Clarity of legislative and enforcement language is key as the movement to remove cannabis and cannabis by-products from the DEA’s Controlled Substances Act continues. The blurred interpretation of the legal status of cannabinoids, including cannabidiol, became a touch clearer recently when the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) released an internal directive statement to department agents regarding the legal enforcement of products with cannabinoids and materials made from the cannabis plant.
The directive defines what products derived from the cannabis plant are not included in the Controlled Substances Act and therefore cannot be considered illegal. The legal status of products like cannbidiols, according to the directive, is determined by the structure or area on the cannabis plant where cannabinoid ingredients are sourced.
The DEA’s directive reads:
“Products and materials that are made from the cannabis plant and which fall outside the [Controlled Substances Act] definition of marijuana (such as sterilized seeds, oil or cake made from the seeds, and mature stalks) are not controlled under the CSA” and, thus, “[s]uch products may accordingly be sold and otherwise distributed throughout the United States without restriction under the CSA or its implementing regulations.”
Meaning, if cannabinoids are derived from areas of the cannabis plant other than those stated (like extracted marijuana resin) they are considered illegal, but if cannabinoids are sourced from lawful portions of the plant, i.e., sterilized seeds, oil or cake made from the seeds, and mature stalks, those products may be considered legal.
This may sound like a small measure when it comes to federal cannabinoid legalization, but every point of the DEA’s interpretation that is clarified provides legislators, legal counsels, government agencies, businesses, and consumers with more concrete understanding of the current enforcement standards and sets precedent for future legislative action.
The internal directive by the DEA came just weeks after the Hemp Industries Association’s lawsuit against the DEA’s Marijuana Extract Ruling (MER) was declined a review by the Ninth Circuit Court. The directive is the third time since issuing its “Final Rule Establishing a New Drug Code for Marihuana Extract” that the DEA has publicly clarified its position.
A brief from the Hemp Indus. Ass’n v. United States DEA case states:
“DEA’s Rule does not control cannabinoids in their own right.” (P.25) and “DEA is not seeking to schedule cannabinoids.” (P.29)
Many important points about the enforcement status of cannabinoids came from what is included in the DEA’s recent directive, but also from statements and language that were not specifically addressed. The DEA, by oversight or intentionally, did not mention the term “industrial hemp,” which happens to be the largest source of cannabinoids in the U.S. This exemption of clarification leaves the door open for further lawsuit arguments and/or legislative reform.
The pursuit of clarity is pivotal in tilting federal legislation of hemp and cannabinoids in favor of legalization. The DEA’s directive has shed another crack of light on a legal area that’s been steeped in darkness for far too long.
To keep the momentum going, if you live in a state where cannabinoids and cannabidiol is being debated for legality we strongly urge you to contact your local representative. For representative contact information in your region visit the resource section on NationalHempAssociation.or