Medical Marijuana

Uncle Sam's Patented Marijuana Medicine

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August 1996: Federal drug czar Barry McCaffrey tells the San Francisco Chronicle "there is not a shred of scientific evidence that shows that smoked marijuana is useful or needed," adding, "This is not medicine. This is a cruel hoax."

December 1996: Asked whether there is "any evidence…that marijuana is useful in a medical situation," McCaffrey says, "No, none at all."

February 2001: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services files a patent application for the medical use of cannabinoids, saying they are "useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and
autoimmune diseases," and "are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and HIV dementia."

October 2003: The patent is granted.

April 2006: The Food and Drug Administration says an "evaluation by several Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agencies…concluded that no sound scientific studies supported medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United States, and no animal or human data supported the safety or efficacy of marijuana for general medical use."

July 2008: The Drug Enforcement Administration says "marijuana has no medical value that can't be met more effectively by legal drugs."

What's going on here? The government wants to draw a distinction between whole-plant marijuana, which it insists has "no currently accepted medical use," and marijuana ingredients, including THC and cannabidiol, that have demonstrated medical utility. As drug czar John Walters put it in an "Ask the White House" Q&A last December:

We believe that if there are elements of marijuana that can be applied to modern medicine, they should undergo the same FDA-approval process any other medicine goes through to make sure it's safe and effective. In absence of that approval, the Federal position is clear: the smoked form of medical marijuana is against Federal law and we will continue to enforce the law.

According to Walters, while it is emphatically forbidden, and not at all helpful, to smoke, vaporize, or eat cannabis as a medicine, it may be acceptable to take isolated cannabinoids as a medicine once they're approved by the FDA, assuming you have a prescription. The FDA already has approved THC (in capsule form) under the brand name Marinol, and it is considering approval of Sativex, an oral cannabis extract spray. At the same time, the government does not want people to believe that anything good could possibly come from cannabis, even when it has successfully argued that very point in its own a patent application.

[Thanks to NORML's Paul Armentano for the patent tip.]

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  1. I should be able to legally use marijuana to treat my acute THC deficiency.

  2. If a government employee ever tells the truth, it is

    A) By accident, or

    B) Because they feel it will better serve their goals than a lie.

    In this regard, they are identical to spammers.

  3. if only people could understand the message, its not the drug, its the dosage.

  4. As in all wars, the first casualty is the truth. John Watlers and his predecessors lie though their teeth. They know it, we know it, and they know that we know that they know they are lying.

    I’m supposed to respect that crap?
    Eat my shorts, John Walters.

  5. One question that this post brings to my mind is the following: is hash – especially well-refined, quality hash – considered a member of the cannabis plant class or a member of the more legally-accepted class of cannabis-derived products, like the tincture spray?

    If hash falls into class 1, does that mean that the US Government could apply for a patent of hash?

    Follow up question: Does the fact that hash is most often smoked, like actual cannabis flowers, make it less likely that the feds would acknowledge any of its medical benefits?

    P.S. Saying Yes is one thoughtful book.

  6. Extracts, tinctures and whole edible cannabis has been used as medicine for centuries. Smoked / vaporized cannabis helps people who can’t keep a pill down regain their appetite and gain weight.

    /Asprin has killed more people than cannabis.

  7. Perhaps the patent was applied for in order to give the US government/Bush administration yet another way to quash any efforts at medical marijuana?

    ie, if all else fails, sue for patent infringement.

  8. Is it still legal for me to chew on aspen bark for my head ache?

  9. I made this point on Radley Balko’s site the other day, but I’ll expand on it a bit here.

    1) It’s a mistake to view the federal government as a monolithic entity, here. DHHS, and especially NIH (the agency that employs two of the three patent applicants) has a very different mandate than DEA, FDA, and ONDCP. I can assure you that below the level of political appointees, there exists at NIH more than a little contempt for the science policies of this administration generally, and a very real diversity of opinion among pharmacologists as to the medical utility of marijuana.

    2) The researchers listed on the patent have published many studies supporting the medical use of cannabanoids. Here’s one. There are others. They aren’t the enemy.

    3) All patents and copyrights resulting from the work of federal employees are signed over to the federal government. If the same researchers had been working at a University, the University would hold the patent.

  10. “All patents and copyrights resulting from the work of federal employees are signed over to the federal government. If the same researchers had been working at a University, the University would hold the patent.”

    Well, yes, but why file for a patent at all, let alone such a seemingly broad and vague one, let alone one which contradicts long-standing government policy?

    Lots of federally-employed scientists’ work doesn’t result in a patent.

