This week, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) made an administrative move that is sending chills throughout the marijuana industry.
The DEA has created a Controlled Substances Code Number for “marihuana extract.” [There has been speculation as to why the DEA chooses to use this correct but less-common spelling.] Flower, hemp, and any substance extracted from the marijuana plant (including non-psychoactive cannabinoids, like CBD) will now be considered a Schedule I substance.
As reported by The Cannabist, the DEA notice stated:
“This code number will allow DEA and DEA-registered entities to track quantities of this material separately from quantities of marihuana. This, in turn, will aid in complying with relevant treaty provisions.”
The Cannabist spoke with DEA spokesperson Russ Baer about the code number. “The gist of the issue is that DEA established a new drug code for marihuana extracts as a means to more accurately reflect the activities of scientific research and provide more consistent adherence to the requirements of the Single Convention. We have not changed any control status with this Federal Register Notice. Everything remains Schedule I, so no other provisions of the law (registration, security requirements, research protocols, etc.) change. Companies will simple [sic] use a new code for extracts.”
There was concern among many in the marijuana industry when the news initially broke. Baer seemed intent on calming some of the fears.“It’s not intended to be speculative (and) doesn’t read into anything that we’re looking at in the future,” Baer said. “It’s just a final order on a rulemaking proposal that was initiated back in 2011.”
Because marijuana has been the only line of defense for many patients, any discussion on restricting or criminalizing safe access can create widespread panic for patients. Baer seemed to acknowledge in his statements to The Cannabist.
“The nation is in the throes of an opioid epidemic, and it is there — not cracking down on offenses such as a mother transporting CBD oil for her daughter across state lines to Nebraska — where the DEA needs to allocate its resources,” Baer said, adding that the DEA is “focusing on heroin, fentanyl, meth, cocaine.”
Attorney Bob Hoban, of the national marijuana law firm Hoban Law Group, still had concerns over the government’s action.
“The sky is not falling; however, this is a very concerning move by the DEA,” Hoban said. “What it purports to do is give the DEA control of all cannabinoids as a controlled substance.”
“At a minimum, it interferes with commerce,” Hoban said. “At a maximum, it exposes people potentially to criminal action.”