In May 2017, two U.S. Senators, Feinstein and Grassley, introduced the Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act S.1276, to the Senate. The act suggests that the government allows research on the medical benefits of cannabidiol (CBD) using Schedule II registration.
The Controlled Substances Act current lists cannabis and its CBD chemical components as Schedule I substances. This is the same categorization as cocaine and heroin.
Moving marijuana and CBD off Schedule I seems like a move in the right direction. The main goal of proposed act is to remove unnecessary barriers to studying CBD’s potential benefits and risks. At least, this is the perspective of Senator Thom Tillis, one of the co-sponsors of the bill.
Yet, there is a much bigger impact that this law would have on the industrial hemp industry. Furthermore, it may give Big Pharma more control over the medical marijuana market.
The Threat to Industrial Hemp
First, let’s consider industrial hemp. The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2015 allows U.S. states to establish industrial hemp research or pilot programs. It also authorizes the study of the potential for the hemp industry. Because CBD can be found in high concentrations in hemp, there are many medical applications.
Such a pilot program is currently underway in North Carolina. Participating farmers have expressed concern about reclassifying CBD. They believe it would threaten their ability to obtains seeds and continue their study of hemp. Brian Morris, owner of Carolina Hemp Co. in Asheville, revealed to ABC affiliate WLOS:
“It would make it probably impossible to get seeds or clones again, and, if we did so, it would be illegal to plant it.”
“It should be descheduled, not rescheduled to study only. That would kill the entire industry, not just the farmers, but, people like us in our company. We wouldn’t be able to sell it.”
Hemp and medical marijuana are essentially the same plant, Cannabis Sativa. Hemp contains only trace amounts of the psychoactive chemical THC. Therefore, farmers grow hemp mainly for industrial uses. Medical marijuana is different because growers breed it for its resinous glands. These glands contain high amounts of THC.
Regardless of their THC content, both types of Cannabis Sativa plant contain CBD. Therefore, CBD law would affect both hemp and medical marijuana initiatives.
Big Pharma Looks to Gain
The Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act states:
…the term “authorized medical research” means medical research that is — (B) conducted by a covered institution of higher education, practitioner, or manufacturer that is appropriately registered under the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801 et seq.)
Considering the wording of the proposed act, it’s likely to put future CBD research in the hands of pharmaceutical companies. Consequently, CBD would reside in Schedule II prescription status, alongside drugs like methadone, oxycodone, fentanyl and morphine.
The measure would require the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services to complete an analysis of the potential therapeutic value of CBD within one year from the bill’s passage; create a pathway for commercial production of pharmaceutical drugs containing CBD; and require the Department of Health and Human Services to expand research on CBD and other non-psychoactive components of cannabis.
Under the measure, accredited research institutions, medical schools, and practitioners – in addition to pharmaceutical companies – could apply to conduct CBD medical research. (source)
As in the words of Brian Morris, maybe this new change isn’t really the best option.
“Americans have enough sense, you know, to think this through for themselves and realize that, maybe, they’re being fed something that hasn’t really worked out so well, and we need to rethink this,” Morris stated to WLOS.
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