You may or may not have heard the rumour that the U.S. government has taken out a patent on CBD. This might come as a shock to you considering that cannabis is illegal and vastly understudied in the medical world, and until the 2018 Farm Bill it wasn’t even certain that CBD was legal by itself.
But the rumours are true. Patent No. 6,630,507 is the name of the United States’ patent on CBD, titled “Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants.” It was issued to the United States in October of 2003, and it belongs to the Department of Health and Human Services.
The patent has caused a lot of controversies, and rightly so. The entire thing is shrouded in inexplicable hypocrisy that has medical marijuana proponents up in arms. In today’s post, we will be explaining the ins and outs of Patent 6,630,307 and what it means for the CBD industry.
Patent 6,630,507: What it Says
As you may be able to tell from the title of the patent, it suggests that CBD can be used as an antioxidant and a neuroprotective agent that could assist in the treatment of degenerative diseases. The patent specifically mentions that cannabinoids can help with “neurological damage” caused by strokes, trauma, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and HIV dementia. Clearly, this is quite an extensive list of medical uses for marijuana and cannabinoids.
In 2012, the patent was licensed to a company called Kannalife Corporation. This is a pharmaceutical company which now possesses an exclusive license to commercialise cannabinoids and sell them as antioxidants and neuroprotectants. Although researchers are still allowed to investigate cannabinoids for the purpose of neuroprotection, only Kannalife is licensed to develop drugs intended for these purposes.
It must be noted that the patent only talks about non-psychoactive cannabinoids, meaning that the information does not hold true for THC.
How Did the U.S. Government Get the Patent?
The U.S. government applied for the patent in 1999 when the NIH (National Institutes of Health) were investigating antioxidant properties in cannabis. Patents are applied for in order to control research and allow for more testing on specific matters, which is why the government applied for the patent in the first place.
The Department of Health and Human Services approved the patent in 2003. The US Patent Office has been issuing cannabis-related patents since 1942, despite the illegal status of cannabis.
This is where a lot of confusion stems from. The U.S. government owns a patent on cannabinoids like CBD suggesting that they can be used for medicinal purposes; however, marijuana remains illegal as a Schedule I drug, which by definition means it has “no medicinal value.” This is… contradictory, to say the least!
So, Why is Cannabis Still Illegal?
The situation regarding the patent is clearly two-faced. The government’s logic behind the illegal status of cannabis despite the facts stated in the patent is that the patent only suggests a “potential” for cannabinoids to aid in degenerative disease. As a result, more research is needed to understand the long-term impacts of cannabinoids – as well as more research on specific diseases.
This is all well and good, because it is important to keep public health in mind and ensure that nothing will happen in the future if cannabis is legalised. However, it does not explain why cannabis remains a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act. The Schedule I status suggests that it has no medicinal use whatsoever, and that it is highly addictive. Judging by the patent, as well as the licensing of Sativex as a medical drug, it is clear that the government is being insanely hypocritical.
While the patent exists, it only allows certain companies and organisations to profit off medical cannabis products. Angela Bacca, a journalist and NORML activist, has said, “This patent shows that federal marijuana prohibition is a farce. It only exists to create profits for certain groups of people.”
It must be noted, however, that the patent expired on April 21, 2019. As a result, we can’t really be sure about what is going to happen now. There are certainly a lot of suggestions about what could take place, but we simply have no way of knowing. The NIH still own the intellectual property of the patent even without the patent itself, so it is likely that nothing much will change.
Final Thoughts: The Future of Medical Cannabis & CBD
A lot of people definitely see the patent as hypocritical. A lot of this may stem from the fact that people think marijuana itself has been patented, when in actual fact it is only the non-psychoactive compounds found within the plant. The patent also mentions synthetic cannabinoids like those found in Sativex.
Basically, this means that there is very little hope for the future of medical cannabis concealed within the patent. Any medications that arise as a result of research and Kannalife’s funding will be related to synthetic cannabinoids and non-psychoactive compounds isolated from the plant itself.
For CBD, this could be a positive. If research discovers that it could help, then it could be used as an ingredient in other drugs. Synthetic versions could also be made. This means nothing for the CBD food supplement industry, though, so we have no idea where that will lead.
At the time of writing, medical cannabis is legal in around 30 U.S. states. This makes the patent on medical cannabinoids slightly redundant, as patients in these states already have access to the full plant. Nevertheless, patients throughout the country have access to federally licensed drugs based on cannabis compounds, such as Sativex and Epidiolex. The patent could lead to more life-changing drugs being developed that people in all states have access to which, at the end of the day, can be seen as a positive.