Friday, February 24, 2012

Crushed Beneath the Medicine Wheel

Corporate scheme to co-opt international Medical Marijuana market aims for billions in profits.

In a scheme they think capable of making billions, a US corporation not only plans to market a delivery system for medicinal cannabis, but also hopes to cut out small time farmers and private growers by introducing prohibitive protocols through state health departments.

First, for those readers who are surprised at my recent drift from a focus on my own illness, Myalgic Encephalomyelits, let me explain that in the course of following the medical story of ME, I’ve learned things I wish I didn’t know about the big business of medicine, about government agencies charged with public health, and about the pharma vendetta against alternative healing practices.

Our pain is their payday. In a recent post I told how I learned about the market research firms that prey upon patients by posing as patient forums, soliciting personal stories, and selling the data they glean from our suffering.

Today’s story is one of cold avarice on a far grander scale.

The corporation is called MMDS: Medical Marijuana Delivery Systems LLC, marketing its medical cannabis delivery system through its “Medicine Wheel” subsidiary.  They hold this patent  for the Tetracan  transdermal patch: like Nicoderm, but it delivers cannabinoids instead of nicotine. They advertise it as providing all the benefits of medical marijuana, without the health-destroying smoke.

The principal is Jim Alekson, a multi-firm entrepreneur about whom, more later. So, isn't that a great thing, this Tetracan patch that is promised to hit the sales counters at dispensaries in the second quarter of this year?

Tetracan publicity ignores the fact that there are many other delivery systems already available, as alternatives to smoking. A patient can consume cannabis in baked goods, dissolve a lozenge under the tongue, take tinctures and other extracts, and get the health benefits without the “risk” of smoking.

Right: I don’t use unmotivated quotation marks, so, “Risk?”

Tetracan publicity also ignores this study
recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Twenty years of research have proven that smoking moderate amounts of marijuana daily over years actually improves pulmonary function in comparison not only with tobacco smokers but with healthy non-smoking controls. Theories as to why this is, suggest the credit may go to biophysics: the exercise of pulling cannabis smoke into the lungs, holding one’s breath, then exhaling; or biochemistry: the anti-inflammatory action of cannabis.

Though JAMA itself didn't emphasize the point, other authors picked up on and publicized this fact that marijuana smoking apparently improves lung capacity. In this article  for instance, one of the study's authors is quoted:

We don’t know for sure,” he said, “but a very reasonable possibility is that THC may actually interfere with the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Nevertheless, MMDS is pushing the benefits of their transdermal patch as a healthier alternative to smoking, via its “Medicine Wheel Project.”

Here is their business plan.

Page through it and you’ll see some amazing things, like, yes, here are the billions, on page 12:
TOTAL GROSS REVENUE: $2,843,540,662
Now, to make even more money by paying less than the usual costs of launching a pharmaceutical product, they’re cleverly trying to play both sides of the game with government agencies, avoiding FDA requirements by representing the patch as an alternative therapy…

The TETRACANTM Patch does not require U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval because it will be marketed as a holistic therapy in the same manner as Medical Marijuana is marketed and sold through Medical Marijuana Dispensaries across the United States. (Plan, page 7)

…while simultaneously acting to keep marijuana’s status different from any herb like basil that anybody could grow in their garden, or even a medicinal herb which patients could be licensed to grow,  as it is now in Medical Marijuana states: MMDS plans to manipulate the law to further their monopoly beyond the patented patch and into growing rights. The Plan states, on lucky page 13,
There are no Rules, Regulations or Protocols governing the manner in which Medical Marijuana is cultivated, harvested or processed in any of the Medical Marijuana States or the District of Columbia.

The Medicine Wheel Project LLC, an associate company of MMDS, plans to introduce Growing Protocols to State Health Departments as it begins to organize the Medical Marijuana Industry under one umbrella organization.
Emphasis added because I'm aghast at the blatant intent to influence state health departments to serve corporate ends.

So that’s where politics play a role. Remember the name Jim Alekson? He’s the principal in the patch company, and heads up many intriguingly related business ventures.

Here he is playing politics with a friendly article. Touting the jobs to be created by the Medical Marijuana industry, Medicine Wheel has been blogging up the UK cannabis movement, engaging in friendly chats on a UK forum, and Alekson got his blog reposted on the official website of single-issue, pro-cannabis UK political party CLEAR (formerly Cannabis Law Reform).

