DEA's Final Ruling On Marijuana Extracts Raises Concern

By Victoria Kim 12/20/16

Cannabis extracts were given their own drug code so they could be handled separately from cannabis.

Medical marijuana In Glass Jar And Cannabis Oil Extract In Bottle

Last week’s decision by the Drug Enforcement Administration to separately define cannabis extracts under the federal government’s Schedule I category was reported by numerous media outlets as an aggressive move against cannabis and those who deal in cannabis extracts.

Cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive compound (or cannabinoid) that’s found in marijuana, is used as a medical treatment for its anti-seizure and anti-inflammatory effects, typically in oil form. According to, as of March of this year, 16 U.S. states have passed laws specifically allowing the use of CBD, whether it is for certain patients with serious illnesses (like cancer and chronic seizures) or for children who suffer from severe seizure disorders.

According to the DEA’s announcement last week, cannabis extracts will now be handled separately from cannabis, meaning they will both remain in Schedule I, a federal drug classification that defines substances in this category as having a high potential for abuse with no medical benefit.

Though the DEA said its decision was for administrative purposes, media outlets like Forbes reported that the ruling caused “panic” throughout the marijuana industry, playing on fears spurred by the changing administration.

The Cannabist sought to clear the air and reached out to DEA spokesman Russ Baer, who said that instead of trying to challenge the marijuana industry, the rule change “recognizes that there is a potential medical benefit to some of the cannabinoids” found in marijuana. 

The DEA says marking a clear distinction between cannabis and its extracts allows the federal government to more accurately track extracts in terms of retail sales or scientific research. According to the agency, the decision was made to more closely align U.S. policy with international drug control treaties defined by the United Nations, which already treats cannabis and its extracts separately.

The DEA’s official definition of a cannabis extract is “an extract containing one or more cannabinoids that has been derived from any plant of the genus Cannabis” not including the plant’s resin.

A different interpretation that’s raised concerns in the industry is that the rule now specifies that those who sell CBD oil are in violation of federal law. Attorney Bob Hoban of the cannabis business law firm Hoban Law Group told the Cannabist that the DEA “seems like they’re trying to extend their authority over all cannabinoids.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr