Feds close to granting medical marijuana patent to NY-based research company?

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Update: KannaLife did receive exclusive rights to the US patent on marijuana, but CEO Dean Petkanas told our sister blog Toke of the Town last night that it only applies to a very specific medical condition and that they have no plans to expand their research. "We don't want to be involved in the production, growth or dispensing of marijuana at the retail level," Petkanas said.

For more of Steve Elliot's interview with Petkanas, click over to Toke of the Town.

Original post, 4:28 p.m., Dec. 19: The U.S Department of Health and Human Services is about to give exclusive rights to the government-owned patent on marijuana to a single pharmaceutical company based in New York -- a state that doesn't even recognize medical marijuana as a valid therapy.Think that's unfair, fellow Colorado medical marijuana patient? Well, you've still got a few hours left to write in and tell the government your thoughts.

Since October 2003, the U.S. government has owned the patent on marijuana when used medically as an antioxidant and neuroprotectant. Currently, the NHS is planning to grant exclusive rights for US patent 6,630,507 to KannaLife Sciences, Inc.

Michael Elliott, director of Colorado's Medical Marijuana Industry Group, say it's insulting to patients and growers living in medical marijuana states currently being prosecuted under a federal system that doesn't recognize any medical value to the cannabis plant.

"This contemplated grant of an exclusive license to develop and sell cannabinoid based medicines under a patent owned by the federal government shows the incoherence in the federal government's position toward the medicinal value of cannabis," Elliott said. "It's unfortunate that this incoherence has to be determined on the backs of Colorado patients and compliant Colorado businesses."

According to the LinkedIn profile of KannaLife Science's CEO Dean Petkanas, the company's "plan for generating revenue" is to use the patent to create anti-oxidant skin care lotions and "biopharmaceutical" products to treat neuro-degenerative disorders. They also plan on developing a proprietary, automated packaging system for their products.

Others are concerned that the government is ignoring research and treatments currently going on legally in states that do allow medical marijuana. While most in the medical cannabis community would argue that further research into medical cannabis is needed, few would agree that a single company should have exclusive rights to do so. Not only does that put profits back into the $500 billion pharmaceutical industry, but as our friend Steve Elliot over at our sister blog, Toke of the Town, points out in his excellent post on the subject, this could be a way for the federal government to "bulldoze the cottage medical marijuana industry.

Public comment on the possible licensing ends today. Comments need to be submitted in writing and will be accepted through Dec. 19 (today). We take that to mean email as well, so send your thoughts on the matter to:

Betty B. Tong, Ph.D.
Senior Licensing and Patenting Manager
Office of Technology Transfer
National Institutes of Health
6011 Executive Boulevard, Suite 325
Rockville, MD 20852-3804
Email tongb@mail.nih.gov

Telephone (301) 594-6565 (note that NIH will only accept written comments for consideration)
Fax (301) 402-0220
Website http://www.ott.nih.gov/contactus/licensing_and_patenting.aspx

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