By Jacob Sullum
The East Bay Expressreports that the Drug Enforcement Administration has licensed 55 companies to grow cannabis for use in producing generic versions of the THC capsule Marinol, whose patent protection recently expired, or pharmaceutical products containing cannabidiol, another marijuana component that shows medical promise. Yes, this is the same DEA that raids medical marijuana dispensaries and refuses to allow an independent source of marijuana for research to compete with the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Although many patients prefer marijuana for various reasons (including easier administration, faster onset, better dose control, and less disturbing psychoactive effects), the existence of Marinol, originally approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1985 as a treatment for the nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy, has always belied drug warriors' claims that cannabis has no therapeutic value.
But if the DEA is prepared to allow production of marijuana-derived THC as well as the synthetic form, and if the FDA ultimately allows the cannabis extract Sativex to be marketed in the U.S., the distinction between government-approved medicine and government-condemned contraband will become even thinner.
In 2008 I noted that the U.S. government holds a patent for the medical use of cannabinoids.