CLEAR leader Peter Reynolds appeared on the scene only recently, taking over the party with a massive vote of nearly forty members, and changing its name and direction, while censoring and even ousting anyone who questioned his policies. More on that story can be read here and here.

Meanwhile, back in the USA, it could prove interesting to delve into the names and natures of politicians and perhaps tribal leaders supporting Alekson’s scheme. Medicine Wheel is an interesting name for the project, with its mellow, First Nations overtones. But this Kimosabe Connection isn’t the only business headed by Alekson. His interest in things tribal appears to extend beyond image, or even medicine. Spinning the wheels to make some deals...

For example, it’s also about  real estate develoment of tribal lands  ...

…within the scope of his broader real estate goals as the Alekson Group

…plus, a huge contract to provide electricity to tribal lands

….within the broader scope of Energy Pointe Partners which is yet another Alekson company...

…and if it’s not enough of a monopoly to own a piece of politics, a patent, growing rights, land and energy, there are also the industrial scale hydroponic greenhouses mentioned on  Alekson's profile at Linked-In.

A friend suggested that all this might be empty scheming with no money behind it, but it seems from Alekson's creds on pages 40 - 49 of his stock offering that he really is accustomed to running with the big boys.

Let me repeat the big numbers quoted for the transdermal patch trade alone:
TOTAL GROSS REVENUE: $2,843,540,662
Add real estate, greenhouse construction, energy supply and a growing monopoly, and potential profits are plenty motivation for all the behind-the-scenes political manipulation implied in corporate documents, and more.

None of this vast corporate empire is in the best interest of patients, of course, who typically suffer from the doings of Big Pharma --- not even Big Pharma in Alternative Medicine clothing is actually helpful to medical cannabis patients.

As it currently stands in a Medical Marijuana state like my own, patients can buy, carry and use medicinal cannabis and cultivate it for their own use, and it can also be grown by licensed farmers with an agreement to supply it only to licensed dispensaries. Patients here can obtain high quality, organic cannabis in a variety of strains specifically developed with high levels of the compounds that best address their specific pain, inflammation or other health issues, from a safe, state-licensed dispensary; or simply grow their own.

Everyone from the patients who require those varied strains to the growers who developed the strains, to the general public which is asked to criminalize actions because they run counter to corporate profit, everyone stands to lose, if Medicine Wheel gains its ends. Cannabis helps so many conditions from cancer to MS to Alzheimer’s, plus is enjoyed by recreational users with far less danger than alcohol or cigarettes.

The battle against prohibition doesn’t end with legally-grown medicinal cannabis, and it can only be set back further by interference from a multi-billion dollar patent medicine show.
The ultimate objective of cannabis campaigning is to get cannabis beyond the medicine cabinet and into the mainstream as a healthy alternative to dangerous substances used socially and for relaxation, such as alcohol and cigarettes.

This could cost a lot of corporations a lot of money, but think what it would save taxpayers by abolishing the prosecution of all cannabis users.  Some 20 million American citizens have been convicted of marijuana offenses since 1937In 2005, alone, 800,000 Americans were arrested on pot charges, costing taxpayers over one billion dollars.

Now, whose pockets do we want to put a billion dollars into? Jim Alekson’s, or the taxpayers’?  And whom do we wish to see benefit from the health-giving properties of cannabis? Patients, or profiteers? We need to be vigilant, lest AgriCannaBusiness squeeze small farmers out of one more market, and lest patients be denied the right to grow our own few plants for personal use.

Note: since I first drafted this blog post, news has come out in Canada that shows the collusion of governments and corporations to keep cannabis profitable, as it’s currently playing out in interpretation and enforcement of Canadian law:
Health Canada is now in the process of consulting with the marijuana community to reorganize the program, and has proposed eliminating personal production licences and setting up a system of large-scale commercial growers. Established medical marijuana dispensaries were not mentioned in the government's new plans.
These are the multi-billion-dollar shenanigans we have to be on the lookout for, worldwide. Even if you get compassionate medical cannabis laws passed, the governments and corporations collude to make it impossible to grow your own or operate small growing operations that serve local dispensaries. The result: cannabis is just more Agribusiness and Big Pharma.
There's no deal, partner
Who's your real partner?
Could there be just a chance
That you've got some heavy clients?
Who'd ever think it?
Such a squalid little ending
Watching him descending
Just as far as he can go
I'm learning things I didn't want to know


Everybody's playing the game
but nobody's rules are the same.
Nobody's on nobody's side!

