The exclusive rights to apply the cannabinoids found in marijuana as therapeutic agents awarded by the U.S. federal government to the firm KannaLife only apply to one specific medical condition, KannaLife’s CEO told Toke of the Town Monday night.
“It is narrowly defined exclusivity, in that field,” Petkanas told us. “Our exclusivity is narrowly focused.”
Asked if KannaLife planned to get exclusive rights to develop cannabinoids to treat other conditions, Petkanas answered, “At the present time, we have no desire to do that.”
In fact, the CEO told me, even if KannaLife wanted to target another condition or conditions for cannabinoid therapy, they’d have to start back at Square One in the application process, a marathon for which he seemed to have little enthusiasm.
|Petkanas: “People think I’m breaking laws, but I’m not breaking any laws”
But as far as the specific application covered in the exclusive rights — for treating hepatic encephalopathy — Petkanas was animated.
“Phytomedicines are the the forefront of treating many diseases,” Petkanas told us. “We’re looking for specific endpoints.”
According to the CEO, the controversy that erupted over the weekend, particularly after a Friday Toke of the Town story
, has been a learning experience for him.
“Maybe it was God’s will that I’ve had to fight salvos from the friendly army today, yesterday and Saturday,” he told me Monday night. “The obstructions up until this point have been mainly related to political and religious dogma.”
“Friends laugh at me and say, ‘You’re in the pot business,’ ” Petkanas said ruefully. “I’m not in the pot business.
“People think I’m breaking laws, but I’m not breaking any laws,” he told me. “We’re not breaking any rules, but the perception that we are is a serious obstacle.”
According to Petkanas, such misperceptions about the nature of both cannabis as medicine and the legal status of particular cannabinoids can make it very challenging to recruit financial backers for KannaLife.
“People look at me like I have three heads,” Petkanas said. “I’ve had hedge funds and private equity funds basically snub their noses at me. It’s taboo.”
According to Petkanas, American society got more restrictive throughout the 20th Century, bringing us to the current tension between further development of marijuana’s medical potential and the taboos associated with societal fears and superstitions.
“We got more dogmatic over the years,” he said. “There was more and more control through the 1950s and 60s, and at the apex of stupidity, President Nixon felt he could control this outgrowth, this ‘problem’ that existed.
“Our policies in this country are almost humorous when it comes to the concept of the war on drugs,” Petkanas said. “Marijuana is a states’ rights issue.”
Petkanas said the Obama Administration reacted to the Fast and Furious fiasco — in which it was discovered federal agents had allowed shipments of weapons to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels — by asserting more control over the medical marijuana industry.
“It’s kind of sad to look at it that way,” Petkanas said. “But they seem to be following up one screw-up with an even bigger screw-up.”
The KannaLife CEO didn’t close the door on possibly working with existing medical cannabis access points, possibly through lab testing for potency and purity, and through improving standardization and labeling.
“We don’t want to be involved in the production, growth or dispensing of marijuana at the retail level,” Petkanas was quick to clarify. “We just want to help [dispensaries]understand a little better the horticultural sciences involved in it.
“Our people know plant life very, very well,” Petkanas told me. “They were associated with Rutgers, second only to Harvard in the horticultural sciences.
“We intend on improving the knowledge base,” he said. “Because we have a packaging and formulary system, it would go a long way toward quality control and an approach toward the prescribing and dispensing. That also lends itself to the gravity of removing some of the dogma.
“The standardization process and model not only makes the doctor more responsible for the patients, but it allows targeted therapeutic use,” Petkanas said. “And it allows farmers and growers to better meet the needs of the market and specific uses. I’m sure they’ve already done a good job of blasting the market with a variety of strains.”
“In terms of palliative care and pain management, we need to improve that,” Petkanas said. “We need more targeted therapy.
“You want to use it responsibly, so I think standardization goes a long way toward improving the market, reducing leakage to the black market,” he said. “It brings legitimacy to the marketplace, and offers the government an opportunity to stop classifying the drug as a criminal drug. That’s very important.”
Petkanas told me there’s no love lost between his firm, KannaLife, and the mainstream pharmaceutical industry, that is to say, Big Pharma.
“We should regard the plant as medicine and use it accordingly,” he said. “But the minute we launch this program, I’m going to have the hate of the pharmaceutical industry come down on my head like white hot rain.
“The guy who gets a product for a migraine, or to improve appetite, or needs an energy strain to deal with those issues, or he just came out of the hospital and his brain bled because of a stroke, or he had a cardiomyopathic event, and he wants to get pharmaceutical grade marijuana that can deal with his issues rather than some pill that some other company wants to give them…” Petkanas lets t
he thought trail off.
“Yeah, I could be putting myself in harm’s way,” he told me. “It could be problematic for me.
“But we’re not going to shy away from it.”