The New DEA Ruling is a Misunderstanding and it’s Distracting from the Real Issue: CBD from Hemp is an Inferior Product

Earlier this month the DEA issued an update to its cannabis policy, establishing a drug code for extracts of all forms of cannabis, including those derived from hemp. The change has provoked heated Internet discussions, but this is a misunderstood issue – the reality is, the DEA did NOT create a new law, they are instead restating what has always been true. More importantly, it’s distracting from the real issue and from what is of paramount importance: CBD from hemp is inferior to CBD from cannabis, as it relates to medicinal uses.

Hemp is an amazing plant and I believe it should be part of all 50 states. The plant has a practical uses ranging from clothing to paper to building supplies to fuel and more. My position is distinct around the use of hemp-based CBD products compared to medicinal cannabis-based CBD products, but at issue for me is drawing a clear distinction between the qualities of CBD derived from medicinal cannabis versus that extracted from hemp. The former is far superior in treatment efficacy, production and extraction processes.

Hemp is actually a “make do” product, compromised regarding the efficacy of its medicinal impacts so that the product can be sold across state lines. These companies are trading medicinal and therapeutic impact to profit from the benefits exhibited by cannabis-based CBD product,s but without the legal curtailment of their sale. This is a complicated work-around diluting the world’s awareness of what real CBD can do.

CBD is a Schedule I substance, just like THC. All of this chatter about the meaning behind what the DEA is doing is distracting from the real issue.

Let’s take a small step back to clarify the DEA classification so we can put that to rest. The DEA has previously issued separate code numbers for marijuana and for THC, however there was no code number specifically for marijuana extracts. This could explain why some CBD proponents believed the ingredient was free of a Schedule I listing, but according to the Federal Register notice, the DEA already considered marijuana extracts to be in Schedule I. Until now, it was just treating CBD and other extracts under the same drug code as marijuana. To summarize: CBD in all forms, was and always has been a Schedule I drug, be it from cannabis or hemp.

While the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) is arguing it may be inappropriate to classify all CBD products as “marijuana extracts,” because CBD may be produced from industrial hemp plants that meet standards in the Farm Bill (Sec. 7606) allowing for hemp plants with less than 0.3% THC by dry weight, the DEA says even 0.3% THC is too much. The DEA says that “for practical purposes, all extracts that contain CBD will also contain at least small amounts of other cannabinoids.” Even if it were possible to produce an extract containing only CBD (which the DEA is not currently aware of), such an extract would still fall into the new Schedule I drug code for marijuana extracts.

This is actually the perfect segue into what I believe should be the real discussion: there is a big difference between CBD derived from cannabis and that derived from hemp. CBD from hemp does not have the medicinal properties that CBD from cannabis possesses in whole-plant therapeutics, and is frankly an inferior product. Two of the most distinct differences include:

  1. You need the Entourage Effect for maximum efficacy. There are more than 480 identified natural components found within the cannabis plant, of which 66 have been classified as “cannabinoids.” Those are chemicals unique to the plant, including delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol.These combined components of the whole plant offer therapeutic effects, more than any individual compound. CBD from hemp is lacking a lot of the compounds found in CBD from cannabis
  2. Hemp and Cannabis are typically grown and cultivated very differently. Whole-plant CBD derived from cannabis for medicinal purposes is raised in highly regulated, earth-friendly environments. The producers grow their crops in pesticide-free, organic settings, which are often independently verified. This is important to note, because what goes into the plant as it grows is what comes out of the plant during extraction (it’s worth noting the producers I’ve associated with use the terroir method of growing, which yields a harvest that bears a signature relationship to its growing region, much like wine appellations, while respecting the land and the plants being grown).

While many might argue this position of hemp inferiority, it’s important that every person who is evaluating medicinal CBD understands a medicinal hemp-based CBD product does not include the same whole-plant compounds of medicinal cannabis-based CBD. Do your research and make an informed decision – it’s your body, your treatment and your choice.

— Constance Finley