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DEA Moves to Lower Restrictions on Medical Marijuana

medical marijuana and a doctor's prescription

A historic shift in the nation’s drug policy may be in store, making marijuana use for medical reasons less tightly restricted, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA’s) recommendation is pending approval by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Under the proposal, which must go through the regulatory review and comment process, marijuana would be reclassified from a Schedule I drug—the same designation as heroin and LSD—to Schedule III, a grouping of drugs such as anabolic steroids and ketamine. Reclassification would not make recreational use of marijuana legal.

The change in classification could impact job seekers and employers. Currently, applicants testing positive for prohibited substances, including marijuana, often are dropped from consideration by employers.

There are exceptions, though. In the U.S., 38 states, three territories and the District of Columbia allow the medical use of cannabis products, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. More than 20 states allow its recreational use.

Under Pennsylvania law, for example, employers cannot legally reject an applicant based solely upon their status as a holder of a medical marijuana card, notes the National Association of Colleges and Employers. The information cannot be used in the pre-employment hiring process.

Nearly half of U.S. residents live in states where marijuana is legal, and companies struggle to understand what they’re allowed to accept within the confines of the workplace.

We’ve collected the following news articles and resources to provide more context on marijuana in the workplace.

[SHRM resource page: Marijuana & the Workplace]


Biden Administration Aims to Reclassify Marijuana as Less Dangerous Drug

A proposal might not be made public for weeks, and it couldn’t immediately be determined how much the Biden administration would seek to relax restrictions. The rule would need to work its way through the government’s regulatory-approval process, something that could take months.

Other agencies would get a chance to weigh in on drug officials’ proposed language before it is published. Then the public, including state regulators and marijuana companies, would get a chance to comment. The White House would have to sign off on a final version of the rule before it can go into effect.

(The Wall Street Journal)


FDA Says Marijuana Has Legitimate Medicinal Purpose

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration released a report in March saying that marijuana does have a legitimate use for medical purposes and recommended the Drug Enforcement Agency change its classification from Schedule I to Schedule III.

(ABC Action News)


Marijuana Could Be Rescheduled: Would That Make It Legal Nationwide?

Even if marijuana is rescheduled, it would still be a controlled substance that’s subject to federal rules and regulations. More importantly, rescheduling does not decriminalize marijuana or make it legal for recreational use on the federal level.

Instead, the DEA’s proposal would recognize the medical uses of cannabis and acknowledge it has less potential for abuse than some of the nation’s most dangerous drugs. Becoming a Schedule III drug would make it easier for research to be done on marijuana, as well.

(The Hill)


Current Laws on Medical Marijuana

U.S. federal law prohibits the use of whole plant cannabis sativa or its derivatives for any purpose. In contrast, CBD derived from the hemp plant (with less than 0.3 percent THC) is legal under federal law. Many states allow THC to be used for medical reasons. Federal law regulating marijuana supersedes state laws. Because of this, people may be arrested and charged with possession even in states where marijuana use is legal.

(The Mayo Clinic)



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