Is CBD a Schedule 1 Drug?
Recent changes to federal legislation categorized certain CBD products as Schedule 5 substances, which are considered to be the least dangerous and addictive.
Written by Cathy Rozyczko
Edited by Jason Brett on
September 27, 2021
The short answer: Yes…and no.
If you’ve been following the national conversation about cannabis, you may have felt confused at one point or another. The legalities that surround cannabis and cannabis-derived products like CBD oil are complex, and there’s a lot of conflicting information out there.
In September 2018, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) released an official statement, outlining their removal of “FDA-approved drugs that contain CBD derived from cannabis and no more than 0.1 percent tetrahydrocannabinols [THC]” from the list of Schedule 1 drugs. However, cannabis remains a Schedule 1 drug.
Don’t worry. Below you’ll find information on how marijuana and CBD fit into the DEA’s drug schedule and more importantly, learn whether purchasing CBD oil is the right—and legal—choice for your situation.
Schedule 1 vs. Schedule 5 Drugs
The DEA divides drugs, substances, and certain chemicals into one of five categories, or “schedules”. The DEA considers Schedule 1 (I) drugs to be the most dangerous and addictive and Schedule 5 (V) drugs to be the least, with Schedule 2 (II), 3 (III), and 4 (IV) drugs falling somewhere in between.
Schedule 1 drugs are defined as having no currently accepted medical use and the highest potential for abuse. Examples of Schedule 1 drugs include heroin, LSD, cocaine, methamphetamines, and cannabis.
The DEA defines Schedule 5 drugs as medications containing low quantities of narcotics (i.e. opioids) and having a relatively low potential for abuse. Some examples of Schedule 5 drugs include Robitussin AC, Lyrica, anti-diarrheal medications, and now Epidiolex, which contains CBD and is commonly used to treat epilepsy in children with Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.
CBD products can fall into either the Schedule 1 category or the Schedule 5 category depending on the ingredients, FDA approval, and perhaps most importantly, where they’re being purchased.
The First Schedule 5 CBD Product
Historically, any product containing an extract from the cannabis plant, like CBD oil, was classified as a Schedule 1 drug. Now though, there’s an exception.
The DEA announced in September 2018 that cannabis-derived CBD products could have Schedule 5 status, as long as they have:
- THC levels of 0.1% or lower.
- Been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Despite cannabis having been a Schedule 1 drug since 1970, the FDA approved Epidiolex, a CBD-based medication for epilepsy in June 2018. If the DEA had not made the above CBD reclassification in September, Epidiolex would not have been available under prescription. (It is for this same reason that physicians who practice in certain states are only able to recommend CBD to their patients, not prescribe it.)
Unfortunately, the FDA is very selective in which products it approves, and at the time of this writing, Epidiolex remains the only CBD product that falls into the Schedule 5 category.
Because cannabis and its derivatives are in the Schedule 1 category, non-Epidiolex CBD products are also considered to be Schedule 1 substances on the federal level (your state has the final say as to whether cannabis and CBD specifically are safe and legal for consumption—more on that below).
But cannabidiol is just one component of the whole cannabis plant, and it’s important to understand the distinction between the two.
CBD and Cannabis: What’s the Difference?
The Cannabis sativa plant can be broadly split into two varieties: hemp and marijuana. Both plants contain over 100 cannabinoids, including cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). While marijuana has a high THC content, hemp is richer in CBD. It’s THC that produces the intoxicating, high-producing effects felt by people who smoke marijuana. CBD, on the other hand, is not intoxicating and will not get you high.
CBD is extracted from the hemp plant, meaning it naturally contains low levels of THC. Furthermore, CBD product makers typically try to isolate the CBD as much as possible knowing they have customers who’d like the benefits of CBD without the high of THC.
Though, the very fact that CBD is derived from the cannabis plant places it into something of a legal quagmire, despite the fact that cannabidiol does not negatively impact your mental or physical capacities. For now, on the federal level, CBD oil and other cannabidiol products remain Schedule 1 substances (except for Epiliodex).
Federal Law vs. State Law
So, if most CBD products are classified as Schedule 1 drugs, why are they available for sale online, in wellness stores, coffee shops, and even certain Walgreens and CVS locations?
With the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill and an ever-growing amount of research being published about the potential health benefits and medical uses of CBD, many states have taken legalization into their own hands. Now, a majority of states have either decriminalized or legalized the use of cannabis products, including CBD oil.
State-Specific Laws on CBD
Depending on the state in which you live or in which you want to purchase CBD, the DEA’s drug scheduling system may be of the utmost importance, or it may not matter at all. In terms of CBD availability, states can be split into three groups: red states, amber states and green states.
Red states are in line with federal law, meaning any cannabis products, including CBD oil, are illegal. Currently, the red states are:
- South Dakota.
If you live in one of these three states, you won’t legally be able to purchase or consume CBD products. As more research is conducted and the stigma around CBD use continues to disappear, you could see a change in the (hopefully) near future.
Amber states allow some CBD products to be sold under certain conditions, specifically, for medical use. In order to legally purchase CBD oil in amber states, you may need to possess a medical marijuana card or have a prescription from your doctor. Currently, the amber states where it’s legal to purchase and use any cannabis product—including those with THC—for medicinal purposes are:
- New Hampshire.
- New Jersey.
- New Mexico.
- New York.
- North Dakota.
- Rhode Island.
- West Virginia.
Amber states where it’s legal to purchase cannabis only in the form of CBD products for medicinal purposes are:
- North Carolina.
- South Carolina.
So, if you live in an amber state, it’s especially important you be familiar with the laws specific to cannabis and CBD products. In some states, you can legally purchase any cannabis-derived products for medical reasons; in others, you can legally only purchase CBD products (with little to no THC) for medical reasons.
Green states are the most flexible of all and allow for the sale and consumption of cannabis and cannabis-derived products for medicinal and recreational purposes. Currently the green states include:
- Washington D.C.
If you live in one of these 11 states you can buy anything from ‘special,’ THC-infused brownies to CBD oil, as long as you meet the minimum age requirements. In green states, you will find CBD oil available in a large number of stores and will only need a photo ID in order to make a purchase.
Purchasing CBD in Your State
CBD is considered illegal under federal law, but your state’s laws take precedence.
If you live in a green state that allows for the sale and consumption of cannabis products for any reason, or an amber state that allows cannabis or CBD for medical reasons and you qualify, it’s perfectly legal for you to buy and use CBD products.
If you’re interested in using CBD oil or related CBD products and it is legal in your state, don’t hesitate to speak to your primary physician about it. You can also speak to a cannabis doctor for more information on using CBD to treat certain conditions.
The information contained in this page is meant to serve as an educational tool and should not be substituted for legal advice. While this article was correct at the time of publishing, it is wise to get up-to-date, state-specific legal information before making any CBD purchase.
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