DOJ Plans to Reschedule Cannabis

In a historic move, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which operates under the U.S. Department of Justice, moved on April 30 to reclassify marijuana as a lower-risk substance. The proposal comes after President Joe Biden asked the federal Health and Human Services Department and Attorney General Merrick Garland to review how marijuana is classified.

The DEA recommended cannabis be rescheduled from a Schedule I substance to a Schedule III controlled substance. Currently, marijuana is grouped with drugs including heroine, LSD and ecstasy. If reclassified, it would join “drugs with a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence,” according to the DEA; such drugs include Tylenol with codeine, ketamine and testosterone.

Attorney General Merrick Garland submitted the rescheduling proposal to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review on April 30. From there, the proposal will undergo a 60-day public comment period, be reviewed by an administrative law judge and go through a hearing before it’s potentially approved.

The rescheduling does not affect marijuana’s legal status. However, while cannabis won’t be decriminalized or legalized on the federal level, its reclassification will ease legal business surrounding it.

 

Gov. Hochul Orders an Overhaul of the OCM

On Friday, Governor Kathy Hochul directed an operational overhaul of the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM). The overhaul follows the release of a 30-day assessment that identified significant structural limitations to the OCM that have affected the agency’s ability to fulfill its mandate to efficiently establish New York State’s cannabis marketplace.

The actions announced by the governor include:

  • Launching an enforcement task force to close illegal cannabis retail stores.
  • Fixing the internal licensing process and clearing the backlog for retail establishments who were required to apply with site control.
  • Committing to putting in place a service-level agreement to allow for completion of retail license applications within 90 days for future application windows.
  • Creating new communications tools, including regulatory bulletins and public dashboards to improve customer service.
  • Launching OCM cannabis map to improve the transparency surrounding licensed retail locations in summer 2024.
  • Adding staff to licensing, compliance and enforcement teams.
  • Strengthening agency foundations and management including hiring senior positions for customer service, internal controls and audit and operations.
  • Creating a 5-year strategic plan for the OCM.

The Gov. Hochul also announced the establishment of a $5 million grant program to help CAURD licensees and previewed the launch of the Cannabis Enforcement Task Force, which is set for this week. The Task Force is a major statewide effort to coordinate staff from several agencies to combat the illicit cannabis market. Through collaboration between the State Police, OCM, local law enforcement and other state agencies, the task force will be well equipped to tackle the full scope of illegal cannabis activity. OCM will also lead a robust civil enforcement effort with more than 150 inspectors from OCM, the Department of Taxation and Finance and other state agencies dedicated to padlocking as many illicit cannabis stores as possible over the next 90 days.

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