Tuesday, August 5, 2008

U.S. Government Patents Pot

Just so we’re all clear on the U.S. government’s position on medical marijuana, here it is from the horse’s very own mouth. Their position, taken from the DEA web site, is based on a 1999 study by the Institute of Medicine*:

Smoking marijuana is not recommended for the treatment of any disease condition. In addition, there are more effective medications currently available. For those reasons… there is little future in smoked marijuana as a medically approved medication. [emphasis not added]

I’d say that statement is about as clear as it could possibly be. According to the DEA, representing the federal government when it comes to drugs, there is currently no such thing as medical marijuana.

Why then does the federal government hold a patent on medical marijuana? Yes it’s true. It’s US Patent 6630507 - Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants. The assignee of that patent is The United States of America as represented by the Department of Health and Human Services. Just go to the US Patent and Trademark Office web site and do a search on that number if you think I’m making this up. Because it does seem, to me anyway, a bit far fetched, to say the least.

First of all, I didn’t realize the federal government could even hold patents. I thought work funded by tax dollars was in the public domain. Guess I was way off on that one.

But more importantly, I didn’t realize you could hold a patent on something that doesn’t exist. I mean if the government says something doesn’t exist, how can it grant itself a patent on it. Next thing you know, they’ll be patenting weapons of mass destruction. Or unicorns.

I don’t have anything more to say about this patent in particular, or its mythical nature, but I do have a lot more to say regarding the DEA and their position on all things pot. Stay tuned.

* The Institute of Medicine is an advisory group established in 1970 to give advice on medical issues to the government. As far as I can tell, they don’t appear to do much, if any, actual research. They appear to mostly review material and prepare reports.

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