By Lanny Swerdlow, RN, LNC
Next year, the patent on Marinol—the synthetic version of THC—comes to an end, opening the market for synthetic THC distribution to all takers. Pharmaceutical companies know a cash cow when they see it and they are lining up en masse to produce their version of Marinol.
Sativex, produced by UK firm GW Pharmaceuticals, distributed in Canada and in many European countries and is in stage III trials in the U.S., utilizes naturally derived THC from the cannabis plant in its sublingual spray. A number of pharmaceutical companies have petitioned to use similar naturally derived THC rather than its more costly to produce synthetic version.
This is Big Pharma asking for legal medical marijuana now. With their legions of lobbyists on Capitol Hill and tens of millions of dollars pouring into the re-election war chests of politicians of both political parties, they are likely to get their way.
Now that may not seem fair that patients and small time collective operators get jail and fat cat corporate executives get to rake in billions for doing the same thing, but that’s the way it goes in this country. Giant corporations call all the shots in Washington and with the unfathomable number of deluded Americans enthusiastically supporting the corporate welfare-toting Tea Party pandering legislators, it’s only going to get worse.
Since the amount of money Big Pharma will make on the sale of medicinal marijuana will be directly proportional to the volume of marijuana consumed by patients, what do you think the pharmaceutical companies will do—instruct their lobbyist to seek legislation restricting the sale of marijuana only to people with one foot in the grave or start advertising on TV?
Since there will be no longer be an exclusive patent on producing THC derived medications, no one company can control the distribution and hence charge monopoly prices. With competition from a multitude of pharmaceutical corporations wanting their slice of this new multi-billion dollar pie, good old-fashioned American competition and innovation will drive prices down, down, down.
Of course, the widespread use of marijuana could cost pharmaceutical companies billions in lost sales of analgesics (painkillers), anti-psychotics and sleeping pills. Although these are amongst the most profitable drugs they produce, those loses will be dwarfed by the billions taken in from having total control of the legal marijuana market.
No one knows what form it will be in. Marinol is a pill, Sativex is a spray, but since it is going to be all about money, no doubt some innovative company will find some way to deliver this natural product in its natural form.
To obtain Big Pharma’s marijuana, you will get the old-fashioned prescription from a doctor instead of the new-fangled recommendation. Getting a prescription should be as easy as a getting a recommendation. Like Marinol, marijuana will be a Schedule III drug, which is much less tightly regulated than Schedule II drugs, which require special prescription pads with reporting to the DEA. Doctors hand out prescriptions for Schedule III drugs such as Vicodin like water, so it will be extremely easy to obtain a marijuana prescription from almost any doctor.
Not only will it be easy to get, but your insurance company will pay for the doctor visit. They might even pay for your marijuana. Why shouldn’t they? Insurance companies will save billions on the medications that doctors won’t have to prescribe because their patients have chosen to use marijuana instead.
Another major benefit for patients of having Big Pharma control marijuana distribution would be that since marijuana would be a prescription medicine, it would not be subject to taxes. The onerous prospects of a $50 to $100 per-ounce tax or the current business and sales taxes now being levied on collectives by cash-strapped cities would vanish. Since marijuana can be produced relatively cheaply if it is a legal crop, marijuana would become cheaper than aspirin.
Lanny Swerdlow, RN, LNC, hosts Marijuana Compassion& Common Sense every Monday at 6PM on Inland Empire talk radio station KCAA 1050AM and simulcast at www.kcaaradio.com. He can be reached at (760) 799-2055 or firstname.lastname@example.org.