Is a Marijuana Patent War Coming to the U.S in 2018?

A Look at How the Opioid Epidemic in the U.S Will Spur a Big-Pharma Patent War Like Never Seen Before

Setting the Terms

Patents are often considered the most robust and sought after form of intellectual property protection because of the length, scope, and exclusivity of the protection offered by the obtained patent. Recall, a patent (as a general matter) is a Government conferred right to stop other individuals/companies from using, producing, or selling the invention covered
by the patent. The term, “Marijuana Patents”, of course, is simply a way cannabis industry participants and marijuana lawyers refer to those patents, which specifically interface with the marijuana industry.

“Patent wars”, as the astute reader has most certainly deduced, is a term meant to express a competitive dynamic whereby individuals and/or corporations attempt to gain exclusivity to certain technologies in a bid to dominate the market. The idea is that by broadly registering patents on these coveted ideas/patents/inventions, the company will render the competitor
inept and force it out of the market.

The Marijuana Industry and the Patent Battlefield

What would such a marijuana “patent war” consist of? Who would be the warring factions?

Perhaps among the most controversial of issues in the cannabis industry is the steady and seemingly unstoppable influx of big pharma players. The fear that large pharmaceutical companies will create a monopoly on cannabis and drive out small
businesses is very real indeed. Specifically, the central concern is that large companies with bottomless payrolls will hire marijuana
patent attorneys to commence a patent blitz; here, ambitious CEOs will attempt to gain proprietary rights and ownership of both cannabis strains and lucrative ancillary bi-products to marginalize competitors. Rival CEOs will see these offensive measures and start their own patent blitzes. This arms race for ownership of the best cannabis properties will, in turn, increasingly phase out smaller players in the industry without the financial wherewithal to plant their canna flags.

Why The FDA Matters For The Marijuana Industry in 2018

Recall that the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) classifies cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug. Yes, still. This
classification reflects the DEA’s belief that cannabis has a high potential for abuse with no meaningful medicinal benefits. Of Course, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plays a significant role in marijuana’s federal drug classification—so what does the FDA have to do with Big Pharma and why would Big Pharma be interested in cannabis patents?

Principally (unfortunately?), pharmaceutical companies have through their lobbying efforts accrued a tremendous amount of power and influence over our government representatives and in turn, the FDA. While it would be arrogant and irresponsible to suggest that ”Big Pharma” controls the FDA, it would be equally naïve to pretend that their influence is not meaningful.

Skeptical? consider for the moment that the FDA has long since has approved synthetic versions
of cannabinoid compounds developed by big pharma while natural Cannabis still remains prima facie federally illegal. Synthesized cannabis or THC, such as those chemical compounds contained within the popular nausea-reducing drug Marinol, lack many of the beneficial and naturally occurring chemical compounds that are present in natural cannabis and yet the drug remains
prosperous and ubiquitous on the market. Why? Contact your state legislative representatives and find out.

Cannabis: The Last Hope for Opioid Addiction

It is no secret that the United States is currently battling a menacing and seemingly unyielding enemy in the form of the national opioid epidemic. Indeed, according to the CDC, roughly 42,000 people died from overdoses involving opioids in 2016 alone and
the numbers for 2017 are expected to be even more worrisome. While many solutions (from a variety of vantage points) have been put forth on a policy level, the legalization and access of Cannabis is emerging as a popular hypothesis to solve this
riddle. Specifically, cannabis-friendly scientists and researchers believe that replacing the highly addicting and harmful opioid painkillers with the more benign cannabis plant will sufficiently manage a patient’s pain without all of the negative side
effects and ultimately reduce, if not eliminate, the opioid epidemic. How much traction will this theory gain and to what extent will it influence legalization efforts? Hard to say.

A Patent Monopoly on Cannabis Strains

If major pharmaceutical companies do in fact agree that marijuana and its distilled chemical compounds will truly emerge as the
federally sanctioned antidote to the opioid epidemic, expect a patent blitz on the highest-level with the fiercest of competitors. Fundamentally, Big pharma is interested in the cannabis industry because obtaining patents and the subsequent exclusive rights to use, produce, and sell particular strains of cannabis, in conjunction with having a large influence on government regulatory bodies like the FDA, is a way to control public access to it and ultimately, large-scale profits.

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