Why the US Government Holds Patent 6630507 While Fighting Against Marijuana
People have been lobbying for the rescheduling of cannabis for decades.
Ever since the Controlled Substance Act of 1970— a document that loomed shadow over the plant to fuel Nixon’s ‘war on drugs’— marijuana has been classified as a Schedule I substance.
The Schedule I category is reserved exclusively for compounds with no medicinal value and high potential for abuse, such as heroin or bath salts.
Given the growing body of scientific evidence supporting the outstanding medical benefits of marijuana, placing weed in line with heroin and methamphetamine sounds like the punchline of a bad joke.
Still, that doesn’t stop the Feds from holding the legal patent on cannabinoids.
Yes, you’ve read that correctly.
The U.S. government holds Patent No. 6,630,507 claiming that cannabinoids like THC and CBD are natural antioxidants and neuroprotective. It even lists several diseases potentially alleviated by the cannabinoids included in the patent.
So how is it that according to one document, marijuana is a dangerous substance void of any medical applications, while another states something completely different?
Join us and let’s climb up to this mountain of hypocrisy together.
What Is Patent No. 6,630,507?
Patent 6,630,507, also known as “Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants” belongs to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The document covers the potential use of non-psychoactive and psychoactive cannabinoids to protect the brain from damage caused by oxidative stress and neurodegenerative diseases.
Here’s what the abstract says:
“Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties, unrelated to NMDA receptor antagonism. This new found property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and HIV dementia. Non Psychoactive cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol, are particularly advantageous to use because they avoid toxicity that is encountered with psychoactive cannabinoids at high doses useful in the method of the present invention.”
Now, you might think that the federal ban on cannabis and the fact that the government holds a patent on cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants are just an unfortunate coincidence.
After all, marijuana is beneficial for patients with severe chronic conditions and doesn’t have any dangerous side effects, so why ban it?
Not everyone feels this way.
In order to discover the truth about Patent No. 6,630,507, we need to go back two years and dig up the infamous 2016 DEA decision on rescheduling marijuana.
The Story Behind Patent No. 6,630,507
In August 2016, the DEA announced its refusal to reschedule cannabis, which resulted in a social media backlash and a shocking revelation.
The revelation according to the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has a patent which talks about “the potential use of non-psychoactive cannabinoids to protect the brain from damage or degeneration caused by certain diseases, such as cirrhosis.”
The story behind Patent No. 6,630,507 is even more absurd than the fact that cannabis hasn’t been federally decriminalized yet.
The 1970s: Cannabis As a Scapegoat of Fear Propaganda
Nixon wanted cannabis to fuel his “War On Drugs,” and therefore, he insisted that the plant is placed under the harshest type of scheduling.
He even created the Schafer Commission to try and prove the risks of marijuana use.
Instead, the Commission found out that the herb actually has plenty of potential medical benefits. As a result, the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse stated that cannabis should be decriminalized.
As you may guess, Nixon neglected these findings and marijuana remained under the Schedule I drug class. Since then, the media has been feeding us with stories that we “lack adequate scientific evidence” of the aforementioned health benefits to push the decriminalization forward.
However, there are over 20,000 positive studies on the cannabis plant and its cannabinoids, many of which have made it into the mainstream and are paving the way for the nationwide legalization.
The 1980s: Another Failure to Prove the Dangers of the Herb
In the 1980s, President Reagan’s administration pumped millions of dollars on research aimed to prove that cannabis causes brain damage.
Again, the effort went down the drain, as Reagan’s scientists couldn’t back this up.
Not only did it turn out that cannabis supports the growth of healthy cells, the study also led to the discovery of the endocannabinoid system, a chemical network regarded as one the most important system in the human body.
The 1990s: Let’s File the Patent
In 1999, Axelrod, Grimaldi, and Hampson filed patent no. 6,630,507. The document was later awarded by the HHS in 2017.
These three researchers are all employees of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), which is part of the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA).
The organization had no problem granting a patent for non-psychoactive compounds for the treatment of neurological diseases and conditions caused by oxidative stress, while consequently stigmatizing cannabis.
