When the DEA took action last week to “clarify” that cannabidiol (CBD) was in fact a Schedule I drug, a legion of marijuana enthusiasts came unhinged because they believed that Uncle Sam was all of a sudden launching a brand new attack on the cannabis plant.
However, the main takeaway from this misunderstanding, which sadly was not made better by the mainstream media’s onslaught of half truths, is nothing with respect to federal law actually changed. Every component of the cannabis plant is and always has been a Scheduled I under the Controlled Substances Act.
In reality, what the DEA did was establish a “new code” for cannabis extracts in order to keep better track of these compounds internally.
Although last week’s announcement in the Federal Register seemed to happen quietly over night, the DEA maintains the move was something the agency had been working to implement over the past five years. Furthermore, the agency claims the primary intention behind the new code has nothing to do with its secret desire to continue stifling the cannabis industry, but to allow more opportunities for research.
“From a practical standpoint, we are giving priority, actually, to those researchers who are conducting research with marijuana extracts, [which] the internal code will allow us to track and prioritize,” DEA spokesman Russ Baer told U.S. News & World Report.
“We recognize there have been some studies that have been promising … and we want to be able to support that ongoing scientific research, particularly as it relates to marijuana extracts,” he added.
What some fail to understand is that the DEA already has two separate codes in place for the cannabis plant and its psychoactive compound THC. But up until last week, there was very little on the books with respect those extracts that contain little to no THC.
There has been a lot of confusion over the past several years over which parts of the cannabis plant are actually included in the DEA’s definition of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act. That’s because not every component of the plant is technically banned under federal law.
In 2004, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals told the DEA that it could not outlaw parts of the plant, such as products processed from stalks, that were not detailed in the language of the law—making it legal for companies to import hemp products that include minute traces of THC from Europe.
There is now some belief that the DEA’s latest code is an attempt to sucker punch the hemp market—a clever method of revenge for its loss over a decade ago.
But industry leaders argue that is simply not the case.
“The DEA Federal Registry amendment to create a new code for ‘marijuana extracts,’ in no way affects the company’s hemp oil, containing naturally occurring cannabinoids, including CBD, or its operations,” Dr. Stuart Titus, CEO of Medical Marijuana Inc, told HIGH TIMES in a statement.
This means nothing important has changed.
In fact, the DEA’s Baer says the new codes are nothing more than tracking agents so that researchers can start to explore the potential medicinal benefits of CBD more expeditiously.
“It allows us to identify those applications from the scientific research community who want to do extract research and give them priority over other applications,” he said. “It allows us to prioritize those to facilitate and support scientific research.”
Therefore, it appears the lynch mob that was prepared to march up to the DEA headquarters last week and launch a full blow protest against the agency’s latest announcement was unfounded. The new code could actually ended up being of some benefit in the grand scheme of cannabis medicine.
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