  11. If the same researchers had been working at a University, the University would hold the patent.

    No. If the same workers had been at a university, they’d have been arrested.

  12. Lots of federally-employed scientists’ work doesn’t result in a patent.

    More likely it was the college-dropout bureaucrat who held the patronage management position the researchers reported to that had the brainstorm “Let’s get a patent!”

  13. “More likely it was the college-dropout bureaucrat who held the patronage management position the researchers reported to that had the brainstorm “Let’s get a patent!””

    More likely it was some Regent University lawyer hack who just walked in the NIH door a few weeks earlier when Bush was inaugurated.

  14. This gets right to the heart of the beast. Here we see what is the driving force of evil. This isn’t about medicine and it isn’t about morality, and it certainly has nothing to do with teh childwrens. It’s all about the Benjamins baby! Pot is bad m’kay. Pot is bad because anyone can grow it in their back yard. Marinol is good because big pharma has the monopoly on the supply so only the wealthy and well insured (mostly the same people) can afford it. It’s all about keeping the establishment in power.

  15. Warren, maintaining control over medicine is a driving force behind marijuana prohibition. The echo chamber that is public opinion amplifies this force into an all out War on Drugs. Millions of ordinary Americans enable the DEA when they decide that 1) they won’t bother to critically analyze the the DEA claims or 2) they don’t mind prohibition as long as they don’t get caught.

  16. The doublethink drug war worshippers can do is incredible. If I supported the tax and spend drugwar & read this, my head would literally explode from the contradictions.
    JMR

  17. Reading this article, I am thrilled to see confirmed once more the fact that we in the United States are more free than ANYONE IN THE ENTIRE WORLD to live as our government directs. God Bless and Protect the United States of America!

  18. It could be the cure to cancer – and if you had any chance at all of getting high they would deny you the use of it.

    Moralistic fuckwits.

  19. As a patient forced to take Marinol because marijuana is illegal in the midwest (and will be till pigs fly)I can tell you Marinol is not as effective as true medical marijuana. It cost’s the government $705 a month to supply me with 60-5mg pills a month. Why the gov’t? Because I am on title 19 with medicare and medicaid. The best thing about Marinol is it give’s you a THC base so you can smoke less to add the cannabinoids left out of Marinol, i.e. the psychoactive effect. Which plays a major part in relieving nausea, pain, etc. Now is the time to follow Oregon’s example and legalize marijuana selling it in liquor stores to people over 21 and paying millions of dollars in taxes.

  20. More likely it was the college-dropout bureaucrat who held the patronage management position the researchers reported to that had the brainstorm “Let’s get a patent!”

    invisible finger–Actually, one of the inventors on the patent is a Nobel Laureate. Your ignorance of the way federally employed researchers are managed is pretty profound. Really.

  21. There was no doubt that the Schedule I status of Cannabis is a damned lie. But the insanity of holding the patent while lying so loudly is staggering.

    http://www.mikuriya.com/s3_1.pdf

    “More study is needed…”

  22. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

    sorry, let me rephrase that:

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

  23. They don’t recognize any medicine you can get for free. You can’t tax a plant grown in your back yard. The government should and will be over thrown, it is unconstitutional to withhold safe medicine from our own personal use. The pharmaceutical companies want to patent all of nature’s medicine and sell it in their fluoride-based synthetic(harmful) non-potent forms. To make profits from poisons!

    If alcohol and cigarettes are legal, so should cannabis! In the case they outlaw either of those two, there’s more reason to make cannabis fully legal to grow, eat, smoke, sell, run your car/home off the oil/fuel, make rope, paper, building materials, anything.

    Restore the Constitution(it was made of Hemp)

    Restore the US economy and bring wealth to all the poor and middle-class!

    End the Federal Reserve and the IRS!

  24. So, it’s cannabinoids are safe and effective, provided you pay pharmaceutical companies hundreds of bucks for them? Hmm…

    Big pharma comes out with some great products, but their collusion with government in persuading people that smoking cannabis is somehow damaging to society really pisses me off. Also, in this case, they really haven’t come up with a great product. As Marinol only contains Delta-9-THC, not the full range of 60 or so cannabinoids usually found in the plant, it doesn’t have the same range of therapeutic effects as actual cannabis or its direct extracts. Also, as a pill, it takes longer to take effect than smoked/vaporised cannabis, and is more difficult to titrate the dosage.

    Why, if the government weren’t involved, would anyone choose a more expensive and less effective treatment?

