particular application[s] as neuroprotectants – for example in limiting neurological damage following … stroke and trauma, the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, [etc].”
In terms of its use as an antioxidant, the patent effectively claims that cannabis is “useful in the treatment and prophylaxis [action taken against a disease] of a wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic [stroke-related], age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.”
Basically, what this means is that cannabis has been found to work as a natural treatment option for an array of severe and life-threatening conditions – it just needs clinical trials to actually start being prescribed by doctors and used by patients.
Moreover, the language regarding cannabis’ use as a neuroprotectant claims that the active compounds in marijuana can “limit damage following ischemic insults [such as those occurring after stroke], or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia.”
The patent specifically mentions cannabidiol (CBD) as being “particularly advantageous,” given its non-psychoactivity and its ability to “… avoid toxicity that is encountered with psychoactive cannabinoids [such as THC].”
So what does this all mean in layman’s terms? Are the weed advocacy groups right in being outraged that cannabis is still a Schedule I drug, given the scientific information presented in the patent? Is the federal government being hypocritical in its legal stance on marijuana?
Well, yeah, pretty much.
Why Does the U.S. Government Have a Patent on Cannabis – And How Did it Get it?
In terms of why the U.S. government has a patent on cannabis, Rohrbaugh has said that “the intent behind patenting and licensing National Institute of Health (NIH) discoveries is to keep technology that could potentially benefit the public, from sitting idle.”
Really? Really? We are honestly trying to maintain as unbiased of a viewpoint as we can here, but that’s about as hypocritical as it gets.
In a nutshell what the NIH is saying is, ‘we’ve found cannabis to be a safe and effective treatment for numerous medical conditions, and we’ve patented it for commercial use, but you can’t do anything with it because we still say that it’s illegal …. on grounds that it is has “no currently accepted medical use.”
I mean, wow. That is truly mind-boggling. On the one hand the federal government has published literature saying that cannabis helps to “limit neurological damage after stroke and trauma,” can help treat Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, HIV dementia and a “wide variety of oxidative-related disease” (including stroke and age-related disease, inflammation-related disease, and autoimmune disease), yet it legally defines it as having “no accepted medical use.”
And we’re the ones that are crazy for saying it needs to be legalized.
So What Does the Government Plan on Doing with Patent #6,630,507?
Believe it or not, the U.S. government currently has an active “Licensing Opportunity” open for patent #6,630,507. In other words, it is trying to profit off of the rights to use “cannabinoids as neuroprotectants.” (When a patent is licensed, it allows others to “make and sell [the] patented invention in return for ‘royalty’ payments”).
What this means is that a private company could hypothetically come along and say, “we’ll give you such-and-such amount of money for the rights to sell CBD drugs for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease (or Parkinson’s disease, HIV, etc)…. and in return, we’ll give you ‘X’ amount of royalty dollars for every dollar of profit we make.”
Does that sound about right? The federal government is literally telling U.S. citizens that it’s illegal to use any form of cannabis under ANY circumstance, while it’s sitting there trying to profit off of a cannabis-based patent that it holds.
Pinch me, because I feel like I’m dreaming.
So What’s Next?
All things considered, cannabis legalization could be much worse here in the US. Given the government’s strict regulations on the plant, for instance, the DEA could hypothetically crack down on dispensaries and individuals in states that have passed legalization or decriminalization laws (even though Jeff Sessions pretty much tried to do that already).
At the end of the day, what’s incredibly aggravating and disappointing is the fact that the DEA’s stance on marijuana as a Schedule I drug is keeping it from obtaining the research support that it needs in order to become a truly beneficial medicine on a large, nationwide scale (rather than a small anecdotal one).
Until federal legislation acknowledges cannabis as a medicine, U.S. patent #6,630,507 will remain nothing more than a licensing opportunity for the government and private organizations to profit off of.