The great pot monopoly mystery
“Utility patents are big. Scary,” Holmes said. “All of cannabis could be locked up. They could sue people for growing in their own backyards.” “This is extremely high-end shit,” Schreiber told me. “These are not millionaires. These are billionaires!”
[And they] might have a near-monopoly over crucial intellectual property for a commodity whose soothing, mind-altering effects make it more valuable than wheat. These are utility patents, the strongest intellectual-property protection available for crops. Utility patents are so strict that almost everyone who comes in contact with the plant could be hit with a licensing fee: growers and shops, of course, but also anyone looking to breed new varieties or conduct research. Even after someone pays a royalty, they can’t use the seeds produced by the plants they grow. They can only buy more patented seeds. Outside of these patents, BioTech Institute barely exists. The company has no website, manufactures no products, and owns no pot shops. Public records for BioTech Institute turned up two Los Angeles addresses—a leafy office park an hour northwest of downtown and a suite in a Westside skyscraper—both of which led to lawyers who didn’t want to talk. Unless the hustlers in the rest of the cannabis industry take a break from shoving one another aside to work together against the patents…, BioTech Institute could have the market cornered in a few years. The company could control access to a plant that has been shown to reduce tremors in Parkinson’s patients, to help veterans stop dreaming in flashbacks, to relieve the nausea of anyone undergoing chemotherapy. They could charge whatever they wanted. And there would be nothing anyone else could do about it.