Drug warriors such as Andrea Barthwell and David Murray have argued strenuously that cannabinoid-based pharmaceuticals such as Marinol and Sativex are completely different from marijuana. They’ve bristled at Rob Kampia’s claims that Sativex is "liquid marijuana" and they’ve long used the availability of Marinol as an excuse to arrest patients who prefer cultivated marijuana instead.
Whether extracted or synthesized, THC-based medicines don’t include anything not present in the plant itself, so it’s ludicrous to argue that one can be medicinal and the other can’t. Yet they’ve done exactly that. Afterall, if this stuff is medicine, it sure as hell isn’t marijuana.
Thus I was rather surprised to come across this Google ad:
The link goes directly to the official Marinol website, sponsored by Solvay Pharmaceuticals. So while Barthwell is saying the stuff ain’t pot, Solvay is marketing their product as "legal marijuana."
Moreover, since Google ads are designed to offer products relevant to the web page on which they appear, Solvay’s ads target anyone interested in marijuana. Structured as such, this ad campaign will reach many recreational users and encourage them to become patients. I’m not saying that’s what they’re trying to do, but it's unusual to see a pharmaceutical company boasting that its product is legal.
Let’s assume Solvay is merely trying to inform the public that one needn’t break the law in order to enjoy the widely recognized medical benefits of marijuana. It’s perfectly understandable, and very smart from a marketing perspective. Afterall, if I had to choose between nausea medications, I’d pick the one that lists "exaggerated happiness" as a possible side effect.
The fun part is that by calling Marinol "legal marijuana", Solvay is basically mocking the very people who helped them get Schedule III approval in the first place. And they’ve got absolutely nothing to lose. Aggressively marketing Marinol at this time makes sense with Sativex on the horizon.
Ultimately, the drug warriors’ goal of distinguishing cannabinoid-based pharmaceuticals from the plant itself could prove a lost cause. Marijuana is popular among patients and a large segment of the general population. Claiming that these pharmaceuticals are totally different from marijuana may suit hardcore drug warriors trying to save face, but it’s not smart if you’re trying to win over patients who like marijuana or prospective patients who’ve heard good things about it. You’re better off saying your product is similar but legal and more potent.
So if Solvay Pharmaceuticals refers to its medicine as marijuana, and patients refer to their marijuana as medicine, it seems everyone’s on the same page except Barthwell and Murray.