So what’s the point in filing patents on cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants and, at the same time, keeping the plant containing these substances under the same category as heroin?
Why Would the Federal Government Ban Its Own Intellectual Property?
This striking contradiction between Patent No. 6,630,507 and the Controlled Substances Act gives rise to many questions, so it’s no wonder angry cannabis users want to know why there is a patent of this kind yet the plant remains federally illegal.
Let’s start with the so-called official explanation.
Mark Rohrbaugh, a specialist employed by the National Institute of Health (NIH), claims the organization hires around 6,000 Ph.D.’s to examine the results of different studies. Thus, when one of these scientists makes an invention or discovers a new technology, the organization decides whether or not to issue a patent.
This was allegedly the case with cannabis.
Moreover, according to Renate Myles, spokesperson for the NIH, the patent on cannabinoids was granted because numerous studies have shown they can be effective when treating a handful of neurological diseases.
As a result, patients would be able to draw upon the benefits of non-psychoactive cannabinoids without facing the potential “dangers” associated with THC.
But if you’ve heard of Marinol, a THC-based drug for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, you can see that THC is considered safe enough to use in some of the sickest patients around. Below we present the big picture.
Money Is the Name of the Game
Let’s take a close up of two of the three people responsible for the patent.
The first inventor, Aidan Hampson, was a former Research Fellow at NIMH who has spent the entire career studying the medical applications of cannabis.
Interestingly, he was mentored by Nobel Prize winner Julius Axelrod, the second man behind Patent No. 6,630,507.
Axelrod received the prize for his work on neurotransmitters and pharmacology. His studies led to the development of Prozac, a drug which blocks the reuptake of serotonin as a treatment for a wide range of psychological illnesses such as depression or panic disorders.
However, Prozac comes with a plethora of side effects, such as headaches, anxiety, insomnia, deteriorated sex life, and nausea.
Cannabidiol, on the other hand, shows no signs of toxicity or serious side effects regardless of the dose and the frequency of use. On top of that, CBD can work as a potent painkiller, antidepressant, and anti-inflammatory.
Still, plant-derived CBD is claimed by the Feds to have no medical applications, whereas doctors are prescribing Prozac to their patients like candy.
More interestingly, the United States’ CBD patent was licensed in 2012 to Kannalife Vorp, a pharmaceutical enterprise with an exclusive license for the commercialization of cannabinoid extracts as neuroprotectants and antioxidants.
Kannalife CEO Dean Patnakas once was a board member in a fraudulent stock market investment company pictured in the Martin Scorsese movie “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
As the Cannabist has found out, the patent doesn’t prevent researchers from conducting studies on the medical benefits of cannabinoids for oxidative and neurodegenerative diseases, but Kannalife is the only company entitled to develop cannabinoid-based drugs in that matter.
Hypocrisy At Its Worst
Ever since the patent was granted, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has perpetually ignored petitions from activists to reschedule cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
Upon the approval of a CBD-based drug Epidiolex by FDA this year, the pressure to reschedule non-psychoactive cannabinoids has increased.
So far, only synthetic cannabinoids that have been approved by FDA are classified as Schedule V drugs, which means they carry a low risk for abuse and have plenty of medical uses. The same compound, albeit in its natural form, is claimed to have strong potential abuse and be void of any medical properties.
If cannabis were ever legalized at a federal level (which will happen sooner or later), the likes of Kannalife would lose the monopoly over commercializing the non-psychoactive cannabinoids.
That’s because many small and mid-sized companies would start filing cannabis patents on their own blends of cannabinoids.
And since marijuana is federally illegal, those companies have their hands tied until the law changes.
As you can see, the vicious circle continues to spin, and the big players can still load their pockets with more money without having to worry about competition.
The good news is that the NIH’s cannabinoid patent may expire in the first half of 2019. If the federal legalization is to follow soon, we’ll need to start an important discussion regarding the intellectual property issues in the legal marijuana industry.
Limitations Resulting From the Federal Ban on Cannabis
This legal limbo in which cannabis was put by the CSA and Patent No. 6,630,507 creates obvious restraints in several areas, from business to research.
The research on the whole cannabis plant is limited because the government has no interest in examining its psychoactive compound, claiming that it has no medical benefits whatsoever.
