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The Drug Enforcement Administration says marijuana lacks medical value. So why did the U.S. government file a patent for cannabis — specifying that the plant has multiple therapeutic benefits — as far back as 1999?

That's what some medical marijuana advocates are asking after the DEA declined to loosen federal restrictions on cannabis last week.

To highlight the seeming contradiction, they're sharing photos of their hands featuring the patent number: 6,630,507.

The patent "proved there was ample evidence to support the medicinal aspects of cannabis — decades of research," Amy Hilterbran, a medical marijuana advocate who started the trend, told ATTN:. "It proved that cannabis — cannabinoids — were medicinal and effective for numerous ailments, conditions, and that the plant was nontoxic, nonlethal."

"This one patent disqualified cannabis from even being on the Controlled Substances Act — on several levels," Hilterban added.

The patent was filed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 1999. It was published four years later, and information included in the patent description shows that the federal agency has been aware of marijuana's antioxidant and neuroprotective properties for some time. Researchers found that ingredients in marijuana could be used to treat and prevent age-related, inflammatory, and autoimmune diseases.

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