Cannabis extracts In December 2016, the DEA dealt a fresh blow to cannabis. All cannabis extracts, including CBD, are classified under Schedule I of Controlled Substances as drugs with no medical use. The DEA again ignores scientific progress and legalisation campaigns, as well as patients who are already benefiting from the therapeutic applications of cannabis.
On 14 December the DEA dealt a fresh blow to cannabis by introducing a change in its already bizarre classification as a Schedule I Controlled Substance. Now, all cannabis extracts including Cannabidiol (CBD) are classified and listed under Schedule I together with heroin and other dangerous narcotic substances, as a “drug with no medical use.” This shows once again that the federal government has chosen to ignore the scientific progress being made, as well as the huge numbers of patients who are currently benefiting from these therapeutic applications of cannabis all over the world.
It seems that despite the progress thus far in terms of cannabis legalisation, the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) still chooses to ignore decades of scientific and medical data that have already proven, and recognised the fact that cannabis and its active components or cannabinoids- such as CBD – have a wide range of medical and therapeutic applications.
The new code which the DEA has just created classifies all cannabis extractions or extracts – including CBD oil, which is currently available as a dietary supplement and without medical prescription – under Schedule I, in the context of the Federal Controlled Substances Act . This is the same list to which heroin, ecstasy, LSD and other substances considered dangerous belong, and where unfortunately cannabis still remains.
Why create a separate code for cannabis extracts?
The DEA has announced the creation of a separate code number for cannabis extracts which it defines as extracts which contain one or more cannabinoids derived from any plant of the Cannabis genus, and different from the separated resin (either raw or purified) obtained from the plant.
Although this new code does not mean a new federal law has been passed, those people who have been producing CBD in the understanding that cannabis-derived products with a THC content of less than 0.3% were legal are now finding out that this is no longer the case.
According to the federal agency, this code will allow bodies registered with the DEA and the DEA itself to separately track the amounts of this substance separately from the amounts of marijuana (cannabis) , as well as complying with the international drug control treaties governed by the United Nations. These treaties make a distinction between the regulatory checks for cannabis extracts and those for cannabis and tetrahydrocannabinols – for which the DEA had already created separate codes.
The purpose of this new code – according to the statements made by DEA spokesperson Russell Baer – is to develop and gather more precise data from research being conducted on CBD specifically, given that at present, when researchers request authorisation to conduct these scientific studies with or on cannabis from the DEA, there is no regulation which requires them to specify whether they intend to work only on cannabis or cannabis extracts.
Companies or organisations which produce and/or sell CBD-based products will have to register with the agency under the new code which has specifically been created for “Marijuana Extracts”, code 7350 – whereas code 7360 is for marijuana – and they will have to renew this registration yearly. The deadline set for the registration process is only thirty days from 14 December. If they fail to complete the formalities within this deadline, they will be in violation of federal law.
According to Baer himself: “(The changes in the regulation) recognise that there is a beneficial medical potential in some cannabinoids,” and he added that there is no big conspiracy going on, nor is this connected to the country’s change of president.
What has the reaction been to this measure?
However, critical voices were not long in coming This three-page document has provoked outrage from the cannabis industry, who warn of its possible consequences. Cannabis experts called the measure worrying, misguided and yet another proof of the DEA’s ignorance and total contempt for cannabis .
This is because every day we have more and more evidence and data which show that CBD in particular, and cannabinoids in general, basically help people, by improving their health and, as a result, their quality of life. Therefore, it is absurd to classify it in such a restrictive class that of heroin, through a decision which only benefits the pharmaceutical industry whose intention seems to be to carry on restricting access to the plant.
Besides questions on the legality of this provision, it undoubtedly is a setback which could hamper and restrict research work on medical cannabis , which has already resulted in effective medicines based on cannabinoids such as CBD and THC. It is worth bearing in mind that the medical cannabis industry basically focuses on the production of CBD, the non-psychoactive cannabinoid which helps relieve pain or reduce inflammation, amongst numerous other therapeutic applications.
The US anti-drug agency might well have exceeded and gone beyond its remit, since it can enforce laws but not create them. By creating a completely new class called “marijuana extracts,” it is trying to control all cannabinoids and make them illegal, despite having no authority to do so.
It is important to remember that since 8 November a majority of US states have laws which legalise some types of medical marijuana , including over ten states with laws on low THC or CBD content for specific medical purposes. These laws and other measures taken by various states on cannabis contradict federal laws.
The notion that they can classify cannabis and now CBD, as well as cannabis extracts (psychoactive or otherwise), as narcotic substances included in Schedule I together with heroin, reveals their utmost contempt for the truth and flies in the face of facts.
Drugs on the market made from cannabis extracts
Pharmaceutical firms have for years been trying to standardise the active ingredients of the cannabis plant , specifically their formulation, composition and dosage. At present there are four approved medicines on the market, two approved by the FDA, another approved in the United Kingdom and much of Europe, and a fourth medicine which has been recently developed.
Dronabinol (Marinol®) contains THC and is used as an antiemetic, to relieve symptoms such as nausea and vomiting caused by cancer treatments, and for treating anorexia/cachexia (extreme weight loss) in patients with HIV or terminal cancer.
