The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently made headlines by proposing a significant change to the classification of marijuana. On May 16, 2024, the DEA issued a proposed rule to move marijuana from its current classification as a Schedule I drug to a Schedule III drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). This proposed change has the potential to reshape the landscape of marijuana regulation in the United States, with implications for businesses, researchers, and consumers alike.

Current Marijuana Landscape

Currently, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug at the federal level. This classification means that marijuana is considered to have no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse, placing it in the same category as substances like heroin and LSD. Despite this federal classification, 38 states have legalized marijuana for either medical, recreational, or both purposes. This divide between federal and state laws has created a complex legal environment for businesses and individuals involved in the cannabis industry.

Rescheduling Proposal

The DEA’s proposed rule seeks to reschedule marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III. Schedule III drugs are classified as having a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence, and examples include substances like ketamine and anabolic steroids. While rescheduling marijuana would loosen some of the restrictions imposed by its Schedule I classification, it would still be subject to federal regulatory controls under the CSA.

Implications of Rescheduling

If the proposed rule is finalized, marijuana would still be subject to federal regulations governing its manufacture, distribution, dispensing, and possession. Additionally, marijuana would remain subject to applicable provisions of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), requiring U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for products containing marijuana intended for interstate commerce. However, the proposed rule raises several questions about how federal regulations would interact with existing state laws and regulatory frameworks for marijuana.

Next Steps

The DEA is currently soliciting comments on the proposed rule, with a 60-day comment period beginning upon publication in the Federal Register, expected on May 21. Once the comment period ends, the DEA will review and respond to all comments received before developing a final rule. Given the significance of this proposed change, it is expected that the DEA will receive a large number of comments, leading to a lengthy rulemaking process.

Conclusion

The proposed rescheduling of marijuana by the DEA has the potential to impact various stakeholders across the cannabis industry and beyond. While the proposed rule represents a significant step towards reforming federal marijuana policy, it also raises important questions about how federal regulations will interact with state laws and industry practices. As the DEA moves forward with its rulemaking process, stakeholders should stay informed and engaged to ensure that their voices are heard in shaping the future of marijuana regulation in the United States.