DEA Classifies CBD as Schedule I Drug to the Dismay of Many

On Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016 the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration added a new rule to the Federal Registry classifying marijuana derivatives, including cannabidiol, CBD, as separate entities from marijuana itself, but still under the Schedule I drug – having no medicinal purpose – the same classification as heroin.

Although the distinction of a difference between marijuana and CBD by the DEA was welcomed by proponents of the non-psychoactive naturally-occurring chemical cannabidiol, one of the major chemical components of the plant, along with the psychoactive chemical THC, CBD’s classification as a Schedule I drug on the federal level was not.

The DEA’s ruling on marijuana extracts and/or compounds, including CBD, allows the agency to assign a different identification number to marijuana than to its extracts, allowing the agency to more specifically track both shipments of the extract products and requests for its use in research. Currently, extracts of marijuana are cataloged the under the same identifying number as marijuana itself.

The wording of the new ruling, 21-CFR-Part1308, answers two questions that come immediately to mind: 1.) If CBD is not psychoactive, and it isn’t, why is it being listed along with Schedule I drugs such as heroin and LSD that have no known medicinal purposes and a high potential for abuse? And 2.) If CBD isn’t psychoactive, why does the DEA have any jurisdiction over it?

Here is the explanation in the DEA ruling:

“For practical purposes, all extracts that contain CBD will also contain at least small amounts of other cannabinoids. However, if it were possible to produce from the cannabis plant an extract that contained only CBD and no other cannabinoids, such an extract would fall within the new drug code.”

Richard Baer, a spokesperson for the Drug Enforcement Agency, further explained the purpose of the ruling:

“It’s an internal accounting mechanism for us. The purpose is to drill down and get more accurate information about research that’s being conducted with CBD in particular.

“People are trying to read the tea leaves on this and it’s really not anything more elaborate than it is. It’s intended to be straightfoward.”

Additionally, the ruling explains that while the DEA already has separate codes for marijuana and tetrahydrocannabinol, THC, it lacked such a code for other extracts and compounds from the plant. Establishing the separate code for CBD and like extracts puts the DEA in line with international drug control treaties that are administered by the United Nations.

Temporary safeguards already in place for those patients who use CBD extract in states where medicinal use of marijuana has been legalized will continue to offer protection from the new federal-level ruling, including the Rohrbacher-Farr amendment that prevents the U.S. Department of Justice from spending money to interfere with state medical marijuana laws.

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