  25. Speaking of FARC, Colombia, and the eternal human comedy, here we have what has to be the ultimate apologia for tyranny coming from none other than the “libertarian” magazine that goes by the moniker Reason:

    “So yes, the Uribe government is far from perfect – it is Latin America after all, so we must judge on a steep curve – but as even the left-leaning Guardian acknowledged this week, Uribe is indeed a ‘skilled politician’ who ‘has been able to bring a degree of order, security and prosperity to the country that was scarcely believed possible when he took office in 2002.'”

    Aside from the borderline racism embedded in that “it is Latin America, after all” remark, the same sort of nonsense could easily be imagined coming from the lips of a left-wing apologist for Fidel Castro. After all, the guy has given Cubans affordable – free! – health care, and Cuba’s literacy rate exceeds our own. And certainly he’s kept “order.” So what’s to complain about? Well, uh, plenty?

    This is particularly galling coming as it does from Reason, which, in order to prevent itself from becoming just another right-wing mouthpiece, has prided itself on its devotion to civil liberties, particularly when it comes to opposing the War on Drugs – a war that Colombia has been fighting, on behalf of and in league with the U.S. military, for decades, with a notable lack of success. Uribe, for his part, is a known collaborator with right-wing terror squads, and his own ties to the kingmakers of Colombia’s drug cartels are no secret. For the Reasonoids to peddle him as some sort of sympathetic figure is more of the Bizarro “libertarianism” their ever dwindling band of readers has come to expect from them.
    ~ Justin Raimondo

  26. Damn…Server Squirrels ate my comment…

  27. Wait, no—Apaulogist is just a spamming foo’. I pity the fool who spams.

  28. “Also, as a pill, it takes longer to take effect than smoked/vaporised cannabis, and is more difficult to titrate the dosage.”

    A pill also requires that a person needs to be able to hold it in his stomach long enough for the medicine to work. It won’t work if you can’t keep from throwing up.

    /war on some drugs makes me want to throw up

  29. You mean the Feds,specifically Bush Admin., have been laying to us about the naturally grown plant called cannabis? How can this be?
    Someone please read this passage from the Bible to Bush.
    Genesis: 1:29-31: God said, “Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed which is on the face of all the earth.To you it will be meat”(cannabis seeds are 33% protein)and God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”

  30. “Genesis: 1:29-31: God said, “Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed which is on the face of all the earth.To you it will be meat”(cannabis seeds are 33% protein)and God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”

    Bush’s favorite political philosopher is Jesus. I reckon Jesus’ dad is pretty upset with Bush right now.

  31. When fools smoke cannabis they may become more foolish, when partiers smoke marijuana they party hearty, when the fearful smoke pot they sometimes increase their paranoia, when scientists smoke Mary Jane they often delve into complex scientific thoughts, when intellectuals smoke weed, they enjoy entering deep thought modes, when hemp farmers smoke Texas Tea, they get a headache, when couch potatoes smoke reefer they turn on/up the stereo/TV, when medical users use the herb they reduce symptoms and feel better.
    But our government sees cannabis sativa as threatening the industrial status quo and our developing police state, disruption of the religious right voting base, daredevil driving at every street corner, cheerleaders/teens turned heroin addicts/prostitutes/burglars, the infirm avoiding more costly prescription drugs, an increasingly peaceful police and military, more votes ?? if they can scare enough people, and gainful employment for drug warriors and their minions.
    But I just see a plant. A relatively safe plant that seems to offer people what they expect ?.. plus a little extra. A plant that allows some peace, quiet and sanity in this chaotic, high stress, world. A plant that presents an opportunity for the inquiring mind to lightly side step reality and delve into deeper thought mode. A plant that deserves a respectful place on the earth, in our farms, our gardens, on our bodies, and most of all ???.. in our minds.
    Peace

  32. The real scandal here is that the federal gov’t itself is allowed to apply for and be granted patents!! This is entirely opposed to the reason patents have for existing — i.e. as an incentive for inventors. How in the world does allowing NIH to get a patent advance science and useful arts? They should just publish their findings and let their knowledge enter the public domain. What good does it do for gov’t to secure to itself exclusivity for a period of time the practice of any invention?

  33. Robert wrote: “This is entirely opposed to the reason patents have for existing — i.e. as an incentive for inventors. How in the world does allowing NIH to get a patent advance science and useful arts? ”

    IMHO, the only issue is how hard it is to license and use the patented technology. If it’s freely licensed, then inventors aren’t harmed. If I’m not mistaken, the government has offices whose job is to find startups to use government-developed technology.

    Given how poorly the patent office functions these days, if the government published without seeking a patent, then a company would use the published taxpayer funded information to obtain a patent.

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