The cannabis world is on edge lately with the transition in the White House. When long-time cannabis supporters see the Trump administration appointing long-time drug war warriors to key positions, the anxiety in the community is understandable.
Cannabis consumers are worried about what might happen at the federal level, and the latest actions by the DEA aren’t helping to alleviate any of those concerns.
News stories came out recently stating that the DEA had made CBD a Schedule I substance. Some stories had a very nefarious spin, stating that the federal government did this via a secretive process.
CBD (cannabidiol) has exploded in popularity over the past couple years, touted as a ‘wonder drug’ because of how much it is helping patients across the country.
I have seen CBD products sold on the internet, via mail order catalogs, and even on some store shelves of major mainstream retailers.
Consumers and producers were riding on a misconception that CBD is completely legal in America. Unfortunately, that is not the case, as many people are just finding out.
DEA creates a new rule for ‘marihuana extracts’
Rather than categorize CBD as a Schedule I substance, what the federal government actually did was create a new drug code for ‘marihuana extracts,’ including CBD extracts.
The creation of the drug code followed standard federal protocol, including a listing in the Federal Register which is open to the public.
Many cannabis consumers, even veteran ones, took the creation of the new drug code to mean that CBD was being singled out and classified for the first time, and therefore becoming a Schedule I substance.
CBD and the Controlled Substances Act
Marihuana, which is the word that the federal government used for cannabis in the Controlled Substances Act, has the following definition according to the federal government:
The term ”marihuana” means all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds or resin. Such term does not include the mature stalks of such plant, fiber produced from such stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of such plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination.
The federal government further clarified in 2001 that all parts of the hemp plant were considered to fall under the umbrella of ‘marihuana’s’ classification. Per a news release from the DEA in 2001:
While most of the THC in cannabis plants is concentrated in the marijuana, all parts of the plant, including hemp, have been found to contain THC. The existence of THC in hemp is significant because THC, like marijuana, is a schedule I controlled substance. Federal law prohibits human consumption and possession of schedule I controlled substances. In addition, they are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for medical use.
CBD extracts on the market are typically derived from either processes that involve the whole cannabis plant, or from hemp.
In either scenario, CBD and any other cannabinoids are considered to be a Schedule I substance.
So why are CBD products sold everywhere if they are technically illegal?
Federal law is funky. On one hand it prohibits anything with cannabis in it, yet allows for the import of finished hemp products. Per United States Customs and Border Protections’ website:
Can I import hemp products into the United States?
Hemp products such as paper, rope, and clothing (which contain fiber made from the cannabis plant) and animal feed mixtures, soaps, and shampoos (which contain sterilized cannabis seeds or oils extracted from the seeds), etc. may be imported into the United States.
Hemp Seeds: Imports of hemp seeds must be sterilized. Non-sterilized hemp seeds remain a schedule one controlled substance and therefore may only be imported into the U.S. with a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Permit Form 35.
What most people are seeing sold online, or even in some stores, is imported hemp products that contain trace elements of CBD.
The recent hype around CBD has led to companies pushing the existence of CBD in their products very prominently on their labels. That same marketing strategy could lead to the demise of CBD products in America.
Companies that import hemp products are likely OK, as the amounts of CBD is so minuscule and the traces of other cannabinoids are virtually nonexistent.
But companies that specifically base their products on CBD extraction processes, which concentrates the CBD and other cannabinoids, may experience problems going forward, at least in states that don’t have medical cannabis laws.
If the federal government chose to go after companies that sell CBD products, they would be well within their right to do so. The feds just haven’t chose to do so. Yet.
I would imagine with the recent announcement of the new drug code, and the media buzz that surrounded it, larger retailers will likely quit selling CBD products.
What does this mean for cannabis consumers?
For consumers that have been acquiring CBD products in states that don’t have medical cannabis laws on the books, you will be the most impacted.
This would not be because of federal enforcement, as much as the result of a ‘chill effect’ that will likely follow the creation of the new drug code.
The new drug code is more of a bookkeeping measure than it is an enforcement strategy. States like Alabama are going to start doing research using CBD extracts, and those CBD extracts are going to be supplied by the federal government.
In legal states, the same protections that applied prior to the creation of the new drug code still apply after the creation of the new drug code.
The Farr – Rohrabacher amendment was recently extended in Congress, which protects against federal prosecution in states that have legalized medical cannabis.
But it’s worth noting that the amendment runs out on April 28th, and unless it’s extended or passed via a stand-alone bill, the protections will go away. Protections at the state level will remain in place.
CBD is no more illegal at the federal level than it was prior to the creation of the new drug code. But it is still just as effective at providing healing benefits as it was prior!
If there’s one take away from the media hype surrounding the creation of the new drug code it’s that cannabis (all parts of it!) are still illegal at the federal level.
This is unacceptable and reform should be demanded now as much as ever from the federal government!