US: Can you patent Cannabis?

Good news for Plant Breeders, The Canadian Food Inspection Agency which administers the Plant Breeders' Rights Act (1990) and the regulations that provide legal protection to plant breeders for new plant varieties, has accepted its first application for a Cannabis Strain. Though the application was submitted in December 2013 it was 6 months before it was published. Big C, as it is called (Botannical Name: Cannabis sativa subsp. Indica) has a long way to go before rights may be granted. The process involves testing and plant trials, and site examinations, and the breeder must be able to show that the variety is new, and different from all other varieties. It must be uniform across all plants bred from the same stock and hold its genetic integrity through successive generations which takes time to prove.

There has been much kerfuffle in the news over the question of patents on cannabis, with the US Federal government in the middle of the debate. United States federal government officials have consistently denied that marijuana has any medical benefits, however US Patent 6630507 titled “Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants” was obtained in October of 2003 and is assigned to The United States of America, as represented by the Department of Health and Human Services.

While plant breeders will celebrate the small victory of getting the application for Big C listed, marijuana activists are likely to be less impressed. Strict regulations on medical marijuana like those enforced by Health Canada, have long been feared to be stacking the odds in favour of large pharmaceutical companies and big business plant researchers, who have laboratory facilities and money on their side.

For patients, who rely on cannabis for medicine; tighter controls, and patented plants that guarantee accurate and consistent levels of THC and CBD, may be the biggest win of all.

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GGS Structures
Doug Moore

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