The nice thing about the cannabis industry at the moment is that it’s still open to anyone with initiative. As long as major corporations and regulations aren’t looking too closely, the business is open to anybody. The things you would need to start nearly any other kind of business – a college degrees, big investors, superb credit – aren’t necessary. All you need is a little bit of weed smarts and a lot of nerve and you can play.

But there have been rumblings for a year or two of corporate businesses eeking their way into the industry. And the phenomenon of cannabis patents may be one of the most serious dangers to equal opportunity in the field.

The US government is issuing patents to GW Pharmaceuticals, a British company, which will allow the business to claim legal ownership of common cannabis treatment techniques.

As reported by Leafly, GW was recently issued a patent for treating neural degeneration with a CO2 extract. The patent could potentially grant the company the exclusive right to treat neural diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimers, or multiple sclerosis with cannabis extract.

Unfortunately, that’s not the only cannabis-related patent GW Pharmaceuticals has in the works. One would give the company claim to use of THCV as an appetite suppressant. Another would lay claim to using cannabinoids to treat constipation. Yet another would grant GW a patent to the treatment of breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer with cannabinoids.

It’s not hard to understand how a British company could end up pulling so far ahead of American counterparts in the field. Back in the 90s when California was the first state to legalize MMJ, the federal government put a lock down on medical cannabis research. At the same time, the little startup that was GW was starting to gain major investments, free of the same intense government regulation and inspection.

For the moment, no one is enforcing the patents on business leaders, but as regulation and legalization become more widespread in the coming years, these patents are likely to become much more real obstacles to a free capitalist weed industry.