There Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) claims that two cannabinoids that have appeared in different products sold in the United States do not meet the federal definition of legal hemp and are therefore considered illegal controlled substances.
Asked about the legal status of delta-8 THC-O and delta-9 THC-O, two acetate esters of THC, the DEA replied that the two cannabinoids “do not occur naturally in the cannabis plant and cannot be obtained only synthetically, and therefore do not meet the definition of hemp”.
“Delta-9-THCO and delta-8-THCO are tetrahydrocannabinols with chemical structures and pharmacological activities similar to those contained in the cannabis plant,” continues the letter from Terrence L. Boos, Chief of Drug & Chemical Evaluation Section from the DEA.
A new market for minor cannabinoids
Since the 2018 Farm Bill has legalized hemp containing up to 0.3% delta-9 THC on a dry weight basis, the market for natural and synthetic cannabinoids has developed in the United States and especially in states that have not yet legalized cannabis.
While there are many new cannabinoids, one of the best known is delta-8 THC, which can be produced synthetically from CBD but is also present in trace amounts in the cannabis plant. Several states have gone to great lengths to regulate this product which, unlike CBD, has intoxicating effects.
DEA officials have advised that delta-8 THC products are not controlled substances as long as they are extracted from the natural plant and not synthesized.
A federal appeals court, meanwhile, ruled last year that delta-8 is uncontrolled because the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) only explicitly talks about naturally occurring delta-9 THC and because federal law defines hemp as “any part” of the cannabis plant, including “all derivatives, extracts, [et] cannabinoids” which contains less than 0.3% delta-9 THC by weight.
What about THC-O?
The DEA analysis concluded that unlike delta-9 THC and delta-8 THC, THC-O is not a natural cannabinoid. Since it can only be produced by synthetic processes, it is federally banned. The question does not arise in France where only delta-9-THC is legal.
“While the DEA’s latest statement does not clarify the legal status of all new hemp-derived cannabinoids, it does state that the DEA believes Delta-9 THCO and Delta-8 THCO are controlled substances,” said Michelle Bodian, partner of the law firm Vicente Sederberg in Marijuana Moment.
“Hopefully Congress will take action soon to address the issue of the legality of all hemp-derived cannabinoids, so that the industry is not left with a patchwork of laws, regulations, policies and now letters. . »
Advocacy organizations like NORML have warned against the use of these lesser known and unregulated cannabinoids.
The American association believes that the regulatory patchwork and the resulting confusion for consumers and the market could be effectively resolved if the federal ban on cannabis were lifted and people had the option of using natural cannabis products. cannabis, which would suppress the demand for these synthetic neo-cannabinoids, especially in states where cannabis remains illegal.
“Whether synthetic or natural, psychoactive cannabinoids must be regulated responsibly to protect public health and safety,” Aaron Smith, CEO of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), said at Marijuana Moment.
“The only way to successfully achieve this goal is to finally end national prohibition, enact sensible regulations at the federal level, and allow state cannabis laws to continue to operate nationwide. »