Soon, pot will be legal in Canada. And as more and more states welcome Mary Jane with open arms, the U.S. government will eventually follow hoot, er, suit. As a crop, pot is worth “over $40 billion, which makes it the second-most-valuable crop in the U.S. after corn.”

Who stands to profit most from legalized pot? Not the gov, but BioTech Industries. At GQ, Amanda Chicago Lewis attempts to find the people behind the secret, faceless company vying for strict, blanket utility patents on pot that would allow them a monopoly — the ability to sue anyone who attempts to grow and sell pot without first buying BI-licensed seeds. Talk about harshing our collective mellow, man.

According to Holmes, a secretive company called BioTech Institute LLC had begun registering patents on the cannabis plant. Three have already been granted, and several more are in the pipeline, both in the U.S. and internationally. And these are not narrow patents on individual strains like Sour Diesel. These are utility patents, the strongest intellectual-property protection available for crops. Utility patents are so strict that almost everyone who comes in contact with the plant could be hit with a licensing fee: growers and shops, of course, but also anyone looking to breed new varieties or conduct research. Even after someone pays a royalty, they can’t use the seeds produced by the plants they grow. They can only buy more patented seeds.

“Utility patents are big. Scary,” Holmes said. “All of cannabis could be locked up. They could sue people for growing in their own backyards.”

Pot is an industry worth over $40 billion, which makes it the second-most-valuable crop in the U.S. after corn. And even though weed is still federally forbidden, it sounded like whoever was behind BioTech Institute had spent the past several years surreptitiously maneuvering to grab every marijuana farmer, vendor, and scientist in the country by the balls, so that once the drug became legal, all they’d have to do to collect payment is squeeze.

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