Steele Smith, OC Weekly's "Prophet of Pot," Invents Marijuana Pill?

John Gilhooey
Earlier this year, when I interviewed medical marijuana activist Steele Smith about his looming federal case for cultivating marijuana--an interview that Smith used to blast fellow O.C. cannabis club operators as "drug dealers" and scam artists who cheated their customers--he mentioned something that he wanted me not to put in my story. He'd secured major investments to produce a marijuana pill that he'd invented which he planned to market to the medical establishment as a palliative for terminally ill patients.

At the time, Smith promised to give me an exclusive interview about his pill for a follow-up article. But he didn't like my initial story on him--actually the cover story in question was the second article about Smith I'd written; I'd already penned a sympathetic piece about him in May 2010. I'm pretty sure Smith was unhappy because my story included interviews with a bunch of people who said Smith was a jerk.

So now comes Smith's big story in the form of an OC Register article about his exciting new pill that ran on Sept. 16, but which I only noticed now because a link to it I received landed in my spam filter. According to Barbara Venezia's rather brief story, Smith "filed for a U.S. patent for the extraction process for an oral THC pill he says will give doctors a new 'tool box of drugs' for the sick and dying. The 43-year-old Anaheim native hopes to have the patent approved and his drug, Idrasil, on the market by the end of 2012."

Although Smith is the only person quoted in the story, Venezia apparently did interview other people, but none of their quotes made it into the article. "[I]f you think the OC cannabis community is cheering [Smith] on--think again," she wrote. "Mention his name in those circles, as I did, and opinions aren't kind. Criticisms [sic] ranged from those who consider him arrogant to those who feel he can't deliver what he claims."

As Venezia points out, "[t]here's already a drug called Marinol on the market, but it's made from synthetic THC, not from the marijuana plant."  But because she didn't interview any pharmacological experts, it remains unclear just how likely it is that Smith's pot pill project will succeed.

As usual, however, Smith considers himself the only expert worth interviewing. "Though Smith has no background as a chemist, he says he has '20 years of experience with orchids," Venezia reports. "The cloning process is standardized for all plants," Smith told her. I can clone anything."

"Is Steele Smith on the verge of something big with Idrasil?" Venezia concludes. "Only time will tell."

Whatever happens, you can bet you won't be reading about it in the Weekly first.

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