By Barbara Venezia
Those who believe they’re on the cutting edge of the medical marijuana bubble are passionate, and in some cases, quite controversial.
One such figure is Steele Smith, who started the first medical marijuana collective in Orange County in 2005.
He and his wife, Theresa, face federal charges of cultivation of at least 1,000 marijuana plants in a November 2007 case. They are slated to go to trial Oct. 4 in Santa Ana and could face up to 10 years in prison, officials say.
But even with the serious legal troubles, Smith’s filed for a U.S. patent for the extraction process for an oral THC pill he says will give doctors a new “tool box of drugs” for the sick and dying. The 43-year-old Anaheim native hopes to have the patent approved and his drug, Idrasil, on the market by the end of 2012.
Smith explained that the problem with delivering medical marijuana is dosage. THC levels vary depending on plants and process. He says that by taking a “mother plant” and cloning it, he can standardize and control dosage.
There’s already a drug called Marinol on the market, but it’s made from synthetic THC, not from the marijuana plant.
Though Smith has no background as a chemist, he says he has “20 years of experience with orchids. The cloning process is standardized for all plants. I can clone anything.”
“My goal is to get a standardized THC pill to the sick and dying,’’ he says.
For anyone who has taken opiates, side effects can range from constipation, rashes, severe loss of lucidity as well as addiction. Since Idrasil is cannabis, it increases appetite and controls nausea from other medications a patient may be taking, Smith says. He sees it as an alternative to opiates for treating pain.
Idrasil is considered a nutraceutical, a food, or parts of food, that provides medical or health benefits, so it doesn’t need FDA approval, Smith said. But he still wants to get approval so it can be re-categorized as a pharmaceutical. This process could take five years or longer.
His drug is now under FDA pre-trials, and if he gets approvals here, Idrasil would move to FDA clinical trials, which could result in re-categorizing it as a drug, he said.
But he’s not waiting for FDA re-categorization. Smith’s already assembled a sales staff of drug reps as part of his marketing plan to put Idrasil on the market for $18-$20, the same price as oxycodone, he says.
His motivation to help those facing serious illness and pain stems partly from his own health experience. Diagnosed in 1998 with Zollinger-Ellison, a rare disorder characterized by tumors and ulcers in the stomach and digestive organs, he became addicted to prescription painkillers.
But if you think the OC cannabis community is cheering him on — think again. Mention his name in those circles, as I did, and opinions aren’t kind. Criticisms ranged from those who consider him arrogant to those who feel he can’t deliver what he claims.
When we spoke, I got the impression he wasn’t bothered if he wasn’t accepted by others in the OC marijuana movement. Rather, he’s craving recognition within the medical community.
Is Steele Smith on the verge of something big with Idrasil? Only time will tell.
Original article can be found here.