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Marijuana legalization: The trouble of patents

When certain businesses become legal for the first time, there can be difficulties with legality and intellectual property. Take for instance the current aim to legalize marijuana sales within the United States. In some states, it's only legal as medical marijuana, whereas it's legal to use recreationally in others. The difficulty that has now arisen is that marijuana, since it was illegal and is illegal federally, can't be registered as intellectual property.

Without marijuana being legal in the United States, it's difficult to obtain a patent. That's what's going to hurt some who have worked hard to create strains of the drug, which may taste better, react differently in the body, or be generally more popular. One man who has been growing marijuana for around 41 years in California reports that no matter how popular his strains are, he can't do much to secure that value through intellectual property rights.

Without the ability to register a patent, people who grow and alter these plants can't protect their property. That means that when legalization takes place in California, which is expected to happen in 2016, the pharmaceutical companies and agricultural agencies will be able to do so and sweep up the profits. That would put smaller growers, many who have been growing their strains for several decades, out of business.

Growers also need to secure their intellectual property to help themselves gain investors. While many allegedly do not want to work into big business profits, the fact is that cannabis will hit the market and be a huge money maker; it's just a question of for whom it will bring in money.

Source: San Francisco Online, "Pot patents: intellectual property becomes a priority," Joe Garofoli, Nov. 15, 2015

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