This Marijuana Extract Can’t Get You High, But It's Now Officially Illegal

The new code isn't so much a legislative change as it is clarification.
December 19, 2016, 6:21pm
Image: Wikimedia

This past week, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced that synthetic CBD oil, a non-psychotropic extract, would become a Schedule I drug as of December 14.

The new code isn't so much a legislative change as it is clarification on the DEA's position regarding marijuana extracts, including synthetic CBD oil. "Extracts of marihuana will continue to be treated as Schedule I controlled substances," according to the DEA notice, upholding what the Administration's stance has been this whole time: that all marijuana extracts are illegal.


Chuck Rosenberg, DEA Acting Administrator, described the new code as a way for the DEA to "track quantities of this material separately from quantities of marihuana," in order for the US to be compliant with international drug-control treaties.

This is alarming to the many businesses, patients, and other consumers who rely on CBD products extracted from marijuana, which cannot get you high and are legal in many states even when marijuana is not. CBD, with less than .03 percent THC, had been widely regarded as an accepted and harmless extract, but some of those products now have the Schedule I taboo.

"For practical purposes, all extracts that contain CBD will also contain at least small amounts of other cannabinoids," said Rosenberg.

Though the legality of CBD oil has generally also depended on its derivation from hemp stalk (containing less than .03 percent THC) or otherwise a marijuana plant (which has more than .03 percent THC), the new code undermines this distinction. It applies to anything extracted from the plant with the genus Cannabis, which includes both hemp and marijuana (they're the same genus, though different species). Reminder: You can't get high on hemp.

Since the DEA's announcement, industry folk, patients, lawyers, and policy wonks have been up in arms, arguing that the DEA's new code is a form of illegal overreach. Still, don't chuck your CBD products out because protections are in place, according to Bruce Barcott, author ofWeed the People.

The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment prohibits the Depart of Justice from interfering with state-compliant medical marijuana programs, which include CBD products. So even if the DEA now says CBD is illegal, it technically can't enforce the new code in green states protected by this amendment. Moreover, the Farm Act of 2014 made an exemption to the Controlled Substances Act for states with hemp cultivation projects.

While, in the past five days since the DEA announcement, the cannabis industry has been in chaos over this, it's possible the new code will be challenged or at the very least, difficult to enforce.

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