A ruling by a Northwest District judge shows the need for the state to address whether cannabidiol, commonly known as CBD, should be considered a controlled substance.
Earlier this week, Judge Robin Schmidt refused to dismiss charges against the owner of two McKenzie County tobacco stores.
Falesteni Abuhamda was arrested in May and charged with delivery of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school, a Class A felony; possession of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school, a Class B felony; possession of hashish, a Class C felony; manufacturing of drug paraphernalia, a Class C felony; and two drug-related misdemeanors. The Northwest Narcotics Task Force claimed Abuhamda advertised and sold products containing CBD.
At the federal level, the DEA has claimed CBD is a controlled substance, but it is not at all clear that it should fall under that designation. By and large, products containing CBD have little to no THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
Many states have written laws specifically covering CBD, giving those with some chronic medical conditions access to the substance.
No such law exists in North Dakota, though.
Advocates of CBD claim it offers relief from a variety of ailments. There have been only limited studies of its effects, though, in part because of the unclear legal situation.
Abuhamda and his attorney, Deanna Longtin, made several arguments before Schmidt on Oct. 11. They claimed that CBD is not listed as a controlled substance by North Dakota, and so therefore isn’t illegal. Prosecutors contended that the state does regulate substances derived from the marijuana plant, as well as from the flowers and various parts of industrial hemp.
Abuhamda and his attorney have said the items came from the stalk of industrial hemp plants, which would make them legal, and that the state cannot prove they came from other parts of the plant.
In her ruling, Schmidt wrote that the only testimony presented was from a forensic scientist with the state’s crime lab, who said CBD wasn’t found in the stalk of the hemp plant, but only in the flowers and stems — parts of the plant covered by state law.
Because of that testimony and the fact she wasn’t persuaded by news articles submitted by the defense, Schmidt said Abuhamda’s trial should go forward as scheduled in December.
There are several opportunities to address any confusion about the status of CBD.
The state is still in the process of implementing its medical marijuana program, and there is the potential that rules from state agencies could allow CBD or other substances. If that is an option, it should be pursued.
If that isn’t possible, then legislators must act and either include CBD in its list of controlled substances or allow it to be used.
If the state wants to regulate products containing CBD, it has the right to do so. It would be a bitter irony, though, if a medical marijuana program supported by a huge majority left out CBD, making it effectively a controlled substance, given the possible benefits it could offer.