Earlier today, on August 30, 2023, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officially recommended that cannabis be moved from Schedule I to Schedule III under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) – a landmark recommendation from HHS which indicates that HHS no longer considers cannabis to be a drug with high abuse potential and no medical value.
After completing a scientific review into cannabis per a requested review from the Biden Administration, HHS advised the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that it believes marijuana should be placed in Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act.
Note, HHS’s recommendation is NOT binding on the DEA but given the report’s findings and growing public sentiment is likely that the DEA agrees with the recommendation and shifts its policy.
Historically, cannabis has been federally prohibited as a Schedule I controlled substance. As noted by many pundits, the rescheduling to Schedule III would have major implications for researchers who have long criticized the Schedule I classification that creates significant barriers to access for studies.
For researchers, this change would likely mean that they would no longer need to go through the onerous registration process with the DEA in order to access cannabis for studies as a Schedule III drug. The shift to Schedule III would also enable various federal tax deductions to become applicable to the cannabis industry and unlock value for them that is currently stuck in an onerous tax structure under the Internal Revenue Code. Schedule III drugs are not subject to the same onerous structure under federal rules.
The cannabis ball is now firmly in the DEA’s court as the DEA has the final authority to schedule a drug as Schedule III rather than Schedule I under the CSA (or transfer a controlled substance between schedules or remove such a drug from scheduling altogether).
Parting Hits – With Congress due to reconvene after Labor Day, and the Biden Administration looking for a win on moving this issue along, look for pressure to continue to mount for some type of Congressional action in the Banking arena under a SAFE legislation bill and for the DEA to move through their rule making process in a swift and firm manner.
Duane Morris has a full service cannabis group that helps clients and investors in a wide array of cannabis-related issues including, but not limited to, licensing, fundraising, intellectual property protection and real estate. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Brad Molotsky or the attorney with whom you regularly communicate at Duane Morris.