By James Collins
On March 7th 2013 a United States patent was filed by G.W. Pharmaceuticals’ for a cannabis based cancer treatment. That is both really great, and really terrible. As a sign of the coming end of prohibition, and an end to the pervasive lie that cannabis has no medicinal value, it is fantastic. As a specter of what form medicinal cannabis might assume in the foreseeable future, it is a grim prospect.
Medicine can either serve the goal of making profit, or it can place humanity first. Those two goals are often mutually exclusive. Things which quickly and effectively cure disease are not nearly as profitable as symptomatic treatments that allow the patient to wallow in illness for years, consuming a king’s ransom in patented drugs in the process.
We need to ask ourselves what is more important, health or money? The same corporation has already patented a simple cannabis tincture for the treatment of chronic pain. It’s called Sativex. Now they want to patent every molecule to be found within the cannabis plant itself.
This is an issue people need to take up with their governments, around the world, not just where this patent was filed. This bit of paperwork could be the beginning of a global race to patent every possible application of the most versatile plant on Earth. There could come a time that smoking a joint is not a criminal offence, but an infringement upon some multi-national corporations’ patent rights.
It’s out of the bong and into the lighter.
It raises an underlying concern about medicine, and I think cannabis could become the poster child for publicly-funded medical research. If one corporation is allowed to patent a medicine which has been in use around the world for thousands of years, it restricts access to health and wellness. Is physical well-being and the right to safety and security not a fundamental human right?
I’m not speaking badly of profit in and of itself. Business makes the world go ‘round, and we are all in one way or another slaves to money. We may have fantasies of a utopian society where everybody has everything they want, and nobody suffers in any way; but those fantasies are just that. Ultimately, there has always been a competitive element to human society, and I personally doubt we will see that change any time in the near future.
Not everything in our society is left to profit though, is it? We have publicly funded roads. Our police and court system are public institutions. Most modern nations have national health care systems, where everyone is given access to some basic level of medicine. We do publicly fund those things which are too important to be left to the cold-hearted motivations of profit guided corporations. Why should medical research and development be any different?
Some things aren’t that important. It isn’t going to end anybody’s life if the development of new forms of television set is left to the self-important focus of corporate giants like Sony and Panasonic. It isn’t going to hurt us if the new iPhone is slightly inefficient because Apple rushed it out the door to meet the deadline promised at the shareholders meeting. Restricting the development of cannabis based cancer treatments is leaving people to grow sick and die. That just doesn’t sit right with me; I’m guessing you the reader feel much the same way.
We need to address the issue of what is public and what is private, and I propose that medical R&D should be public domain. Private corporations should be restricted from filing patents for medical technologies, and all people should freely share in the benefits of those developments. How would we do that? Simple; the same way we fund the courts, the police, the roads and the doctor who diagnosed your cancer in the first place. We fund them with our taxes.
Cannabis activists are already up on the facts surrounding the medicinal value of this plant. They are in a unique position to recognize the complex issues surrounding this development. Why should a ruthless multi-national be allowed to rake in profits off of a medicine that anybody could make in their kitchen with the right know how and a few easily obtained materials?
Cannabis doesn’t belong to G.W. Pharmaceutical. It belongs to you, and me, and everyone else who ever lived and is yet to live. Cannabis is freeware in the public domain. If we let a small group of wealthy investors get a death grip on our favorite plant, we will be paying through the nose for the gift of nature until the end of time. Let’s put a foot down now, shall we?
James Collins is a Canadian blogger, author and activist.