DEA Responds: ‘These Are Not the Marihuanas We Are Looking For’

DEA Responds: ‘These Are Not the Marihuanas We Are Looking For’

Earlier this year, we outlined a potential argument concerning hemp-derived CBD oil and its status under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Our argument focused on the CSA’s definition of the term “marihuana,” which excludes mature stalks, oil or cake made from seeds from the list of controlled substances. Last week, the DEA agreed and issued an internal directive with the following key statement:

Products and materials that are made from the cannabis plant and which fall outside the CSA definition of marijuana (such as sterilized seeds, oil or cake made from the seeds, and mature stalks) are not controlled under the CSA. Such products may accordingly be sold and otherwise distributed throughout the United States without restriction under the CSA or its implementing regulations. The mere presence of cannabinoids is not itself dispositive as to whether a substance is within the scope of the CSA; the dispositive question is whether the substance falls within the CSA definition of marijuana.

The CSA exception extends to oils derived from marihuana but not to “resin” derived from marihuana. The DEA’s internal directive does not alter previous statements regarding their coding for marihuana extracts, but notes the drug code for marihuana extract “extends no further than the CSA does.”

The takeaway? As we have previously suggested, CBD oil (but not the resin) derived from the excepted parts of marihuana plants falls outside the scope of the CSA. The fact that CBD oil produced from excepted parts of the plant will be chemically similar to CBD oil produced from non-excepted parts (or the resin of excepted parts) may not be logical but it is driven from the statutory definition. Nevertheless, the logical and scientific inconsistency puts the DEA and purveyors of CBD goods in a precarious position: how will they determine which CBD products are subject to the CSA and will people really be prosecuted for trafficking a Schedule I controlled substance where the substance is chemically indistinguishable from one that is not prohibited by the CSA? We anticipate that at least one outcome will be buyers insisting on statements or warrantees from sellers, and buyer quality control due diligence, that their CBD products contain only excepted marihuana oil.

One further complication: some state prohibitions have different (sometimes broader) definitions or interpretations of what constitutes a controlled substance


Photo of Justin E. HobsonJustin E. Hobson

Justin is Co-Chair of Lane Powell’s Cannabis Team. His practice includes all aspects of business taxation. He has particular experience counseling clients on a variety of cross-border tax matters, including global restructuring, cross-border transactions, entity formation, tax treaties, accounting for income taxes, transfer pricing, import and export taxes, customs duties, and value-added taxes.

Photo of Lewis M. HorowitzLewis M. Horowitz

Lewis is Chair of Lane Powell’s Taxation team and Co-Chair of Lane Powell’s Cannabis Team. He is also a Certified Exit Planning Advisor qualified to assist private companies with their succession planning.


Cannabis Law Journal – Editorial Board Members

Editor – Sean Hocking

Author Bios

Matt Maurer – Minden Gross
Jeff Hergot – Wildboer Dellelce LLP

Costa Rica
Tim Morales – The Cannabis Industry Association Costa Rica

Elvin Rodríguez Fabilena


Julie Godard
Carl L Rowley -Thompson Coburn LLP

Jerry Chesler – Chesler Consulting

Ian Stewart – Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP
Otis Felder – Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP
Lance Rogers – Greenspoon Marder – San Diego
Jessica McElfresh -McElfresh Law – San Diego
Tracy Gallegos – Partner – Fox Rothschild

Adam Detsky – Knight Nicastro
Dave Rodman – Dave Rodman Law Group
Peter Fendel – CMR Real Estate Network
Nate Reed – CMR Real Estate Network

Matthew Ginder – Greenspoon Marder
David C. Kotler – Cohen Kotler

William Bogot – Fox Rothschild

Valerio Romano, Attorney – VGR Law Firm, PC

Neal Gidvani – Snr Assoc: Greenspoon Marder
Phillip Silvestri – Snr Assoc: Greenspoon Marder

Tracy Gallegos – Associate Fox Rothschild

New Jersey

Matthew G. Miller – MG Miller Intellectual Property Law LLC
Daniel T. McKillop – Scarinci Hollenbeck, LLC

New York
Gregory J. Ryan, Esq. Tesser, Ryan & Rochman, LLP
Tim Nolen Tesser, Ryan & Rochman, LLP
Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP

Paul Loney & Kristie Cromwell – Loney Law Group
William Stewart – Half Baked Labs

Andrew B. Sacks – Managing Partner Sacks Weston Diamond
William Roark – Principal Hamburg, Rubin, Mullin, Maxwell & Lupin
Joshua Horn – Partner Fox Rothschild

Washington DC
Teddy Eynon – Partner Fox Rothschild