More than five years after proposing the idea, the Drug Enforcement Agency next month will implement use of a new administrative code for cannabis extracts, unnerving some advocates for the hemp industry and the lawful use of cannabidiol, a compound found in cannabis plants that appears useful in treating epilepsy.
Some cannabis advocates see the new code as a backdoor attempt to stretch the definition of marijuana, a federally illegal Schedule I drug, to cover products that are lawfully imported or produced domestically from plants with low amounts of the high-inducing compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
The DEA insists, however, that the change published last week in the Federal Register has nothing to do with a crackdown, and in fact will have the primary effect of making cannabidiol (CBD) research easier.
“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 says.
“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 says.
Previously, there have been DEA codes only for marijuana (7360) and THC (7370). Now, extracts with various cannabinoid profiles will be coded 7350. Some extracts have no THC or very low concentrations.
Although the agency’s formal justification for the new code deals largely with treaty obligations for drug tracking, Baer says one effect will be that researchers who use the new code on a standard application to handle scheduled substances will be moved to the front of the line.
But the precise definition of a marijuana extract under the new code has caused unease. The terms are defined as “meaning an extract containing one or more cannabinoids that has been derived from any plant of the genus Cannabis, other than the separated resin (whether crude or purified) obtained from the plant.”