WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced today two final rules which address the legal status of products derived from the cannabis plant. These cannabis products, which are referred to by some members of the public as “hemp” products, often contain the hallucinogenic substance tetrahydrocannabinols (THC). THC is the primary psychoactive chemical found in the cannabis (marijuana) plant.
The rules are being issued in accordance with the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which appears in Title 21 of the United States Code, sections 801-971. DEA is the agency primarily responsible for enforcing the criminal and regulatory provisions of the CSA. As part of its statutory duties, DEA must maintain the schedules of controlled substances and publish any revisions to the schedules in the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 21, part 1308.
When questions arise as to whether a particular substance is controlled under the CSA, DEA is obligated to answer the questions and advise the public accordingly. The rules published today answer this question when it comes to “hemp” products that contain THC.
Under the CSA, THC is a Schedule I controlled substance. Schedule I consists of those controlled substances that have not been approved as medicine by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Some examples of Schedule I drugs are heroin, LSD, marijuana, and MDMA (“Ecstasy”). Because these drugs have not been approved by the FDA as medicine, human consumption of them is strictly prohibited outside of FDA-approved scientific research.
When Congress wrote the CSA in 1970, it provided that anything that contains “any quantity” of a Schedule I hallucinogenic controlled substance is, itself, a Schedule I controlled substance, unless it is an FDA-approved drug product. Thus, the CSA prohibits human consumption of any non-FDA-approved product that contains any amount of THC. Today’s rules reiterate this long-standing aspect of federal law.
In some cases, a Schedule I controlled substance may have a legitimate industrial use. The CSA allows for industrial use of Schedule I controlled substances, but only under highly controlled circumstances. The rules announced by DEA today create an exemption in the law that removes all CSA regulatory restrictions for legitimate industrial products made from cannabis plants.
Some examples of these exempted industrial products are paper, rope, and clothing (which contain fiber made from the cannabis plant) and animal feed mixtures, soaps, and shampoos (which contain sterilized cannabis seeds or oils extracted from the seeds). DEA is exempting these types of industrial cannabis products from control because they are not intended for human consumption and do not cause THC to enter the human body.
When it comes to cannabis products that are intended or used for human consumption (foods and beverages), however, today’s rules make clear that if such a product contains THC, it remains prohibited. This approach is consistent with the long-standing rule under federal law disallowing human consumption of Schedule I controlled substances outside of FDA-approved research.
DEA published the rules in proposed form in October 2001. In today’s Federal Register, DEA explains the comments it received from the public following publication of the proposed rules. Today’s Federal Register (68 Fed. Reg. 14113 and Fed. Reg. 14119) also contains the full text of the rules, along with a detailed legal explanation. The rules become effective April 21, 2003.
For more information, please visit www.dea.gov or contact the DEA Office of Public Affairs at (202) 307-7977.