The DEA, CBD, and Drug Scheduling
It’s safe to say that the topic of CBD legality and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) regulation remains a tricky one to unravel. It is pretty daunting trying to find your way through a jungle of dense legalese and online “alternative facts” that seem to change almost monthly.
According to some announcements and documentation released to the public by the DEA, cannabidiol (CBD) seems to not fall under the same legislation as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), as long as it is derived from specified parts of the plant. Here’s the lowdown on what appears to be the DEA’s current stance on CBD...subject to change and/or reinterpretation at any given moment, it seems!
DEA, CBD, And the Law
The DEA released an internal directive regarding “the presence of cannabinoids in products and materials made from the cannabis plant” on May 22, 2018, and currently, this seems to be the latest word on whether you will be criminally charged if you possess, manufacture, or sell CBD products:
“Products and materials that are made from the cannabis plant and which fall outside the CSA definition of marijuana (such as sterilized seeds, oil or cake made from the seeds, and mature stalks) are not controlled under the [Controlled Substances Act (CSA)]. Such products may accordingly be sold and otherwise distributed throughout the United States without restriction under the CSA or its implementing regulations. The mere presence of cannabinoids is not itself dispositive as to whether a substance is within the scope of the CSA; the dispositive question is whether the substance falls within the CSA definition of marijuana.” 
So, to paraphrase—according to this statement from the DEA, CBD oil is not regulated under the Controlled Substances Act if it is excluded from the definition of “marijuana.”
What is the definition of marijuana, then, according to the DEA?
“The term ‘marihuana’ means all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds or resin. Such term does not include the mature stalks of such plant, fiber produced from such stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of such plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination.” 
Again, to paraphrase this rather convoluted statement—according to the DEA, any substance appears to be defined as marijuana or weed if it is derived from the whole Cannabis Sativa plant. However, this definition excludes the following:
- The cannabis plant’s mature stalks;
- Fibre, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation, oil or cake produced from said stalks;
- Oil or cake made from the plant’s seeds;
- Sterilized seeds.
So, going by these definitions, as quoted from the DEA’s site under the Diversion Control Division, any products derived from Cannabis sativa L.’s mature stalks and seeds are excluded from the definition of Class I Scheduled marijuana. This means that no person using, producing, or selling products made with the plant’s mature stalks or seeds can be prosecuted by law.
On another note—the DEA would do good by the American people if it also circulated its internal clarifications among members of the national police force. Too many cultivators, users, and producers get accosted or even arrested for CBD product possession, even when these products are DEA-compliant.
DEA, CBD Oil, and Drug Schedules
Let’s take a brief look at how the DEA defines the different drug schedules.
The DEA classifies drugs, substances, and certain chemicals used to make drugs into five categories or schedules. This depends on the drug’s “acceptable medical use” and the drug’s potential to be abused, or its “dependency potential.”
For instance—Schedule I drugs have the highest potential for abuse and for creating severe physical and/or psychological dependence. Schedule V drugs are thought to have the least potential for any form of abuse.
The DEA points out that even if something is not listed as a “controlled substance”, but is an analog substantially similar in structure and pharmacology to a listed Schedule I substance, it will be treated as a Schedule I substance. This means that manufacturing, selling, or using such analogs could lead to criminal prosecution. 
It is sobering to note that there are literally thousands of products on the DEA’s Exempt Chemical Preparations List. These medicines are known for their side effects, some of them dangerous, and most of them give rise to other medical issues when taken habitually. 
Yet, a wholly natural plant medicine, with a human cultivation and usage history of thousands of years, is still being criminalized and demonized by the authorities in most countries. It will be a difficult market to capture, as especially CBD could so far not be reverse engineered successfully in any of the world’s laboratories. Is this perhaps why U.S. government is dragging its feet to follow in the steps of Canada and the Netherlands...?
The U.S. is besieged with two-steps-forward-one-step-back legal maneuvers regarding the healthful cannabis compound. This is well illustrated in breaking news from the Department of Public Health in California, the Weed State—CBD edibles made from industrial hemp are now prohibited there. This doesn’t appear to include tinctures, which are taken orally but are not classified as a “food,” according to the department’s criteria. Yet, the ruling is, in essence, at odds with the DEA regulations, another example of the baffling state of marijuana legislation in the U.S. 
Despite resistance from federal and state governments and the DEA, CBD oil has been growing in popularity as an alternative remedy across the U.S. It is increasingly being used for epilepsy and other seizure disorders, anxiety, depression, chronic pain management, Alzheimer’s disease, and many more. In this, CBD seems unstoppable, and hopefully, it’s only a matter of time before every person needing this compound will have easy access to it.