By Adam R. Young, Daniel R. Birnbaum, and Craig B. Simonsen

Seyfarth Synopsis: On May 9, 2024, President Joe Biden announced that his administration has formally recommended relaxing restrictions on cannabis, marking the most significant federal policy shift on cannabis since the drug was criminalized more than 50 years ago.

The U.S. Department of Justice formally published its proposed rule to reclassify cannabis from the highly restrictive Schedule I tier under the federal Controlled Substances Act to the more loosely regulated Schedule III tier. “This is monumental,” Biden said in a video announcement.

The move has been seen as part of a larger push for marijuana reform by the current administration, an effort that has included presidential pardons for federal marijuana use and possession offenses. In announcing the administration’s new marijuana policy, Biden stated that the move aligned with his goal to lift barriers to employment for tens of thousands of Americans.

Following many state legalizations of medical and recreational marijuana, the federal rescheduling of cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act may be a step towards increased workplace impairment and positive drug tests.  It may also push both state laws and legal changes in a direction that restricts an employers’ ability to address possession and impairment at work.  But for now, the ramifications continue to be unclear and will be closely watched by our team. To ensure you are adequately minimizing legal exposure that may result from regularly shifting rules surrounding cannabis, contact your Seyfarth attorney.