A new drug derived from marijuana led to a landmark change in the US government’s stance on cannabis in late September.
After being greenlighted over the summer as the first federally approved marijuana-based medication, an epilepsy drug calledEpidiolex triggered the nation’s top drug enforcer to change how it regulates CBD, the compound in marijuana not responsible for a high. It’s the first time in 46 years that the agency has shifted its stance on the marijuana compound.
The move was somewhat unexpected. Barbara Carreno, a representative for the Drug Enforcement Administration, told Business Insider in June that she expected the agency to reschedule CBD, not just federally approved drugs made with CBD.
But it appears that sea change may not occur after all. Only drugs with CBD already approved by the Food and Drug Administration will now be considered Schedule 5, the agency announced last Thursday.
Still, researchers, advocates, and entrepreneurs told Business Insider they thought the move was good news overall for patients and the CBD industry, which has been pegged as a roughly $1 billion business. Here’s why.
The move makes the medication available but limits research
Laura Lubbers, the chief scientific officer of a nonprofit called Cure that funds epilepsy research, told Business Insider that she was neither disappointed nor “necessarily pleased” with the DEA’s decision, but felt it was good news overall that Epidiolex, designed to treat two rare forms of epilepsy, could finally get into the hands of people who need it.
“I’ve had so many people asking me: ‘When is this coming?’ ‘When is this going to happen?'” Lubbers said.
Now that the DEA has made its decision, people can officially get Epidiolex with a doctor’s prescription.
But the research on CBD will continue to be limited, Lubbers said.
That’s because as it stands, CBD remains a Schedule 1 substance unless it’s in a federally approved medication. That means it’s still difficult for many researchers to access and study, Lubbers said.
If the agency had put CBD in the Schedule 5 category regardless of whether it’s in a medication, more people would be able to get their hands on it and research the compound’s potential benefits.
“CBD is already a precious commodity, and now it’ll be directed towards patients, which is good, but it’ll be harder for researchers to access and study it” than it would be if the DEA had fully rescheduled CBD, Lubbers said.
“I think the research will move forward but at a slower pace than people would want,” she added.
The DEA’s move could help keep unvetted products off the market