Protection for perfection
The multitude of different cannabis strains have been perfected over decades by geneticists, engineers, farmers and cannabis connoisseurs. Like anything that takes blood, sweat, tears and brilliance, there are some cannabis cultivators who are looking to patent their strains.
Cannabis has become a science in how perfect and consistent the effects of certain strains can be. For example, some of the “superstrains” are high in cannabidiol (CBD), which has been linked to relieving seizures and other medical conditions.
Conversely, some superstrains are known for ridiculously high levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the stuff that makes you feel super high. Other superstrains are known for being mite and mildew resistant.
Federal law trumps state law
The patenting process would serve to protect growers’ plant-breeder rights and their intellectual property. Of course, if this were to happen, it would allow the patent-holder to license strains to other growers and breeders as well. This is a far superior method than just trademark protection, since trademarks only safeguard the name of an innovation within state borders.
But, the issue is that patents are exclusively federal and marijuana is of course, still illegal under federal law. And federal law overrides state law. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office do not accept cannabis-related patents because they claim it violates federal drug law.
If marijuana ever does get declassified as a Schedule 1 drug and thus the Federal government begins to issue patents, there will inevitably be interest from multi-national corporations like Monsanto and Walgreens. This has the potential to really hurt the little guys in the industry who have been in the cannabis game for decades, but might be competing for patents with the big dogs.
Overall, there are still lots of questions on the table about how patents will work in the Cannabis Industry and how they will be enforced. But with the industry growing at the pace that it is, the issue of patenting cannabis strains will certainly become more public soon.