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DOJ to Reclassify Marijuana

18 Jun

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Update Applicable to:Deadline
All employersJuly 22, 2024


What happened?

On May 16, 2024, The Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a proposed rule to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule III controlled substance, emphasizing its currently accepted medical uses.


What are the details?

At present, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance alongside drugs such as heroin and LSD. If finalized, the rule would move the drug to a Schedule III substance, alongside drugs such as ketamine, anabolic steroids, and testosterone. The rule would not legalize marijuana federally. 

According to Reuters, “Reclassifying marijuana represents a first step toward narrowing the chasm between state and federal cannabis laws.


Key Bites

  • Based on Health and Human Services (HHS) medical and scientific determinations, and OLC’s legal advice, the Attorney General initiated the rulemaking process to transfer marijuana to Schedule III.
  • The procedure to change the classification of a controlled substance is a formal one, necessitating public notification, an opportunity for public feedback, and an administrative hearing. The report is subject to a 60-day public commentary period before it can be ratified.
  • The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will gather and consider information and views submitted by the public, to determine the appropriate schedule.
  • Until a final rule is published, marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance
  • Should the approval be granted, it might become necessary for employers to reevaluate their existing drug policies at the workplace. Despite marijuana remaining a controlled substance, its altered status could potentially require modifications in the way employers manage its usage among their staff.
  • The reclassification could potentially impact drug testing policies. Employers might need to reconsider how they approach marijuana use concerning employment decisions.
  • Marijuana’s Schedule I status complicates matters for employers and insurers dealing with workers’ compensation and auto injury claims. As more states legalize medicinal marijuana, potential conflicts with federal law arise when it is prescribed for claimant injuries.
  • If marijuana is recognized for its medical uses, employers may need to make accommodations for employees who are prescribed marijuana for medical purposes.
  • For federal employees and contractors, especially those in safety-sensitive positions, marijuana use may still be prohibited


Business Considerations

  • Employers should consider leaving a comment to the agency in its proposed rule to provide useful feedback about it. Use the following link and follow the instructions using the Regulation Tracking Number and Title of Proposed Rulemaking (DEA-1362; A.G. Order No. 5931-2024 Schedules of Controlled Substances: Rescheduling of Marijuana)
  • Employers should prepare to review and update their workplace drug policies to reflect the change in marijuana’s legal status if the classification changes.
  • Employers should prepare to update drug testing procedures reconsidering how to manage positive marijuana test results if the classification changes.
  • Employers should consider accommodations for employees who are prescribed marijuana for medical purposes (currently only applies to states where it is legal, but more states could potentially join).
  • Employers should stay informed about the rulemaking process and any changes in federal and state laws regarding marijuana.
  • Employers should consult legal counsel to understand the full implications of this change.
  • Employers should provide training to managers, supervisors, and HR personnel on how to manage situations related to marijuana use, such as impairment at work.


Source References

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This communication is intended solely for the purpose of conveying information. The present post might incorporate hyperlinks directing readers to websites managed by third-party entities. The inclusion of any links within this communication is meant to serve as points of reference and could encompass opinion articles from various law firms, articles from HR associations, official websites, news releases, and documents of government agencies, and other relevant third-party sources. Vensure has no authority over these external websites and bears no responsibility for their content. Furthermore, Vensure does not endorse the materials present on these websites. The contents of this communication should not be interpreted as legal advice or as a legal standpoint concerning specific facts or scenarios. Nor should it be deemed an exhaustive compilation of facts potentially pertinent to federal, state, or local laws. It is strongly advised that employers solicit legal guidance from an employment attorney when undertaking actions in response to any legal updates provided. This is due to the possibility of future alterations occurring in federal, state, and local laws, regulations, as well as the directives and guidelines issued by governing agencies. These changes may transpire at any given time, potentially rendering certain portions of the content within this update void or inaccurate.

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