US Company Discovers CBD In Hops: FDA, DEA Unsure Of New Supplement Product

American company Isodiol may have found a way around the DEA and FDA stranglehold on access to cannabidiol.

Currently, federal law has seemingly outlawed cannabis in all forms, aside from industrial hemp, and even that definition is being argued in the case of the Hemp Industries Association vs. DEA. The hallmark of industrial hemp is less than .3% THC content in final products. However, there are also legal restrictions imposed on which parts of the plant may be used and—while CBD itself isn’t mentioned specifically—any part of the plant, including the resin from the stalk, is specifically made illegal. 

From the Controlled Substances Act: “The term ‘marihuana’ 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 plant, its seeds or resin. Such term does not include the mature stalks of such plant, fiber produced from such stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of such plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination.”

The 2014 Farm Bill legalized some cultivation of industrial hemp and included under definitions: “[T]he term ‘‘industrial hemp’’ means the plant Cannabis sativa L. and any part of such plant, whether growing or not, with a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.”

While many found these definitions and the legal fights to be a roadblock, Isodiol was able to see an opportunity. Christopher Hussey, Chief Communications Officer of Isodiol, said that the company realized that every definition that makes CBD illegal relies on it being sourced from cannabis.

“What few people are aware of is that cannabis isn’t the only species that produces cannabinoids,” Hussey said during a meeting at the Las Vegas-based MJBizCon in November. “There’s flax or Echinacea and now humulus—commonly known as hops, from our new ImmunAG CBD product. By finding CBD in hops we have found a way to provide legal CBD.”

What Hussey claims is true regarding cannabinoids being found in other plants. Cannabinoids exist beyond CBD and THC and are defined as compounds that act upon our endocannabinoid system. A corollary would be how endorphins from exercise are our body’s natural opiates and provide a pain-killing effect. They are chemically similar to natural endocannabinoids such as anandamide, which are made in the human body. Echinacea’s effect on the human immune system was previously a mystery, but recent discoveries have found that it acts on the endocannabinoid system to create its effects. Flax, liverwort, and even a cannabigerol (CBG)-like molecule found in a daisy relative (Helichrysum umbraculigerum) from South Africa contain cannabinoids.

What is unique about Isodiol’s claims and product is that they have apparently discovered the exact cannabidiol molecule made in cannabis in hops/humulus. 

Dr. Ethan Russo, former president of the International Cannabinoid Research Society and senior medical advisor for GW Pharmaceuticals, expressed uncertainty about how such a plant could be created.


“Hops (Humulus lupulus) is also from the Cannabaceae family, and the closest plant relative of cannabis. However, hops does not contain CBD naturally,” Russo said. “So, if there were hops that produced CBD, it would only be after it had been genetically modified artificially, a step that I certainly do not endorse. Alternatively, a hops extract might have CBD added, but that would be a marketing ploy with no real scientific, medical, or legal advantage in the end.”

Hussey said that Isodiol analyzed thousands of humulus varieties hoping to find a plant that produced CBD. He claimed that the company didn’t genetically modify the plants to create CBD, but did have the plants tagged with DNA identifiers for patent protection. Eventually the company found two varieties that produced trace CBD and are now used in their product. Hussey said that humulus or hop plants are already part of food and health supplements across the world and could be easily integrated. In addition to CBD, ImmunAG contains beta-caryophyllene and humulene—two terpenes commonly found in cannabis and hops.

Now that Isodiol has launched ImmunAG and entered the marketplace, it will be interesting to see if the FDA and DEA will view the legal definitions the same way. FDA spokesman Michael Felbebaum responded that he would be unable to speak about any individual products or the possible legal standing of CBD from any source. The DEA spokesperson said that the agency was previously unaware of the existence of such a product or hops plant, and that they were unable to comment on its possible legal status under federal law.

However, arguments made by the DEA during the Hemp Industry Association vs. DEA seem to show they believe the CSA only covers the constituents of the cannabis plant. An excerpt from the currently pending lawsuit: “Petitioners (Hemp Industry Association) also suggest that cannabinoids can be found in ‘several plant species besides cannabis,’ like coneflower, electric daisy, and liverwort. That observation is of limited relevance even if true, as the new code number applies only to extracts derived from a ‘plant of the genus Cannabis.’ If anything, the suggestion undermines petitioners’ contention that DEA’s rule seeks to ‘schedule cannabinoids.’ Petitioners do not claim that DEA has sought to restrict activity related to coneflower, electric daisy, or liverwort, which it presumably would do if those plants contained cannabinoids and if DEA truly sought to control cannabinoids themselves.”

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