Does DEA’s Hemp CBD Announcement Actually Change Anything?

December 20, 2016

Eric Steenstra, executive director of the Hemp Industries Association, says the news that the DEA is creating a new drug code for marijuana extracts has “been blown completely out of proportion.”

At first glance, the DEA’s announcement that it is creating a new drug code for marijuana extracts-including hemp CBD (cannabidiol)-might appear to deal a blow to the CBD dietary supplements industry. In a final rule published in the Federal Register last week, the DEA clarified that marijuana extracts like CBD “will continue to be treated as Schedule I controlled substances,” explicitly stating that CBD belongs on the same list of banned substances as ecstasy and heroin.

But despite the barrage of headlines suggesting the DEA suddenly decided to reschedule CBD into Schedule I status, the action is actually more of an administrative reorganization than a dramatic change in the DEA’s approach to CBD, Eric Steenstra, executive director of the Hemp Industries Association (Summerland, CA), tells Nutritional Outlook. He says the move is consistent with the DEA’s past approach to CBD, and he doesn’t see indications that this creation of a drug code specifically for marijuana extracts will result in new enforcement actions from the agency.

“I know a number of news outlets have, I would say, incorrectly characterized this as some kind of a scheduling action, but this is absolutely not the addition of a new substance to the controlled substances list,” Steenstra says, adding that “this thing has been blown completely out of proportion.”

While the 2014 U.S. Farm Bill allows for legal cultivation of hemp through state-regulated programs-establishing industrial hemp as separate from marijuana and removing it from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) list of Schedule I drugs-the DEA has “historically refused to acknowledge hemp at all,” Steenstra explains. That stance would appear to be problematic for hemp-derived CBD products, which the DEA says it still views as Schedule I substances, but its history of enforcement actions tells a different story.  

“The Farm Bill created a new definition of hemp, and when hemp is being grown under the Farm Bill it’s not marijuana,” Steenstra says. “[The DEA doesn’t] acknowledge that in any of their public statements, but at the same time the industry has continued to move forward. Clearly the DEA doesn’t see this as some drug threat because they’re allowing it to continue.”

That’s why the announcement from the DEA shouldn’t set off alarm bells within the CBD industry, Steenstra says. The DEA viewed CBD as a Schedule I substance before the establishment of the new drug code, and it’s no huge development to learn that they still do. The only change may well be that the agency now has a separate drug code to better track studies on marijuana extracts separately from marijuana itself, and to ensure compliance with international drug treaties. Steenstra doesn’t expect the DEA to undertake new enforcement actions as a result of the new drug code.

However, one unfortunate consequence of the action could be if other federal agencies, such as the USDA or U.S. Customs and Border Protection, take the announcement from the DEA to mean that CBD supplements and other related products should be strictly treated as controlled substances.

“It could create some confusion there,” Steenstra says. “We are taking a look at this, and we may work with others to take some kind of action on it. But it won’t be because this rule changed the status of CBD.”

 

Read more:

Hemp CBD Is a Schedule I Drug, DEA Says

Will Hemp CBD’s Regulatory Controversy Help or Hurt Its Future as a Supplement Ingredient?

5 Hemp CBD Research Areas for Further Supplement Growth

 

Michael Crane
Associate Editor
Nutritional Outlook Magazine
michael.crane@ubm.com