After all, what’s the point in researching something that doesn’t have any medical relevancy? (sarcasm)
Since the feds aren’t keen on funding the research on marijuana– and studies are costly, just for the record– entities interested in studying the herb must rely on donations from private entrepreneurs or raise funds through other channels such as crowdfunding.
Moreover, companies selling plant-derived cannabinoid extracts can’t make medical claims about their products, as this violates the FDA regulations according to which cannabinoids from plants are nothing but food supplements.
Pair it with the federal status of CBD and you suddenly enter an entirely new level of confusion.
Of course, fines and other legal consequences for such claims can ruin small and mid-sized businesses while leaving the big fish in the game.
To cut a long story short, you can legally buy a THC-based drug for nausea, a CBD-based drug for epilepsy, and a THC/CBD oral spray for multiple sclerosis– because they are approved by the government.
But god forbid you to try a plant you can grow in your own house because it’s a dreadful drug with no medicinal value.
Of course, you can try to research the plant, but unless you own a multi-million dollar business and can afford it, you’ll need to wait for better times, as the government isn’t interested in such trifles.
Hopefully, this will soon change.
How Can Federal Legalization Affect the Public Domain?
The federal legalization of cannabis is just a matter of time.
Once that happens, marijuana will be decriminalized, and thus, companies like Kanna Life or GW Pharmaceuticals will have to acknowledge some serious competition.
The fact that Patent No. 6,630,507 may expire in 2019 doesn’t help those businesses either.
There’s No Way to Patent the Plant Itself
It’s virtually impossible to patent a plant, so the whole idea of placing cannabis in the Schedule I category and holding a patent for certain cannabinoids was to make a few entities draw profits from these substances while denying access to the plant for the rest of the country.
Patent Trolls & Possible Licenses for Cannabis Strains
While you cannot hold a patent on something that grows naturally on Earth, you can do it with certain genetic combinations of marijuana strains.
Although pre-existing marijuana varieties will likely remain in the public domain, those invented after the federal legalization may become the object of turmoil around ownership and patenting.
Some companies are trying to become what we call “patent trolls.” In 2015, BioTech Institute LLC– one of such patent troll– filed a ludicrous patent on any cannabis strain that contains both THC and CBD with myrcene as a minor terpene component.
If this patent were to enter into force– which, we hope, will never happen– it would remove most landrace strains from the public domain.
The Future of Cannabis-Related Patents
The nationwide legalization would also mean creating patents for other cannabis-related goods. There are dozens of small and mid-sized companies filing cannabis patents, most of which aren’t linked to genetics.
David Cohen, Ph.D., told Forbes that there are several areas for cannabis entrepreneurs who are into filing patents for their inventions.
“There are three large and partially overlapping categories: (1) cannabis compositions, drug formulations, and methods of preparation, (2) characterization of cannabis compounds in terms of how they engage with human endocannabinoid receptors, and (3) methods of treating diseases with cannabinoids,” said Cohen.
This, in turn, may trigger the wave of academic organizations, pharmaceutical companies, and tech entrepreneurs who will want to get their share of the industry’s cake.
Our Thoughts On Patent No. 6,630,507
The therapeutic benefits of cannabis have been known for centuries; nearly every great civilization has used it for medical (and recreational) reasons.
Meanwhile, the plant has been demonized throughout the last century to such an extent that we’ve been convinced marijuana could be a dangerous drug with no medicinal value and serious potential for abuse.
On top of that, Patent No. 6,630,507 uses the play-safe gobbledegook to get certain entities the exclusive right to produce drugs from cannabinoids, especially from the non-psychoactive ones– for certain conditions, of course.
So basically, if you’re not in the Big Pharma machine, you can’t benefit from cannabinoids because the government is banning the use of something that naturally grows in the soil.
The level of absurdity created by the Controlled Substances Act and Patent No. 6,630,507 is beyond comprehension, but hopefully, federal legalization will end this farce once and for all.
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About James Reed
James Reed is the founder and editor-in-chief at iSum. He’s a big advocate of marijuana and spent most of his time writing about these topics, sharing what he learned over the years.