HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Big Pharma
Pubdate: Wed, 25 May 2011
Source: East Bay Express (CA)
Copyright: 2011 East Bay Express
Author: David Downs


Generic Cannabis Pills Planned for Wide Use.

Despite the US government's staunch opposition to medical cannabis
farms in Oakland and elsewhere, the feds have begun licensing a whole
lot of large legal pot grows throughout the country. But this weed is
not for cannabis dispensaries and their patients; it's for Big Pharma.

The Drug Enforcement Administration told Legalization Nation in an
e-mail last week that 55 unnamed companies now hold licenses to grow
cannabis in the United States, a fact that contradicts the widespread
belief that there is only one legal pot farm in America, operated
under the DEA for research purposes. It appears as if the upswing in
federally approved pot farming is about feeding the need of
pharmaceutical companies who want to produce a generic version of THC
pill Marinol and at least one other cannabis-based pill for a wide
variety of new uses.

In other words, if big corporations grow dope with the government and
put it in a pill, it's medicine. But if you grow it at home or at a
city-permitted pot farm and then put it in a vaporizer, it's a felony.

"They've got to realize, as a political issue, this is going to raise
a red flag," said Kris Hermes, spokesperson for medical marijuana
lobby Americans for Safe Access. "Here we have companies cultivating
marijuana on a mass scale to produce generic Marinol. It's going to
force the government to answer more questions than it wants to."

It's a weird piece of news that comes at a strange and contradictory
time for the drug war. As US attorneys send threatening letters to
states and cities, including Oakland, warning them against "commercial
cultivation" of marijuana, the DEA is quietly handing out licenses for
commercial cultivation.

The schism has its roots in the Seventies and the drug war under
Richard Nixon. Nixon ignored his staff's recommendations and named
weed the most dangerous drug in America under the Controlled
Substances Act. Cannabis has remained a so-called "Schedule 1"
controlled substance alongside heroin and roofies (GHB) because it has
allegedly no medical use and high potential for abuse.

But the only people who still believe that are old church ladies.
Hermes said in an interview that decades of scientific studies and FDA
approvals have proved the drug's 3,000-year-old medical efficacy and
safety. Today, sixteen states defy the Controlled Substances Act and
allow qualified patients to access the drug.

While federal legalization efforts have repeatedly failed, drug law
reformers have also targeted the scheduling of cannabis. Filed in
1972, the first rescheduling petition was denied by the DEA 22 years
later, over the objections of their own administrative law judge
Francis Young, who said in court records: "Marijuana, in its natural
form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to

In 2002, activists again tried to reschedule the cannabis plant.
Today, they still await word on their petition, which is why they
filed a writ of mandamus Monday in a Washington, DC circuit court that
would order the DEA to rule on the matter. "The federal government's
strategy has been delay, delay, delay," said Joe Elford, chief counsel
for Americans for Safe Access in an e-mailed statement Monday. "The
Obama administration's refusal to act on this petition is an
irresponsible stalling tactic," added Steph Sherer, executive director
of the organization, in the statement.

But while the government has stalled on rescheduling a cheap,
patent-less pain remedy with fewer toxic side effects than Advil or
Tylenol, regulators are proving to be more than happy to accommodate
Big Pharma's efforts to muscle in on pot.

Cannabis' main psychoactive ingredient, THC, was isolated in the
Seventies, and copied in a lab to produce the prescription synthetic
Marinol. In 1999, the DEA then downgraded Marinol to a Schedule III
drug like codeine, while the plant itself stayed a Schedule I.

However, Marinol never did that well with cancer patients, doctors
say. Effects vary widely. With at least 66 different canabinoids in
smoked pot, patients report THC-only Marinol doesn't provide the same

But Marinol is about to get a big boost. Its patent has recently
expired, and a review of clinical human trials show sixteen studies
under way that, if successful, would broaden generic Marinol's uses
considerably beyond treating nausea in cancer patients.

In addition, researchers are using THC, as well as the number-two
cannabinoid, CBD, in studies to treat obsessive compulsive disorder,
schizophrenia, fibromyalgia, PTSD, and even irritable bowel syndrome.
That's because pot modulates a newly discovered yet primal-cell
signaling pathway called "the endocannabinoid system," with special
effects in the brain and the gut.

Drug companies want to bring generic THC and CBD to new markets, and
have requested that the DEA allow them to grow pot and put organic THC
and CBD in pills, according to DEA records posted online last fall.
But that requires the DEA to move organic THC down from Schedule I,
where it is now, to Schedule III, where synthetic THC Marinol
currently is.

According to DEA records, drug companies have requested just such a
rescheduling. It appears as if they're likely to get it at any time,
green-lighting a new generation of prescription pot pill farms.

The federal government has already boosted its marijuana production
capability by 900 percent to 4.5 million grams, according documents
obtained by Americans for Safe Access. The most famous federally
approved pot grower, Dr. Mahmoud El Sohly, has also testified he has
begun legally selling THC extracted from his Mississippi pot farm to
the drug company Mallinckrodt.

Big Pharma's move on the pot industry isn't some forty-year-old hippie
conspiracy theory, said Paul Armentano, spokesman for the National
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. It's here.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.