By Alice Salles
Last week, the Drug Enforcement Administration declined to downgrade the federal classification of cannabis from a Schedule I to a Schedule II substance, stating “science doesn’t support” the notion cannabis may be used for medical purposes.
But in 1999, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services filed a patent for cannabis claiming the plant had “been found to have antioxidant properties,” making cannabis useful “in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.”
At the time, the discovery prompted U.S. officials to believe cannabis could be used as “neuroprotectants … [that could limit] 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.”
But the government’s prohibitive position on cannabis remains unchanged, and legalization advocates aren’t happy. In order to protest the DEA’s shortsighted response, some advocates decided to use the 1999 patent number as a sign of protest, sharing images of the code, 6,630,507, written on their hands along with the hashtag #TalkToThe6630507Hand.
Amy Hilterbran, a medical marijuana advocate who ignited the online trend, told ATTN the patent “proved there was ample evidence to support the medicinal aspects of cannabis.” But despite the “decades of research,” the government insists on refusing to address its own history on the subject.
Hilterbran added that the studies that led to the patent “proved that cannabis — cannabinoids — were medicinal and effective for numerous ailments, conditions, and that the plant was nontoxic, nonlethal. … [it also] disqualified cannabis from even being on the Controlled Substances Act — on several levels.”
Though the patent was filed in 1999, it was only published in 2003. According to ATTN:, “information included in the patent description shows that the federal agency has been aware of marijuana’s antioxidant and neuroprotective properties for some time.”
But the existence of this patent and the government’s reluctance to recognize it has been in the spotlight for the last few years. And despite its existence, the government still won’t address the discoveries made previously.
In 2014, CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta wrote that the government had been denying the benefits of medical marijuana while holding “a patent for those very same benefits.”
For a “true and productive scientific journey” to produce successful results, Gupta wrote, we must be willing “to let go of established notions and get at the truth, even if it is uncomfortable and even it means having to say ‘sorry.’” But micromanagers within the federal government seem incapable of admitting as much — 17 years after the patent was filed.
As it stands, the DEA already admits cannabis is less dangerous than heroin and other drugs under the same “Schedule I” category. But officials are often mum on what the DHHS patent proves.
According to Leaf Science, the patent referenced in the protests against prohibition “covers only a specific application of these cannabinoids and not the production or use of marijuana and cannabinoids overall,” which might be a reason why bureaucrats might not find any value in the online demonstration. But what the patent also proves, Leaf Science argued in 2014, is “that cannabidiol previously had not been considered useful as a neuroprotectant. However, it cites various studies on cannabidiol as an antiepileptic and as a potential treatment for glaucoma.”
Even if the patent was associated with a particular application of certain components of the plant — and not cannabis as a whole — wouldn’t it be fair for the government to take a second look at its policies, even if just for accuracy purposes?
If the DEA’s actions serve as an answer, it seems bureaucrats are still reluctant to embrace science at all.
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