~ Chess, the Musical

Errata: Since publication I have been corrected regarding two items:
1. Peter Reynolds was elected by 23 votes, not nearly 40 as stated.
2. His single-issue party was known before he took over as the Legalise Cannabis Alliance, which name he changed to Cannabis Law Reform, and CLR is abbreviated "CLEAR."
My thanks to those who pointed out these mistakes.


  1. P.S.: thanks to several great researchers who clued me in to leads and links that became this blog.

  2. steer clear of peter reynolds

  3. Hi, Anonymous. Love your political activism. Your aphorisms are corny but some of your poetry is beautiful.

    I'm surprised you warn us of Peter Reynolds, of all the people involved in this. He looks to me like a fairly small player in this grand scheme.

  4. The truth will out.

    Corny enough?

    Thank you Kassy, you have a beautiful soul.

  5. Thanks.

    And hey everyone, look: I'm proud and honored to say that this post was picked up by Toke of the Town so take a look at how much better it looks over there, with new improved formatting and illustrations. Thank you, Steve Elliott!

    EFFECTIVE DATE : 20000720

    Who knows...

  7. You know, Anon, that's an interesting thing. I had come across reference to another patent issued for a cannabis patch, in 2000. Not sure if it was this one or if that makes three. I wonder. How does patent law work? Something would have to be sufficiently different about the Tetracan patch, for it to receive a patent later, or else the other patch(es) had been in some way abandoned, bought out, or...? My symptoms are flaring right now so trying to think is like trying to see clearly through a wall of glass bricks. But I publish your comment and invite anyone who's got their brain available to them right now, to explore, investigate, discuss.

    And I leave you for now with this:

    "Nothing dollarable is safe. " ~ John Muir

    (Thanks to my comadre Siobhan for finding that Muir quote and sharing it.)

  8. We note that Mr Reynolds has taken to abuse already. Apparently you are dumb, malicious or both.

    If he doesn't share Mr Alekson's views why this:

    this (The Presentation); - in which the following is said "The Medicine Wheel Project LLC and MMDS stakeholders are adamantly opposed to the wholesale recreational use of marijuana." page 52/82.


    and this; - note the first name on the list.

    Note Jim Alekson's involvement in bio energy:

    also Vic Hamilton's desire to become a bio energy magnate:

    Remember The Presentation (Jim likes to capitalise it), note how the first half focuses on energy from bio-fuel.

    See also: - the comments are relevant, note the appearance of none other than our old chum Pedro - he sure is a charmer - we note of particular interest the comment, "Yeah, nutters! Obsessed with some quasi-morality and entirely overlooking reality and pragmatism. I bet you wear sandals and smoke dope too!". This hardly sounds like a man who is interested in the legalisation of recreational cannabis to us.

    Anyway, do enjoy your dealings with him: we always have. He is a comedy gold-mine sadly.

  9. Yes, Mr. Reynolds was quite abusive toward me over on Thurman's Notebook, which also picked up and ran this post:

    I'm surprised that Mr. Reynolds bothers. My post wasn't about him; I mentioned him in one passing paragraph,in an article whose substance was about Medicine Wheel LLC, as an example of corporate attempts to capitalize on cannabis. So Mr. Reynolds is peripheral to the story at most, or at least so I believed.

    He has not chosen to make any response directly to me. I do moderate comments here --- I didn't at first, but started doing so several months ago when I decided I didn't want some of the abuse of patients that takes place online to crop up here. I've actually never had to censor a comment though, but have published all. While Mr. Reynolds has made abusive remarks towards Mr. Elliott at Toke of the Town and towards me at Thurman's Notebook, he hasn't offered a comment here.


    His personality is so fragmented it is difficult to tell if he entered into this with any particular purpose or just because he wanted to feel important.

    I would imagine Jim Alekson is a very unhappy/angry man right now though, either way.

    Peter has a conviction for fraud, so obvioulsy he has a history of similar behaviour.

    You might enjoy reading the comments on this article.

    The suspicion is that at least one of the respondents is a Peter Rerynolds sock-puppet, see if you can guess which one.

    As was said, who knows?

  11. A real high. I felt happy hearing about this stuff.