It seems like one of the greatest fears of the medical marijuana community is slowly being realized, as corporations quickly adopt cannabinoids into their vast profile of patented medicines. Leading the charge is GW Pharmaceuticals (1), a UK- based pharmaceutical company who manufacturers Sativex, an outrageously overpriced oral spray that relies on THC and CBD for its medical effects.
Although Sativex is not currently available to patients in the U.S., it can be prescribed in Canada, the UK and other European countries, at a price of £175 per bottle. As crazy as it sounds, the only difference between a £175 bottle of Sativex and a $20 bottle of marijuana extract from your local dispensary are the patents that GW Pharma has been all-too-quick to file.
Just last month, GW Pharma's newest patent application (2) was published with the title "Phytocannabinoids in the treatment of cancer." That's right, the makers of Sativex are trying to patent the compounds of marijuana for treating all forms of cancer. But is that even allowed?
Probably not, since medical marijuana's cancer-fighting effects have been well known since the 70s, not to mention prominent spokespeople of the movement, such as Rick Simpson, who have provided personal testimonies of marijuana's ability to cure cancer. As a result, it is unlikely that a patent would be granted on medical marijuana itself or common extracts like hemp oil.
Even still, pharmaceutical companies are well aware of the loopholes in patent laws that can easily be exploited by slightly altering a chemical or formula, which is what seems to be the case with GW Pharma. In their most recent patent, all GW Pharma had to do to claim exclusive rights to the cancer-fighting effects of cannabis was to call it a "botanical drug substance", which they define as a mixture of cannabinoids and non-cannabinoid materials. As a result, GW may just be holding the golden ticket to a cutting-edge cure for cancer, something that has eluded medical research for decades.
It's interesting to note that GW is not the first to exploit the medical properties of marijuana by form of a patent. In fact, it is almost common knowledge among the medical marijuana community that the U.S. government has been actively involved in obtaining patent rights on cannabinoids. Patent #6630507 (3) was granted to the Department of Health and Human Services in 2003 for "Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants," which clearly outlines their usefulness as a treatment for stroke, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and dementia.
Unfortunately, it's not just GW Pharma and the feds than seem interested in monopolizing the medical marijuana market. Cannabinoid patents have been filed and granted to all sorts of corporations and individuals for some of the most obvious of inventions. But there's really nothing we can do about it, since the federal government continues to state that marijuana is not a medicine, preventing honest and not-for-profit organizations from conducting human trials. And by preventing human trials, the feds have created a large gap in research and development that can only be filled by profit-driven corporations seeking to monopolize the incredible medical properties of nature's most unique plant.
Once again, it seems like average citizens will fall victim to Big Pharma in their rush to claim the medical marijuana industry as their own. Sadly, it may just be a matter of time until hemp oil is wiped out and patients will be charged 10 times more for a bottle of Sativex, courtesy of the genius inventors at GW Pharmaceuticals.