DEA Internal Directive Regarding the Presence of Cannabinoids in Products and Materials Made from the Cannabis Plant
(May 22, 2018)
In 2004, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit enjoined DEA from enforcing certain regulations with respect to tetrahydrocannabinols (THC). See Hemp Industries Ass'n v. DEA, 357 F.3d 1012 (9th Cir. 2004). The government did not seek Supreme Court review of that decision. In response to various inquiries, DEA hereby issues to DEA personnel the following internal directive on how to carry out their duties in light of the Ninth Circuit's decision.
The Ninth Circuit enjoined enforcement of what is now 21 C.F.R. § 1308.11(d)(31) (drug code 7370) with respect to products that are excluded from the definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). DEA thus does not enforce that provision as to such products.
Consistent with the Ninth Circuit's decision, DEA does not enforce 21 C.F.R. § 1308.35.
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 Controlled Substances Import and Export Act incorporates the schedules of the CSA. See generally 21 U.S.C. §§ 951-971. Accordingly, any product that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection determines to be made from the cannabis plant but which falls outside the CSA definition of marijuana may be imported into the United States without restriction under the Controlled Substances Import and Export Act. The same considerations apply to exports of such products from the United States, provided further that it is lawful to import such products under the laws of the country of destination.
This directive does not address or alter DEA's previous statements regarding the drug code for marijuana extract and regarding resin. See Final Rule: Establishment of a New Drug Code for Marihuana Extract (PDF) (December 14, 2016), 81 Fed. Reg. 90194; Clarification of the New Drug Code (7350) for Marijuana Extract. As DEA has previously explained, the drug code for marijuana extract extends no further than the CSA does, and it thus does not apply to materials outside the CSA definition of marijuana.