Marijuana’s medical use is illegal under federal law. It’s also patented by the feds (VOX Media)

Updated By GERMAN LOPEZ | October 8, 2014

Sylvia Burwell heads the US Department of Health and Human Services, which owns a patent on marijuana's components. (Alex Wong / Getty Images News)

Sylvia Burwell heads the US Department of Health and Human Services, which owns a patent on marijuana’s components. (Alex Wong / Getty Images News)

The federal government considers marijuana a schedule 1 drug, a controlled substance that has a high potential for abuse and no medical value. But the federal government also owns, through the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), a patent that appears to acknowledge marijuana can act as medicine.

The potential contradiction is a big deal for supporters of marijuana legalization and medical marijuana. If the federal government thinks that marijuana has some medical value, then the drug should be rescheduled to a lower legal restriction — one that could give state governments the ability to implement relaxed marijuana laws without as much federal interference.

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