In a much-anticipated move, sources recently reported that the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) will recommend rescheduling cannabis from a Schedule I substance to a Schedule III substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act.[1] This recommendation will likely be based on the Health and Human Services Report, which evaluated scientific evidence of cannabis use for medical purposes and determined that cannabis does have accepted medical value with a higher safety profile than Schedule II medications.[2] The DEA’s recommendation is also in line with President Biden’s directive for the Federal government to take steps to review how cannabis is presently scheduled under federal law.[3] In response to the DEA recommendation, the White House Office of Management and Budget will review the recommendation. If approved, there will be a public hearing allowing experts and the public to weigh in on rescheduling. Absent any major meritorious objections, cannabis will then be rescheduled from a Schedule I substance to a Schedule III substance.Continue Reading Bridging the Gap: Cannabis Rescheduling to Align Policy with Research

On August 29, 2023, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) made a groundbreaking recommendation to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) – that cannabis should be rescheduled from Schedule I to Schedule III under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). This recommendation was made pursuant to President Biden’s request that the Secretary of HHS and the Attorney General initiate a process to review how cannabis is scheduled under federal law. In recent days, the unredacted 252-page analysis supporting the August recommendation was released pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request. While the DEA is presently reviewing HHS’s recommendation and has final authority to schedule a drug under the CSA, it is ultimately bound by HHS’s recommendations on scientific and medical matters.Continue Reading Cannabis Rescheduling: HHS Findings and Legal Implications

This article was originally published in the November/December issue of ELFA’s Equipment Leasing & Finance magazine.

In mid-July 2022, the United States House of Representatives passed provisions that would allow legitimate cannabis-related businesses to access federally regulated financial services. This marks the seventh time the House has approved a version of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act. The original version of federal cannabis banking reform was introduced nine years ago by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo). The passage of the SAFE Banking Act, either as stand-alone legislation or as amendments attached to must-pass bills, would prohibit federal banking regulators from penalizing a federally regulated depository institution for providing banking services to cannabis businesses. Presently, cannabis businesses are essentially deprived of federally regulated financial services, which include the ability to raise capital, obtain loans and process payment. Continue Reading Federal Cannabis Banking Reform: What Happened?

For many in the cannabis industry, April 1, 2022 is seen as a day of reckoning following the July 2021 passage of Assembly Bill 141 and Senate Bill 160 (collectively, the Cannabis Trailer Bill).  In an attempt to transition to an annual licensure program, April 1st marked the beginning of the end for provisional cannabis licensure.  It also ushered in significant changes to renewal process for previously granted provisional licenses.  These modifications now require applicants to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (Pub. Res. Code §§ 21000 et seq.) (CEQA), a complex statewide policy of environmental protection fraught with potential traps for those unversed in the law, before an operator is eligible to be awarded a cannabis state license.  This requirement alone carries the potential to create a much higher barrier to entrance into the cannabis market.
Continue Reading No April Fools: Starting April 1st, Cannabis Operators Face CEQA Compliance Requirements for State Licenses

Hope soared with the possibility of federal cannabis reform in 2021.  And for good reason – the induction of a new, more liberal administration, rapid state-level legalization, broad support by Americans,[1] and growing bipartisan backing led many to believe that 2021 was going to be the year where federal decriminalization of cannabis would become a reality.  But, as 2021 continued on, optimism dwindled as any advancement in federal cannabis reform was hobbled by the inability of Congress to agree on the appropriate level of reform and the proper mechanics for passage.  Specifically, tension rose amongst the elected Democrats on whether to support incremental reform (like access to banks or removal of cannabis from the list of Schedule 1 drugs) or comprehensive legalization with provisions to address social inequities stemming from the legacy of the War on Drugs.  And so 2021 came to an end, and the cannabis industry saw yet another year of failed meaningful change on the federal level.
Continue Reading Federal Cannabis Reform – Is 2022 the Year?