The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has recently proposed changes to federal drug-control laws and regulations for hemp cannabis products.
If implemented, these changes could have far-reaching implications for the cannabis industry as a whole, but more specifically, changes would result in the effective ban of virtually all Delta-8 THC products currently available.
During a presentation at a recent agency conference, it was revealed that the DEA’s proposal aims to impose stricter regulations on cannabinoids derived from hemp, including Delta-8 THC, which have gained significant popularity in states without regulated adult-use cannabis markets
The DEA response in official correspondence was noted as, “If the product contains any quantity of synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol, it is controlled in schedule I of the CSA, unless it is specifically excepted or listed in another schedule The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (AIA), Pub. L. 115- 334, § 12619, amended the CSA to remove.”
Critics have argued that the thriving market for hemp-derived cannabinoids, including CBD, exploits a legal loophole that violates the original intent of Congress when it legalized hemp under the 2018 Farm Bill.
To address these concerns, the DEA intends to introduce a new THC limit of no more than 0.1% on a weight-to-weight ratio in hemp-derived products, aligning it with the THC limit found in Epidiolex, an FDA-approved CBD pharmaceutical.
The DEA’s presentation also suggests that federal drug laws would encompass any synthetic cannabinoid, as opposed to those extracted from the plant. As most Delta-8 THC and other hemp-derived intoxicating cannabinoids are produced synthetically from CBD source material, this proposal would categorize them as controlled substances. It remains unclear which schedule of the Controlled Substances Act the DEA will propose for Delta-8 and other synthetic cannabinoids, as well as the level of enforcement the agency would undertake.
Should the DEA’s proposal be enforced, it would effectively ban almost all Delta-8 THC products and significantly impact the CBD market, altering the regulatory landscape for these products. The current federal law permits hemp-derived products to contain up to 0.3% THC, three times the proposed limit by the DEA.
While the proposal’s impact on the CBD industry depends on its scheduling decision, even the most lenient category (Schedule V) could bring about substantial changes that sure to impact the regulated hemp industry.
It’s worth noting, that while federal agencies have previously shown limited interest in regulating the hemp-derived cannabinoid trade the new proposal could mean the end or significant changes in how products containing them are policed. There is room for potential congressional action when the Farm Bill is revisited, which could move in either direction, but with more states pushing to regulate Delta-8 products and a rising number of Hemp extracted Delta-9 products it would appear that the tendency is to lean into regulation of intoxicating products.
Even outspoken proponents of marijuana legalization have been vocal in support of more stringent regulation of intoxicating hemp products in recent years.
The DEA’s intentions raise concerns among industry stakeholders, as the agency’s stance on hemp-derived cannabinoids, particularly the classification of certain synthetic compounds, with many saying that the agency’s position may contradict the 2018 Farm Bill’s provisions.
Looking forward, the rulemaking process for implementing these changes could take years. Currently, the timeline and specific details of the DEA’s proposal are unclear, but the position underlines potential regulatory changes that potentially shape the future of hemp in the country, leaving hemp farmers and operators with an unclear future.
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