Cannabinol (CBN): Is It Legal?

As different cannabinoids begin to gain recognition in the hemp and marijuana industries, it is crucial to discuss the legal considerations and challenges facing manufacturers, producers, retailers, and other cannabis-based businesses. In such a new space, promising cannabinoids have the potential to make a significant impact on the market. One of the cannabinoids gaining notable traction is known as cannabinol (“CBN”). Today on the blog, we review its legal status.

What is CBN?

CBN is a cannabinoid extracted from the plant Cannabis sativa L. that forms from the degradation of tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (“THCA”), or the more natural form of tetrahydrocannabinol (“THC”). CBN is more prevalent in aged cannabis, as it is the result of air and UV light exposure. This non-intoxicating cannabinoid is acquiring a reputation as “the sleep compound,” pursued for its sedative effects, but it may also be desired for potential antibacterial and neuroprotectant properties.   

What is a Controlled Substance? 

A controlled substance, as defined by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 (“CSA”), is a substance that is “in some manner regulated under existing federal law.” The possession of a controlled substance is subject to fines or detainment in prison by local, state, or federal law enforcement. Controlled substances are organized into lists of five different classifications, known as “Schedules”: 

  • Schedule I: no accepted medical use, regarded as unsafe, high potential for abuse (heroin, LSD, marijuana (THC), ecstasy, and others)
  • Schedule II: narcotics and stimulates with high potential for abuse, severe psychological or physical dependence capacity (hydrocodone, methadone, oxycontin, Percocet, morphine, opium, codeine, and others)
  • Schedule III: less potential for abuse, moderate to low physical dependence (Tylenol with codeine, ketamine, anabolic steroids)
  • Schedule IV: lower potential for abuse (Xanax, Klonopin, Valium)
  • Schedule V: contain limited amounts of narcotics (cough syrups that contain codeine)

As a standalone substance, CBN is not specifically scheduled under current federal law. However, the federal Controlled Substances Act’s definition of “marijuana” presents an issue for marijuana-derived CBN. Under the CSA, marijuana means “all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plants, its seeds or resin.” 21 U.S.C. § 802.

Is CBN Legal?

The question put simply: is CBN legal? That depends on the source. It is abundantly clear that CBN derived from hemp is legal, as the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (“the 2018 Farm Bill”) removed hemp from the CSA’s definition of marijuana. Under the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp is defined as “the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of that plant, including the seeds thereof and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids . . . with a delta-9 THC concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.” 7 U.S.C. §1639o. CBN is a naturally occuring cannabinoid in the hemp plant. 

Though CBN is not currently specifically scheduled under the CSA, there is no question that CBN derived from non-exempted portions of the marijuana plant is illegal. It is nearly impossible to produce viable commercial quantities of CBN from stalk and non-viable seeds of marijuana plants (the exempted portions). Thus, the CBN market is still in flux, but expect to see this cannabinoid become more prevalent as production mechanisms improve.

Our hemp lawyers work with a wide range of clients across the legal hemp, marijuana, and CBD industries. Here at Ritter Spencer Cheng PLLC, we stay up to date on the latest industry trends and topics to provide essential knowledge and expertise in an ever-evolving field. For legal counsel regarding your hemp, marijuana, or CBD business, contact Ritter Spencer Cheng or give us a call at 214.295.5070 for more information.