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The Acquisition of GW Pharmaceuticals Raises Many Interesting Questions

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Article by Richard Cowan, former NORML National Director and author of A Comparison Between Cannabidiol And Kava.


The biggest news this week in the medical cannabis world has to be the acquisition of GW Pharmaceuticals by JAZZ, the Irish pharmaceutical company at a significant premium.


See Jazz Pharmaceuticals to acquire GW Pharma for $7.2 billion in cash and stock, GW soars 46% premarket


I have long had serious concerns about GW Pharmaceuticals, not because they are trying to “pharmaceuticalize” cannabis (Hooray for that, if they can), but rather because they seem to have had marijuana prohibition built into their business model.


See Does the FDA Regulate CBD? Could they be doing a better job? (Hint: F&*# Yes)


They even employed a former staffer from the Drug Czar’s office to lobby against state medical marijuana laws. I think if you have to threaten sick and dying people with arrest if they use a plant instead of your product, you must not have much confidence in your products.


See The Curious Case Of GW Pharmaceuticals


And I think they were correct to have doubts. Their first product, Nabiximols, trade name Sativex, was a combination of THC and CBD, which was one of their cannabis-related medicines approved by the FDA. The other is GW’s Epidiolex, which is listed in Wikipedia simply as its generic “Cannabinol”. Unfortunately, it is much more expensive than the generic but does not seem significantly better.


See Marijuana Is Replacing Alcohol During The Pandemic And May Have Long Term Benefits


When one considers the support given these pharmaceutical cannabinoid products while the various governments around the world have been  denying that “marijuana’ has any medical value, or was simply too dangerous to be used by patients, it is difficult to see them as anything other than excuses for politicians and quacks to avoid “medical marijuana’ and to keep arresting people for using the plant.


See FDA NEWS RELEASE-FDA Approves New Indication for Drug Containing an Active Ingredient Derived from Cannabis to Treat Seizures in Rare Genetic Disease


However, the times really are “a-changin”. Although the Drug War is still loved by quacks and narcs, the value of medical marijuana is hard to deny, especially when pushing pharmaceutical versions of the real thing That is particularly true in the UK, GW’s home, where pure Cannabidiol (without THC) is finally available over-the-counter.


See Cannabis in the United Kingdom


Given that GW has had very limited profits, and the Drug War is slowly (much too slowly) winding down, and its latest product is essentially a knock-off of a commodity, why would JAZZ pay billions over market for it?


A new report from The Green Fund raises even more interesting questions about pharmaceutical Cannabinoids.


See How Genetically Modified Yeast Will Change the Cannabis Industry


The idea is to use yeast in the same way as the alcohol industry, brewing up large vats that can be siphoned off as required.


Researchers led by Jay Keasling, a Professor of Chemical engineering and Bioengineering at the University of California, Berkeley, have genetically modified brewer’s yeast to produce two of the most common cannabinoids, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).


This technique will be even more important for producing “rare cannabinoids”, CBG CB-etcétera that are much harder to produce in plants than CBD and THC.


So what is the real value of GW’s big greenhouses, “somewhere” in England? These facilities and their plants are probably GW’s principal tangible assets, but will they be needed in the future? I would think that JAZZ would be more comfortable using yeast, which is common in the pharmaceutical industry, rather than playing gardeners on a huge scale.


Of course, there certainly may be lots of intangibles, IP (intellectual property) about the Endocannabinoid System and various Cannabinoids, especially the rarest than others may not have been able to develop.


See Is GW Epidiolex Better Than The CBD Products That I Can Buy Online?


And the other wind that is “a-changing” is that the end of marijuana prohibition in the UK seems inevitable. When that finally happens, GW’s “genetic library” for cannabis, may be the best in the world, and they may know more about how to grow them than anyone else. The pharmaceutical industry may not care, but the recreational cannabis business will be beating a path to their greenhouse doors.


Don’t tell them that I sent you.