Cannabis-derived compounds can help with a multitude of physical problems without getting you high. So why is the government trying to ban them?
Last December, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration made some waves when they announced a new code for marihuana extract. Under the new rule, all cannabinoids – natural compounds derived from the cannabis plant – would be considered Schedule I drugs, effectively rendering them illegal in the United States.
The DEA’s move had the country’s industrial hemp industry up in arms. This half-billion dollar industry was fine making products that didn’t include THC, the active psychoactive compound in pot, but they had built quite a business around cannabidiol (CBD), a common non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in products from lip balm to nutritional supplements and oils. Under this DEA rule, hemp companies would be actively flouting federal law by farming industrial hemp – something they’ve been able to do since 2014, when the Farm Bill finally exempted hemp from the controlled substances act.
In response, the non-profit trade group Hemp Industries Association (HIA) and two other companies filed a lawsuit in January challenging the DEA rule. According to the opening brief, filed on April 3rd, HIA and its co-plaintiffs charge the agency of abusing its authority by failing to follow necessary steps in scheduling new drugs under the Controlled Substances Act.
According to Bob Hoban, a Denver-based firm representing HIA in the case, there’s no legal basis for the new rule. “They have yet to provide any justification for why cannabinoids are outlawed, especially when cannabinoids are found in multiple other substances,” like some Echinacea species, he says. “So how on earth could they be a controlled substance [only if] they come from marijuana flowers?”
According to the Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute, the Cannabis sativa plant has over 480 natural compounds, 66 of which are cannabinoids. While THC might get you high, many of the other 60-something chemical compounds found in the cannabis plants, like CBD, are not psychotropic.
CBD, in particular, is known to have medicinal and therapeutic benefits. Research has shown CBD to have anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, and antidepressant properties. The compound is also thought to act as an antioxidant and help with vomiting and nausea. Many within the hemp industry work on developing non-psychoactive hemp-derived CBD health products like oils, nutritional supplements and foods.