Is CBN a Controlled Substance? Yes. No. Maybe.

Earlier this year, we discussed the legality of lesser-known hemp-derived cannabinoids which appeared to be gaining success in the U.S. One of these promising cannabinoids is cannabinol (“CBN”). Put simply, CBN is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid that results from the degradation of THC. Because it is difficult, if not impossible, to grow CBN-rich strains of hemp, most of the CBN found on the U.S. market is the product of decarboxylation — a chemical reaction that converts other cannabinoids, such as CBD and THC, into CBN. This conversion process creates some confusion regarding the legal status of CBN.

Although CBN is not expressly listed under the federal Controlled Substances Act (the “CSA”), the cannabinoid is a Scheduled I controlled substance when derived from marijuana. The CSA defines “marihuana” to mean “all part of the cannabis plant” except the stalks and non-viable seeds. Because neither the stalks nor non-viable seeds contain meaningful amounts of cannabinoids, CBN squarely falls under the definition of marijuana, and as a result, is a controlled substance.

On the other hand, CBN derived from hemp is not a controlled substance, and thus, may be lawful. This is true for two reasons. First, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018


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