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HHS Releases Full Letter Recommending Cannabis be Removed from Schedule I

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has officially released the full version of its analysis and recommendation that cannabis be rescheduled from Schedule I to Schedule III under the Controlled Substances Act.

The move comes after HHS released a heavily redacted version of the recommendation letter late last year. Now, litigation seeking the full text of the recommendation under the Freedom of Information Act has prompted HHS to preemptively release the letter in its entirety.

The full letter contains a single page statement on HHS’s recommendation to follow a prior determination by the Food and Drug Administration that cannabis be rescheduled from Schedule I to Schedule III. This brief statement is followed by more than 250 pages of studies analyzing the health effects and impacts of cannabis and supporting HHS’s recommendation.

In its recommendation letter, HHS concluded that there are significant connections between cannabis use and the alleviation of symptoms for patients with a wide range of ailments and conditions. In particular, the studies, “…confirm[] that more than 30,000 HCP’s are certified to recommend the use of marijuana for more than six million patients, constituting widespread clinical experience.” The recommendation letter further stated cannabis is a, “…currently accepted medical treatment in the United States” and “has a potential for abuse less than the drugs or other substances in Schedule I and II.”

Cannabis is currently a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning it has no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. If moved to Schedule III, cannabis would be reclassified as having some currently accepted medical benefit and moderate potential for abuse.

Now, final review of the recommendation heads over to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) which has final authority when determining what, if any, are the appropriate changes for rescheduling cannabis. The DEA is currently conducting its own highly anticipated review of that issue and is expected to release its findings in the coming months.

The change of cannabis from Schedule I to III would represent a monumental shift in federal law and policy. With momentum building, employers and businesses should consult experienced counsel better understand and prepare for the implications on their employment policies, advertising and marketing strategies, and general business operations to prepare for the DEA’s forthcoming review.

With a practical approach, Chad provides compliance guidance and litigation defense on matters related to cannabis, advertising and marketing, teleservices, and other consumer protection issues.

2560 1707 Walter (Chad) Blackham
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