The federal government of the United States of America has rights to patent number 6630507, for the use of “Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants,” yet according to the Controlled Substance Act (CSA), instituted by the 91st U.S. Congress and enforced by the Drug Enforcement Administration, marijuana (cannabis) continues to be classified as a Schedule I drug. As stated in the CSA, these “substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” but yet, the patent held by the same institution that operates the DEA obviously claims otherwise. And today, many doctors and scientists as well.
Of course, the patent mentioned above “concerns pharmaceutical compounds and compositions that are useful as tissue protectants, such as neuroprotectants and cardioprotectants,” as it is qualified in the patent documentation. But cannabinoids utilized directly from the cannabis plant itself have the same protective properties as any sort of lab created pharmaceutical version of these isolated compounds. One of the main differences between the natural plant-derived cannabinoids and the synthetic version is the presence of the psychoactive compound, THC. However, plants can be grown to be higher in cannabidiol (CBD) in order to make medicines that can treat ailments that respond best to this cannabinoid.
So, if our understanding of the many beneficial components of cannabis sativa have helped us learn how to cultivate medicine that is beneficial for a variety of illnesses and medical applications, why is cannabis still prohibited by the federal government? The International Business Times describes the situation well, saying:
“Marijuana is not considered highly addictive or dangerous except possibly for adolescents who smoke it while their brains are still forming. And the plant seems to hold medical promise in a number of areas — one drug that is derived from a compound found in marijuana has already been approved to treat nausea in cancer patients.
The strict Schedule I label is problematic, advocates say, because it incurs the harshest federal penalties for those who are caught with it and adds bureaucratic hurdles for researchers who want study it. ‘I see dozens of cases a month that are impacted by this classification,’ says Michael Cindrich, an attorney in San Diego, California, who specializes in criminal cases related to medical marijuana. Meanwhile, the significance of the designation has blurred following more states legalizing recreational marijuana and Congress ordering the Department of Justice to stop pursuing criminal cases against growers or users of medical marijuana.”
Not only does the DEA’s classification of cannabis restrict medical research and innovation, but it also criminalizes a medicine that the U.S. government itself claims to be effective enough that it owns a patent for pharmaceutical cannabinoid use. This is truly some special sort of hypocrisy and is a complete injustice perpetrated against the citizens of our country. However, now that many of the states have medical marijuana laws on the books, the tide is starting to change. But for many, it simply isn’t changing fast enough.
With only about half of the states allowing for medicinal cannabis use, those who live in the states that are still under complete prohibition have to either suffer with debilitating illness that could be improved or cured with medical marijuana, utilize less effective pharmaceuticals (that often come with side effects worse than the symptoms), or take the risk and be illegally healed. Even those who are able to benefit from legal cannabis in the states that have medical laws are not necessarily safe from prosecution and persecution by law enforcement. In recent years, many states that allow for medical marijuana have been experiencing raids by federal agencies on pot dispensaries and bona fide patients also face a host of possible difficulties, including employment discrimination, child custody issues, and arrest for their use of cannabis for medicine.
The group, Americans for Safe Access offers a good assessment of the situation:
“Medical cannabis patients and their providers are vulnerable to federal and state raids, arrest, prosecution, and incarceration. As a result, these individuals may suffer pervasive discrimination in employment, child custody, housing, public accommodation, education and medical care. Laws protecting patients and their providers vary from state to state and, in some cases, may vary from county to county. Many individuals choose to break outdated state laws that do not account for medical use or their access. And no matter what state you are living in, medical cannabis patients and their providers are always violating federal law.”
Although state medical marijuana programs have helped many gain access to the medicine they need, clearly this patchwork of state laws has not been enough. Until cannabis is removed from the federal schedule of controlled substances, true reform cannot be achieved very easily. We need to call on the Drug Enforcement Administration and the other agencies involved in maintaining cannabis prohibition to end the hypocrisy and abrogate prohibition nationwide.