Nabilona (Cesamet®) contains a synthetic cannabinoid analogue of THC and is also used as an antiemetic.
Sativex ® , which contains an almost equal proportion of THC and CBD, is approved at present in the United Kingdom and several European countries for treating spasticity caused by multiple sclerosis (MS) and for pain relief in patients with cancer, and is currently undergoing phase III clinical trials in the US.
Finally, Epidiolex™, which is still being tested in clinical trials to determine its efficacy and safety, and is a recently developed CBD-based drug for treating some forms of childhood epilepsy, such as Dravet syndrome .
Real first-hand accounts from patients which show how misguided the DEA is
If the pharmaceutical industry invests in developing medicines produced from extracts of the cannabis plant, it is because of something else besides the fact that it may have some medical use which has not yet been proven. The DEA classifies cannabis and cannabis extracts as substances with no medical value, even though centuries of history , as well as first-hand accounts from patients and data from experts – doctors and academics – now show otherwise.
We can find out about thousands of these stories from the internet , from videos recorded by patients themselves on YouTube, increasingly from the mass media, through documentaries which tell us about their experiences. Thousands of first-hand accounts from patients , people with illnesses who have experienced how cannabis in its various forms can help improve the symptoms of their disease, and the quality of their life. Some have even personally experienced an unexpected cure from the disease which they had not thought was possible.
For instance, the story of the Canadian Rick Simpson , who since becoming famous in 2008 from the launch of the documentary Run From The Cure on YouTube has continuously shared with and throughout the world his method for producing cannabis extract – Rick Simpson’s popular oil called RSO – which he maintains can cure cancer and other diseases, and which is what happened to him.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is amongst the diseases for which cannabis and cannabinoid-based treatments are hugely beneficial. On the Sensi Seeds blog you can read up more interviews and articles about the stories of British patients Clark French and Michelle X , who have since become cannabis activists as a result. Both suffer from MS and use cannabis to treat their disease, but because the plant is illegal they must fight for their right to treat themselves with cannabis. An further example of the senselessness of cannabis prohibition.
Very recently, we also found out about the case of Thea Hali , a patient who suffers from rheumatism, a complex regional pain syndrome, and who was diagnosed with the gene for aggressive breast cancer, BRCA1. Thanks to Sensi Seeds’ CBD oil , just two days after she started taking it the severity of the pain lessened – which enabled the dose of morphine to be reduced – and moreover, she then started experiencing improved focus and greater mental clarity.
Why does the DEA persist in refusing to recognise the medical value of cannabis?
Last spring, speculations were growing as to whether the DEA could, in the summer, consider reclassifying cannabis under another Schedule of Controlled Substances and one which would recognise its medical value. But once again the rumours proved baseless and nothing came of them. What do you expect from an agency led by someone who thinks medical cannabis is a joke!
“The decision is not based on harm. The decision is based on whether marijuana is a safe and effective medicine, and it is not,” argued Chuck Rosenberg, the current head and administrator of the DEA.
The Antidrug Agency is sticking to its guns by saying that cannabis, and now cannabis extracts such as CBD oil have a high potential for abuse, currently have no acceptable medical applications, and moreover lack basic safety standards which would make them acceptable for medical use. In support of its stance it references, amongst others, the Food and Drug Agency (FDA) and the NIDA.
“At present, the known risks of using marijuana have not been outweighed by the specific benefits in well-controlled clinical trials which scientifically evaluate its safety and efficacy. Long term use of marijuana can lead to physical dependency, psychic addiction or dependency,” explained Rosenberg.
But what Rosenberg does not tell us is the reason behind his surreal determination in denying facts. He seems immune to the opinion of the majority of healthcare professionals in the US and a large body of knowledge and scientific data which prove otherwise. To begin with, the very history of cannabis prohibition and its inclusion in Schedule I is very controversial and, undoubtedly, questionable.
Cannabis and cannabis extracts work. And that is what science, and the patients who use it, tell us. Therefore, both substances should be included in Schedule II of Controlled Substances, so that they can stop being criminalised by federal law and have their medical use recognised.
Already in 1988, the DEA’s own administrative law judge Francis Young said as much when he recommended declassifying cannabis in response to a petition by a group of activists: “marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to Man. From the perspective of any rational analysis, marijuana can be safely used as part of a supervised medical treatment routine.”
Of course, the DEA rejected their petition, and it has continued to ignore the numerous appeals and recommendations it has been receiving over the years, and continues to receive, from a wide variety of sources. This includes proposals from both government bodies as well as independent and private initiatives.
Although it is still possible that Congress could decide to reclassify CBD extracts and other cannabinoids, which would eliminate some of the Kafkaesque bureaucracy which researchers face if they want to study cannabis active compounds, it seems that the draft bill which was presented to the Senate last year to ease the restrictions on CBD research has been shelved, despite having the support of the majority parties.
It is obvious that whilst the rest of the world follows a more or less clear path, the DEA persists in refusing to recognise that this path is even possible, that others are already treading it. It remains paralysed, stuck, and has no idea what it is waiting for and does nothing else but intrude on people.