Cannabis has gained a lot of traction in recent years due to multiple studies suggesting its medical and recreational benefits. It is why a majority of the states in the US have already legalized its consumption while the remaining few are pondering the move.
Despite the advances in the cannabis industry, the federal government lists cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act. The government itself has filed a patent for cannabis.
The US Patent 6630507
Back in 1999, when the cannabis industry was much less developed than it is today, the federal government filed a patent for cannabis. Some cannabis advocates believe this to be a hypocritical move because, on one hand, the FDA is reluctant to remove cannabis from the banned substances lists, and on the other hand, it sits on a patent filed over two decades ago.
The patent was filed for “cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants” and is more or less useless today for multiple reasons. Firstly, the patent expired a few years ago. Secondly, experts argue that this patent is practically ineffective in the modern cannabis world.
The question which arises here is that if the federal government considers cannabis illegal, then under what law does it have the liberty to file a patent on it?
The Patent Doesn’t Inhibit Entities
It seems as though this patent is not only useless but harmless as well. Back in 2012, a company called ‘Kannalife’ wanted to get the patent to complete the development of a pharmaceutical treatment that required the license to use the patent.
However, later on, the company created a similar molecule for that purpose, which led them to carry out their production process without a hiccup. If companies like Kannalife are able to get the job done without seeking the infamous federal patent, then it (the federal patent) is not worth a whole lot.
A Plausible Explanation
The Patent 6630507 was originally filed by a group of NIH researchers who underwent studies funded by the federal government. While there doesn’t seem to be any other benefit or explanation regarding the patent, experts believe that the sole purpose of this patent could be to strengthen the profiles of NIH researchers (as it would reflect particularly well on their resume).
Furthermore, according to cannabis researcher Michael Backe, scientists need to show investors where the funds for their studies are being allocated. The patent could just be a way to allocate funds into something explainable to the funding authorities.
Moreover, the patent’s subject (in this case cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants), doesn’t have to be legal, which further clarifies the story behind this patent.
There have been countless studies that reveal CBD’s association with therapeutic effects. This may be the only reason why the patent was approved since it does not cover the psychoactive effects of THC.
But the contradiction still stands: the federal government holds a patent for CBD’s therapeutic benefits, while it is also part of the Schedule 1 drugs list, which contains substances that are not medically fit for consumption.
Another theory is that other drugs that cover major illnesses like cancer, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis are far costlier than CBD. It means that those drugs would likely be far more beneficial in terms of direct profits for the pharmaceutical industry.
If the federal government truly aimed at providing users with a cost-effective solution for such illnesses, why is it still on the list of Schedule 1 drugs?
Why Doesn’t the Patent Lead to Cannabis Legalization?
When there is a filed patent on cannabis, what inhibits the federal government from legalizing this plant’s use?
One of the main reasons is that the patent only talks about CBD’s relief to a user suffering from neurological diseases. The patent has nothing to do with whether there is any available proof of CBD’s effects.
Moreover, to label cannabis as therapeutic, the FDA would need to conduct excessive federally-funded studies on humans and animals, similar to what we say in the case of Epidiolex – the first-ever cannabis-derived drug to receive federal approval.
The MORE Act 2021 Reignites Hope
The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment & Expungement (MORE) Act was reintroduced to the government on May 28th, 2021. This Act, if approved, will remove cannabis from the list of banned substances. In the case that this act finally legalizes medical cannabis, then Patent 6630507 might start making sense.
The good news is that previously, the proposed bill had only five people vote in its favor, while in May, 158 Republicans voted in favor of the federal legalization of cannabis. Advocates of cannabis are hopeful that this bill will be seen to the end, and that the federal government will soon legalize cannabis in the US.
We have covered the MORE Act 2021 in detail here.
The Patent 6630507 Expires
The patent filed by the federal government back in 1999 has already passed its last date for renewal – April 21st, 2019. It means that while the government still holds on to the patent, it is fair for entities to use the cannabinoids used in this patent.
However, regardless of the patents filed or cannabinoids used in the products, entities will still need approval by the FDA in order to become a federally legal drug in the country. Currently, the only company to have legal rights to use parts of the cannabinoids from the Patent 6630507 is Kannalife Sciences Inc. The company bought these rights from the federal government back in 2011.
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