The Problem With Patents

As a Colorado company sues an Arizona dispensary over strains, Smith wonders who owns nature?

Remember when Monsanto sued that Canadian farmer over canola he raised from seeds that blew into his field off a passing Monsanto truck?

The Case of Mr. Schmeiser was documented, among many other places, in the movie Food, Inc., which subsequently fed the flames of a burgeoning anti-Monsantoism. Partly because of that film, I now think of Monsanto the way little Hispanic kids think of the Border Patrol ... La Migra's gonna GET you!

Well, now a Colorado company is showing distinct symptoms of Monsantoism by hovering over at least one Arizona cannabis dispensary, threatening legal action over Purple Razz and Purple Trainwreck. Indica Intellectual Property LLC of Denver, sent a letter to Desert Bloom Re-Leaf Center a couple of weeks ago detailing its patent application for the strains and its intent to defend such, should the application be approved. Interestingly, Desert Bloom doesn't even have the strains in stock anymore, if it ever did.

Indica's letter is rife with mays and mights and coulds, and there is a licensing agreement attached at the end. The agreement, which Desert Bloom has not signed, asks for non-refundable payments totaling $151,000 for the right to sell the patent-pending strains. Monsantica then asks for reimbursement for all costs associated with the patent application. Wtf? The company generously offers to let Desert Bloom split the cost of the application with other licensees, as if there will ever be a bunch of dispensaries signing this agreement.

Now the law is clear on patented seeds. Yes, you can patent seeds and collect licensing fees from people who use them. They're called "inventions" under U.S. patent law. Here is a link to some "information" about seed patents (, but I advise considering the source). Monsanto says on this website that seed patents encourage growers to develop their own strains. That might be a small part of the truth when it comes to major crop seeds.

But cannabis is a boutique market, more like craft beer than rapeseed. So please relax, Indica Intellectual Property LLC. Calm down, Monsanto. There's no need to rape people into using your patented cannabis seeds. No one needs the incentive of patents to breed new strains. People who grow cannabis will always pride themselves on mixing and matching sativas and indicas to find what they like.

I understand the basics of the law, Monsantica, so don't start with your "Everything we do is legal blah blah blah U.S. patent laws blah blah we invented this." You didn't invent it; it's called nature. You took a seed variety nature spent millions and millions of years inventing, then you nudged it a tiny bit with a few months of tinkering. You didn't invent it. You changed it.

In the end, my guess is that Indica will strong-arm very few dispensary operators. My guess is that the dispensary operators will find and offer to me, the Monsanto-hating, cannabis-buying public, strains that are unencumbered by corporate bullshit. I don't give a flippity flip fuck if Indica is patenting the best, most medically effective, ease-my-pain cannabis strains in the entire global community. If I find out a dispensary in Arizona has a licensing agreement to sell a patented strain from Monsantica or anyone else, I will stop shopping there. There are thousands and thousands of cannabis hybrids. I don't need your Purple Razz or your Purple Trainwreck, and I won't deal with people who sign your agreement.

It's hard to completely avoid Monsanto, I will admit, because I buy bread. But I probably can and will avoid Monsanto's little brother, Indica Intellectual Property of Denver, by driving right on past any dispensary that ever displays a patent number on a cannabis strain.