The DEA Just Classified CBD Oil Into the Same Category as Heroin. Here’s Why. The DEA Just Classified CBD Oil Into the Same Category as Heroin. Here’s Why.

The DEA Just Classified CBD Oil Into the Same Category as Heroin. Here’s Why.

by Liz Biscevic Jan 5, 2017

Last week, the DEA amended the classification of cannabis, finally making an official distinction between the weed that gets you high and its medicinal extracts, in particular cannabidiol (or CBD). That could have been a huge win for the many cancer patients, kids and adults suffering epilepsy, and war vets who use CBD as a form of alternative medicine, until they classified it right alongside cannabis as a schedule 1 drug—the same classification as heroin, ecstasy and bath salts.


According to the DEA, drugs and substances are classified into 5 categories or ‘schedules’, depending on the drug’s medical use and dependency potential. The possibility for abuse is also a factor in determining the schedule. Schedule 1 drugs and chemicals are “defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” To put it into perspective, Adderall and Oxycodone are classified as schedule 2 drugs, and Xanax and Ambien are schedule 4. The classification alone is pretty crazy, but the amendment added at the end of December took it even further, creating a separate code number for extracts made from cannabis and classifying them as schedule 1 drugs as well.

The notice, entitled “Establishment of a New Drug Code for Marihuana Extract,” targets CBD—the plant’s main active chemical compound. Unlike THC, which is what most people think of when they think of weed, CBD doesn’t make you feel high. It has, however, shown tons of promise as a treatment for pain, tumors, and seizures. In fact, the majority of the U.S. has already legalized CBD for medical use.

The DEA says it is setting itself up to license and track the scientists studying the benefits of marijuana and CBD. Russel Baer, a DEA spokesperson, told VICE News that the classification is “an internal accounting mechanism” and that “the purpose is to drill down and get more accurate information about research that’s being conducted with CBD in particular.” This is because right now when researchers apply to the DEA for permission to study weed, there’s no way for them to specify whether they will be studying marijuana itself or its extracts.

But the notice might not even be legal, considering the Drug Enforcement Agency’s job is supposed to be enforcing laws, not creating them. According to the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the definition of marijuana only includes the parts that contain THC and excludes the parts of the cannabis plant without it. The parts of the plant that do not contain THC are accepted under the Farm Act. By creating that new category, they’re not only asserting that CBD is on the same level as heroin, they’re also essentially deciding that all cannabinoids are illegal substances, which has never been the case before. Baer defends the new notice, saying, “People are trying to read tea leaves on this and it’s really not anything more elaborate than it is. It’s intended to be straight forward.”


The point is, we don’t buy it. Robert J, Capecchi, the director of federal policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, says the whole policy around cannabis is just illogical. “Even when you look at the criteria you’re supposed to be looking at under the law, they’re just not following it.” The criteria he’s referring to is the DEA’s criteria for classifying drugs and substances—the one that states schedule 1 drugs are easily abused with no medical benefits.

So why did the DEA really classify CBD that way? Many people believe this is just another move from Big Pharma to keep tabs on the competition. After all, this wouldn’t be the first time the pharmaceutical industry made a move that wasn’t necessarily in the people’s interest. The DEA’s new notice essentially gives Big Pharma the ability to hijack medical solutions around CBD for patenting or, alternatively, discredit the functional solutions that cannot be patented.

But others believe the real purpose for the DEA’s desire to control CBD is to make profits, by regulating who actually gets to make and distribute CBD products, just like they do with valid Schedule 1 products, like heroin.

Regardless of the reason, cannabis advocates and CBD distributors are ready to fight. Because as we all know, reefer madness isn’t actually a thing, and the scientists, doctors, and everyday people who know the benefits of this miracle oil will most definitely take a stand.

Learn more about CBD oil benefits and the reasons behind the DEA decision here: