YOU MAY have seen the number 6630507 online—maybe posted in selfies, written on someone’s hand or arm. It’s a US patent number, issued in October 2003 to the Department of Health and Human Services.
The patent is titled “Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants,” and it was filed in 1999 by researchers with the National Institute of Mental Health, a division of the National Institutes of Health.
Was the patent granted to address the health issue of dry mouth after smoking? No—rather, the patent claims exclusive rights on using cannabinoids to treat both neurological diseases (i.e., Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and stroke) and those caused by oxidative stress (i.e., arthritis, Crohn’s disease, diabetes, and heart attacks).
Before you start freaking out that the gubbermint is now coming for both your guns and your ganja, chill out—but not too much. The patent is not for any kind of strain or growing method, it’s for both “natural and synthetic nonpsychoactive cannabinoids,” so THC is not covered. However, cannabidiol (CBD) is, and that’s where this gets interesting.
First—surprise—you can patent cannabis. Back in April, Vice did a piece on patent number 9095554, issued on August 4, 2015, to a group of California breeders. It “relates to specialty cannabis plants, compositions and methods for making and using said cannabis plants and compositions derived thereof.” The article quotes a spokesperson: “In general, the [patent] office issues both utility and plant patents to all types of plants, including cannabis and poppy, provided the applications meet and comply with the applicable patent statutes. There are no special statutory requirements or restrictions applied to marijuana plants.”
Back to US6630507. In the patent, CBD is claimed to be both covered by the patent, and effective in high doses. It states: “Nonpsychoactive cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol, are particularly advantageous to use because they avoid toxicity that is encountered with psychoactive cannabinoids at high doses.” And: “No signs of toxicity or serious side effects have been observed following chronic administration of cannabidiol to healthy volunteers, even in large acute doses of 700mg/day.”
What has the federal government done with this patent? Five years ago, it struck a couple of licensing deals, exclusive and non, with Kannalife Sciences Inc., a New York-based firm doing research to treat conditions such as CTE, the degenerative brain disease that most people know as the cause of many football player suicides. Which is great, as the stories told by the family members of those players are heartbreaking.
Except—it’s kind of not so great, which brings us back to those numeric selfies I mentioned earlier. A palm with 6630507 scrawled on it is meant to convey a message of “talk to the hand” to the DEA regarding to the patent. Because as we have covered many times here, the feds continue to list cannabis as a Schedule I drug, meaning in their eyes, cannabis has zero medical value. To quote from the United States Controlled Substances Act, a Schedule I substance “has a high potential for abuse... has no currently accepted medical use, [and] there is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug.”
Which is the very pinnacle of hypocrisy. And not the soft pass kind, either, like being a vegetarian who lusts after fine leather footwear. (Guilty.) This is the kind of hypocrisy in which the federal government denies the benefits of a plant to the sick and dying, continues to lock people up for its use and production (including a highly disproportionate number of people of color), and undertakes a decades-long systematic propagation of lies about cannabis and its effects. Not to mention how prohibition has suggested that those who partake are menaces to society who should be denied housing, employment, and in some cases, access to their very own children. And yet the feds are also granting themselves a patent for it as a medicine while, of course, making the other type of sweet green from it.
And though I’m fairly certain the DEA isn’t trolling Facebook and Instagram to see if this number is trending, bringing awareness towards this issue is crucial. Until cannabis is completely descheduled—and not just rescheduled—we are all missing out on its benefits while allowing our neighbors and friends to suffer. Not cool.