Cannabidiol, or CBD, has been the subject of many legal debates this year. CBD is mainly derived from hemp and doesn’t contain THC, the psychoactive agent found in cannabis. CBD is becoming widely available, and sales are rising faster than that of cannabis, despite their shared federally illegal status. The passing of the Farm Bill in 2014 made legal some specific types of hemp cultivation, allowing hemp to be grown for academic research or under a state pilot program.
Some of the legal confusion surrounding CBD may be lifted in the coming months, as the DEA has recently approved Epidiolex, a medication containing CBD, as a Schedule 5 controlled substance. Epidiolex is an oral solution used to treat epilepsy. Its classification as a Schedule V controlled substance could mean a big breakthrough for the legality of CBD, but not just yet.
So, what’s the hold up?
Currently, all cannabis derivatives (THC and CBD) are classified as Schedule 1 controlled substances, adjacent to heroin in terms of severity. In a statement issued on September 28th, the DEA announced that certain drug products containing CBD have been approved by the FDA as Schedule 5 substances. The statement goes on to say that only FDA approved drugs that contain CBD and no more than 0.1 percent THC may be classified as Schedule 5.
So, is CBD completely legal now? Not quite yet. Drugs created by pharmaceutical companies containing CBD and almost zero THC can be classified as Schedule 5 substances, but CBD itself does not hold this classification. CBD tinctures, infused treats, and vaporizer cartridges are still federally illegal and maintain a Schedule 1 classification. The DEA and FDA have now shown their willingness to work with CBD, however, which could potentially lead to the approval of other cannabis-derived products in the future. CBD has many different interests excited, with, for example, established retailers in the beer and energy drink markets looking to expand their offerings to include infused beverages.
The classification of Epidiolex could be the start of federally-approved CBD retail products, but only time will tell.
About the author
Sam Aronson is a Graduate Student and Teaching Fellow at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. He is currently pursuing his Master's in Professional Writing and Communication, and is focused on branding within the cannabis industry. Connect with him on LinkedIn!