A summary of current cannabis patents owned by the United States government
All legal information for this article was obtained using Google Patent search engine.
In addition to the large amount of basic science and translational research occurring these days in the field of cannabis and cannabinoid chemistry, we must also pause to appreciate the budding number of patent applications being granted in these fields too.
The U.S. Patent Office has granted nearly 40,000 patents relating to cannabis, with almost half of all patents falling under category A61K. This subclass covers drugs or other biological compositions which are classified as “preparations for medical, dental, or toilet purposes,” whether set forth as a composition (mixture), process of preparing the composition or process of treating using the composition.
A more noticeable patent on this list is U.S. Patent No. 6,630,507, which covers the potential use of non-psychoactive cannabinoids, filed on February 2nd 2001, by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The patent lists the use of specific cannabinoids found within Cannabis sativa in certain neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and HIV dementia. Major social media controversy erupted over this patent in 2016 when the DEA rejected a petition to reschedule cannabis.
A majority of the government’s cannabis patents focus on the cannabinoid receptors themselves, including a gene code that can be inserted into microbes and expressed, known as a “recombinant gene vector,” for in vitro research. Also listed are small-molecule cannabinoid analogs of cannabinoid-like receptors. These agonists or antagonists can test how they affect the normal activity of these receptors in the living organism [2,5] Finally, the government also patented a method for how to best reduce symptoms of disorders resulting from improper functioning of cannabinoid receptors—including liver, stomach, and lung cancer! 
Cannabis sativa clearly contains molecules recognized as medicinal by a U.S. government agency.Why is it, then, that cannabinoids remain on the DEA’s Schedule One list of compounds, including CBD, despite GW Pharmaceuticals getting the approval of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, to vend their CBD-based Epidiolex? Although U.S. Patent No. 6,630,507 has been the most prominent example of the endorsement of the medicinal power of cannabinoids by a government agency in recent years, the application for governmental cannabis-related patents is a direct contradiction of the government’s own definition of what constitutes a Schedule One drug.
“Naturally, it shows that there is a certain amount of hypocrisy that there is ‘no accepted medical use’ for cannabis according to federal law,” said Sam Mendez, an intellectual property and public policy lawyer who serves as the executive director of the University of Washington’s Cannabis Law & Policy Project. “And yet here you have the very same government owning a patent for, ostensibly, a medical use for [cannabis].”
Mendez, along with patent lawyers, the research arm of the HHS, and the New York bio pharmaceutical firm that’s working as an exclusive licensee under the patent, caution us that the existence of government-owned cannabis patents does not signal that federal legalization is on the horizon.
“The government is allowed to file and obtain patents, and that has no bearing on the Controlled Substances Act,” Mendez said.
- Hampson, Aidan J, Axelrod, Julius, and Grimaldi, Maurizio. Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants.US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). U.S. Patent No. 6,630,507. Oct. 7th, 2003.
- Kunos, George, and Razdan, Raj K. Vasoconstrictor cannabinoid analogs.US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). U.S. Patent No. 7,109,245. Sept. 19th, 2006.
- Bonner, Tom I., Brownstein, Michael J., Matsuda, Lisa A. Cannabinoid receptor.US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). U.S. Patent No. 542,920. Jul. 14th, 1993.
- Wainer, Irving W., Bernier, Michel, and Paul, Rajib K. Methods of regulating cannabinoid receptor activity-related disorders and diseases.US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). U.S. Patent No.15,225,643. Aug. 1st, 2016.
- Kunos, George, et al.Cannabinoid receptor mediating compounds.US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). U.S. Patent No.9,765,031. Sept. 9th, 2017.