Some bad news recently came in concerning the hemp industry. Delta 8 and Delta 9 classified as Schedule I drugs is a ruling recently confirmed by the DEA. Read on to find out more. 

Why Were Delta 8 and Delta 9 Classified as Schedule I Drugs?

So why were Delta 8 and Delta 9 classified as Schedule I drugs?

Every drug that’s on the market is classified according to a Drug Schedule. The schedule puts the drugs into 5 distinct categories depending on their medical use and their tendency for abuse. 

Schedule I drug substances are defined as drugs with no acceptable medical use and a high potential for abuse. Examples include heroin, meth, and ecstasy. 

There has been some talk of demoting marijuana so it wouldn’t be classified as Schedule I. But the latest from the DEA shows Delta 8 and Delta classified as Schedule I drugs. 

For those not familiar, the delta market refers to a group of cannabinoids chemically synthesized from legal hemp. Delta 8 THCO and Delta 9 THCO are the most common delta compounds on the market producing effects similar to Delta 9 THC which has specifically been called out by the Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule I drug. 

THCO – tetrahydrocannabinol-o-acetate, is a modified form of THC that’s been chemically altered by adding an acetyl group to the molecule. The molecule changes the way it’s metabolized and processed in the body making it longer-lasting and more potent than THC. 

The fact that it is created through chemical synthesis means it is not derived from hemp. As such,  delta 8 and delta 9 classified as Schedule I drugs.

And more than THCO, all delta products are produced synthetically. Therefore, they are unlikely to move past their Schedule I classification any time soon. 

What are the Current Laws Regarding the Drug Classification of Marijuana?

The current Farm Bill may provide insight as to why delta 8 and delta 9 Classified as Schedule I drugs.

The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the schedule I Controlled Substances Act. However, marijuana and hemp are different strains of the cannabis plant. 

The Controlled Substances Act originally made no distinction between marijuana and hemp, but the 2014 Farm Bill created a limited exception for the research of industrial hemp with included a part of the cannabis plant containing less than .3% THC. 

Then came the 2018 Farm Bill which dramatically expanded access to and the commercialization of hemp products. It also permits the eventual interstate shipment of hemp. 

People Argue Against Delta 8 and Delta 9 Classified as Schedule I Drugs

Many people thought that the language of the 2018 Farm Bill would extend to delta making it regulated and legal as it is a derivative of hemp. However, the DEA states that delta products are not naturally derived from hemp but must be chemically synthesized. Hence, they have not considered derivatives, and delta 8 and delta 9 classified as Schedule I drugs.

Because Delta THCO products are not the same as THC products, entrepreneurs have been working in a gray area as far as the sales, development, and marketing of THCO. But now the DEA has stepped forward to clarify its status. 

The DEA’s actions will restrict business owners’ ability to sell THCO products. This could spell bad news for the industry as Delta products have generated $2 billion in sales over two years. 

On the other hand, it will also limit the adverse outcomes related to THCO products. They are largely unregulated and have triggered over 104 adverse events including one death. They are a special concern in terms of exposure to underage children. 

As a result, some states have moved to regulate or banned delta products. 

Will Marijuana Become Descheduled or Rescheduled? 

With Delta 8 and Delta 9 classified as Schedule I drugs, we can only wonder what’s ahead. There has been some talk to reschedule or de-schedule marijuana entirely. 

On Oct. 6, 2022, President Biden issues a public statement on cannabis policy reform indicating that there may be a shift in how the substance is treated by federal law. He requested that the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the attorney general initiate a process to review the drug’s classification under schedule law leading to a potential rescheduling or de-scheduling. 

This is not the first time efforts have been made to reschedule or de-schedule cannabis but all previous efforts have been denied. 

If it goes through this time, it will be a lengthy process before anything is approved. The Controlled Substances Act will first need to conduct a trial-like rulemaking session spearheaded by the attorney general. Numerous federal agencies and the public will need to be brought into the mix. 

The process also requires scientific and medical evaluation regarding the substance’s pharmacological effects, health risks, and potential for abuse and dependence. 

Once the evaluation is complete, the HHS will provide recommendations as to the substance’s appropriate schedule. The recommendation must be made in writing and submitted to the  DEA which could take many years. 

If the DEA concludes that the HHS’s recommendations are substantial for reclassification, a formal hearing will take place. 

As you can see, rescheduling or de-scheduling a drug is not an easy process. For some historic context, the drug Marinol, which is prescribed to treat anorexia, took four years to move from Schedule I to Schedule II. And this was a case of a successful transition. 

Another drug, a cocaine derivative used to treat Parkinson’s has been considered for de-classification since 2018. The DEA did not receive a medical recommendation until 2021. Although a notice of proposed rulemaking was issued, there has been no update since. 

If marijuana is rescheduled or de-scheduled, the effects on  Delta 8 and Delta 9 classified as Schedule I drugs is still unknown.