In 2003, patent number 6630507 was issued by the U.S government to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The title of the patent is Cannabinoids as Antioxidants and Neuroprotectants, and well after a decade of being issued, it continues to stir up a lot of controversies.
Ever since the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, marijuana has been classified as a Schedule I drug. This is because it allegedly has no accepted medicinal value in the United States. Essentially, while deadly opioids are being sold legally all across the country, the DEA has steadfastly refused to admit that marijuana has medicinal value, and they show no interest in making it more accessible to the public.
Back in August 2016, when the DEA announced its refusal to reschedule cannabis, a backlash was triggered, and a startling revelation was made. Previously known only by those who had an interest in marijuana and/or patents, it was publicly revealed that the United States Department of Health and Human Services has a patent, which covers “the potential use of non-psychoactive cannabinoids to protect the brain from damage or degeneration caused by certain diseases, such as cirrhosis.”
As you can imagine, this news came as a shock to many, and rightfully so. It sounds exceptionally hypocritical, doesn’t it? Let’s take a closer look at patent 6630507 and what it all means.
So the Feds Own a Miracle Drug?
Before we go any further, we need to clear up one misconception. The patent is not a patent on marijuana itself, but rather on synthetic and natural non-psychoactive cannabinoids – referring to the ones that don’t get you high.
But, yes, ultimately the U.S government owns what could be classified as a miracle drug. The patent recognizes the effectiveness of cannabinoids in the treatment of oxidation-related diseases that are caused by free radicals. If you’re wondering what free radicals are, they’re unstable molecules that cause damage to cellular organisms and lead to aging and illness in humans, as affect their ability to protect neurons and to heal any damage that is caused to the Central Nervous System (CNS).
Aidan Hampson, a former Research Fellow from the National Institute for Mental Health, was the first inventor of the patent. He spent his career researching cannabis for medical use, and according to his Linkedin profile, he was mentored by Nobel Laureate Julius Axelrod.
Axelrod was another one of the inventors of the patent, and he won the Nobel Prize in 1973 for the work he did on neurotransmitters and pharmacology. The prize-winning research of Axelrod led to the development of Prozac, which treats mental illnesses like anxiety and depression by blocking the reuptake of neurotransmitter serotonin.
Some of the well-known side effects of Prozac include headaches, nausea, sleep problems, impotence, and anxiety, to name a few. The patent claimed that no serious side effects or signs of toxicity were observed following the chronic administration of CBD to healthy volunteers.
The CBD patent of the U.S government was licensed to Kannalife Corporation in 2012. This is a pharmaceutical company who holds an exclusive license for the commercialization of cannabinoids as neuroprotectants and antioxidants.
An NIH spokeswoman by the name of Renate Myles told the Cannabist that the patent doesn’t prevent investigators from conducting their own research on cannabinoids as treatment options for neurological diseases. However, she confirmed that Kannalife is the only entity who are licensed to develop cannabinoid-based drugs for these purposes.
Could the Patent Be Illegal?
Angry and frustrated cannabis enthusiasts want to know why a patent of this nature exists, yet the plant itself remains on the controlled substance list. The fact is, more than a decade after the patent was granted, the DEA continues to ignore petitions from activists to have marijuana rescheduled under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).
The schedule 1 drug status is reserved for substances that are known to have zero medicinal benefits and a high risk of abuse. So how can the U.S government have a patent on a cannabis-derived compound for its potential medicinal value, yet they continue to list cannabis as a schedule 1 drug!?
Last year, the FDA approved a CBD-based drug called Epidiolex for the treatment of epilepsy. This positive advancement for the cannabis community has placed some increasing pressure on the DEA to reschedule non-psychoactive cannabinoids. However, thus far, we have only seen the federal authorities reschedule cannabinoids that are FDA approved to schedule V. Schedule V drugs are deemed by the federal government to have a low risk for abuse.
On the other hand, all non-FDA-approved cannabinoids extracts, even those that are non-psychoactive, remain listed as schedule 1 substances. This is based on a 1961 international treaty that is known as the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which labeled all cannabis, cannabis extracts, and resins as illegal.
Oregon NORML activist and journalist, Angela Bacca, has said that patent 6630507 lays bare the contradictions and blatant hypocrisy of the federal prohibition of marijuana. She went on to say that it proves that the prohibition is a farce that only exists to create profit for certain groups of people.
It’s All About the Money
Ultimately, some firms are set to make a pretty penny from patent 6630507. For example, as the sole licensee of patent 6630507, Kannalife has been contracted by the NIH to research the possible effects in the treatment of cirrhosis. This agreement also entitles the NIH to a certain percentage of royalties once the company starts making a profit off the patent. This clearly demonstrates the actions of a business who wants cannabis to stay illegal for the majority of people, so that they are able to invest in the pharmaceutical opportunities that are available – and the government is helping them to do so.
In November 2017, GW Pharmaceuticals got in on the action and licensed a portion of patent 6630507. They completed an application for a new drug known as Epidiolex, which has subsequently been approved. Goldman Sachs has estimated that by the year 2025 they could be earning over $2.2 billion a year.
According to Gregory F. Wesner, who is a patent and trademark attorney, the U.S government is being blatantly two-faced. On the one hand, the DEA has classed all cannabis products into the schedule 1 category, but are then approving synthetic cannabinoid drugs. It appears as though the NIH and FDA are able to pick and choose who is able to jump in on the money train.
If cannabis were ever approved on a federal level, the party would be over for the likes of Kannalife because a huge amount of patents would be filed in a short space of time. It would lead to a great level of growth in the industry, and while companies like GW Pharmaceuticals would still profit, they would face immense competition.
Final Thoughts on Patent 6630507
The patent proves that there is at least some medicinal value to cannabis, and more importantly that the government has known about it for decades. Patent 6630507 makes reference to 12 other U.S patents related to cannabis that date all the way back to 1942. The fact that the patent recognizes the medicinal value of cannabis means that it is disqualified from the schedule 1 rating that it currently holds. Ultimately, cannabis activists are up in arms about the whole thing, and they certainly should be.