DEA Classifies Novel Cannabinoids Delta-8 and -9 THC-O As Controlled Substances

February 14, 2023

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) stated that two cannabinoids that have emerged in state markets do not meet the federal definition of legal hemp. Therefore, they are considered illegal controlled substances.  Delta-8 THC-O and delta-9 THC-O “do not occur naturally in the cannabis plant and can only be obtained synthetically, and therefore do not fall under the definition of hemp.”

The the failure by the DEA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)  to create regulations after the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill (which legalized hemp containing up to 0.3 percent delta-9 THC on a dry weight basis) has led to confusion in the marketplace for natural and synthetic cannabinoids.  While delta-9 THC and delta-8 THC are legal, producers and processors of hemp are extracting and/or synthesizing many other cannabinoids.  The DEA states to know what is legal “requires a cannabinoid-by-cannabinoid analysis.”

Questions remain on the safety of these new cannabinoids, with most industry advocates calling for more regulations and/or guidance from the federal agencies.  For its part, the FDA has been looking to collect additional data to fill in gaps in evidence about the safety of cannabis-derived products.

The only true answer to what is legal and what isn’t will occur when cannabis is legalized at the federal level.

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