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DEA is one step closer to reclassifying marijuana

Proposed rule would move marijuana to Schedule III

Posted May 17, 2024

The Department of Justice is moving forward to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug.

A notice of proposed rulemaking was submitted by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to change marijuana’s classification from Schedule I to Schedule III under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The Department of Health and Human Services currently holds a view that marijuana has an accepted medical use and less potential for abuse than the drugs in Schedules I and II.

Once the proposed rulemaking is published in the Federal Register, stakeholders will have 60 days to submit commits for DEA’s consideration. However, marijuana remains on Schedule I during the rulemaking process. It will not be reclassified prior to a final rule published by DEA.

If DEA reclassifies marijuana as expected, it is unknown at this time how this change will affect 49 CFR Part 40, drug testing procedures for all modes under the Department of Transportation.

What are schedules of controlled substances?

The DEA classifies drugs in its regulations (21 CFR §§11308.11 through 1308.15) based on:

  • Whether the drug or substance has a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and
  • The drug or substance’s:
    • Relative abuse potential, and
    • Likelihood of causing dependence when abused.

Schedule I, the current placement for marijuana, is defined as having:

  • No currently acceptable medical use,
  • A lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and
  • A high potential for abuse.

Schedule II is identified as having a high potential for abuse, leading to severe psychological or physical dependence.

Schedule III, the proposed classification of marijuana, is described as having a potential for abuse less than substances in Schedules I or II, and abuse may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence.

DEA’s two remaining classifications include:

  • Schedule IV: Substances with a low potential for abuse relative to Schedule III, and
  • Schedule V: Substances with a low potential for abuse relative to Schedule IV and contain limited quantities of certain narcotics.

This article was written by Kathy Close of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

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