News Feature | January 29, 2014

Which Pharmaceutical Companies Will Win The Marijuana Battle

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By Marcus Johnson

In the United States, marijuana is becoming increasingly socially acceptable. Colorado and Washington, traditionally liberal states, have made it legal to carry relatively small amounts of the drug for recreational use. In California, the drug is already legal for medical use. Even in more traditional states such as Florida, medical marijuana has reached the 2014 ballot. The rapid state level legalization of marijuana in the US presents some important challenges and opportunities for pharmaceutical companies. Pharmaceutical companies are interested in the opportunities of the marijuana market, with some companies traveling as far as Uruguay to find a high quality product.

Pharmaceutical companies are already seeing an opportunity to sell medical marijuana to a large United States market. Still, federal laws legalizing the drug are still on the books. While President Obama has claimed that he won’t interfere with state laws, there is no such guarantee from a future President taking office as soon as 2016. That could make investing in or producing drugs based on medical marijuana a challenge, since pharmaceutical companies like to work from a place of stability.

GW Pharmaceuticals is one company that has already developed a marijuana based product. The product is a nasal-spray called Sativex, which is currently used to treat multiple sclerosis. Marijuana has not hurt GW, as its stock price has risen over 400% since its initial offering on the NASDAQ last year. GW has been selling products based on the drug for years. In 2010, the UK publication “The Independent” declared the company to be “The world’s most useful cannabis dealer,” with tested products that have proven their worth in clinical trials.