What You Should Know About the Cannabis Patent

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As befits an enormous entity that includes both Immigration and Customs Enforcement as well as the Library of Congress, the “federal government” is not a monolith — except for when “the government” is an evil character, looming like Freddie Krueger or distorted shadows in Plato’s cave in the poor minds of its citizens. A fine example of this theory in motion is US Patent 6,630,507, the “federal government’s patent on cannabis.”  First published in 1999, this patent application is for “cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants,” and the filers were scientists working at the federal government’s National Institutes of Health. The fact that “the government” holds a patent on medical use of cannabis, while at the same time “the government” bans cannabis in all forms and (less so every day, but still a real possibility) sends armed agents of the state after grandmothers with joints, is usually interpreted in one of two ways: the government is a giant hypocrite, or the government is planning some nefarious power move to thwart legalization — and monopolize the commercial and medical powers of marijuana. The 20-Year Itch Like a cold sore, Patent 6,630,507 is mostly harmless but refuses to go away, and it seems to appear in the discourse every few years or so. The most recent round of outrage and rumor was triggered in late May, when viral content farm Uber Facts posted a Tweet about the patent that was later picked up by cannabis news aggregator Blacklist on Instagram. The truth is far less harmless than rumors. Here’s all you need to know about the patent.  Old News Federal patent law allows anyone to try to patent any “new and useful” technique, device or compound — and that includes stuff that’s illegal. In this context, “anyone” includes agents of the federal government, including researchers working…

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