Drug Enforcement Administration Signals Intent to Reschedule Marijuana

January 10, 2024

On Dec. 19, 2023, Michael Miller, acting chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Office of Congressional Affairs, penned a letter to Congress advising that DEA is currently reviewing the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) recommendations regarding rescheduling marijuana.

Miller declared that “DEA has the final authority to schedule, reschedule, or deschedule a drug under the Controlled Substances Act” (CSA). It appears that DEA may finally be prepared to move marijuana out of Schedule I into a lower-risk class of drugs, though the letter does not provide a time frame for DEA to conclude its review.

As McGuireWoods previously reported in November 2023, HHS recommended that marijuana be rescheduled under the CSA, from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule III drug. Schedule I drugs are defined to have no “accepted medical use and high potential for abuse,” like lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and heroin, whereas Schedule III drugs are defined to have “a moderate to lower potential for physical and psychological dependence,” and include certain over-the-counter pain relievers and anabolic steroids.

While rescheduling could be a potential boon to marijuana and marijuana-related businesses in the long run, it will increase Food and Drug Administration oversight of certain manufacturers and products, leading to some short-term headaches while regulations and guidance are drafted and adopted.

McGuireWoods attorneys continue to monitor developments in the marijuana and marijuana-related industry. If you have questions about navigating the complex regulations, please contact one of the authors of this article.