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Friday, August 19, 2016

Marijuana Remains an Illegal Drug

By: Thomas Eden

On August 11, 2016, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) denied two petitions to reschedule marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act. In addition, it announced a policy change to foster research by expanding the number of DEA-registered marijuana manufacturers (currently only the University of Mississippi is registered), and issued a statement of principles concerning industrial hemp.

Acting DEA Administrator Rosenberg stated that marijuana will remain a Schedule I drug because the research does not yet support a reclassification. More specifically, the DEA found that the current medical and scientific evidence demonstrates that marijuana has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. He stressed that the DEA supports legitimate medical and scientific research concerning the use of marijuana and will continue to do so and “if the scientific understanding about marijuana changes – and it could change – then the decision could change.”

DEA and USDA Issue Joint Statement of Principles on Industrial Hemp helpful in Alabama

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, in consultation with the DEA and the FDA, announced guidelines for entities who participate in the growth and cultivation of industrial hemp under the 2014 Farm Bill which allowed for universities and state departments of agriculture to begin cultivating hemp for limited purposes. Although hemp comes from the cannabis plant – as does marijuana – it generally contains smaller amounts of the psychoactive component tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Industrial hemp can be used to make food, fuel, fabric, plastics, construction materials, textiles and paper, among other things. In recent years, many state legislatures, including Alabama, have enacted laws to promote the development of industrial hemp production. The DEA’s statement of principles is intended to clarify how federal law applies to these activities and will allow Alabama to move forward quickly.

Common Sense Counsel: In plain speak, the drug testing law for employers with regard to marijuana has not changed and it remains illegal under federal law. Even though some states have enacted laws permitting the use of medical marijuana and recreational marijuana in certain circumstances, employers can still “not accommodate” its use. Employers faced with deciding whether to follow federal law or to comply with state laws, particularly in those 7 states that prohibit employment discrimination against those holding a medical marijuana card, should adopt a state compliant drug free workplace policy with the correct “safety sensitive” language.  The policy should also contain language in compliance with the new OSHA post-accident testing guidance. The local SHRM Chapter has a breakfast briefing on this topic on September 2. To Register:

Tommy Eden is a partner working out of the Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP offices in Opelika, AL and West Point, GA and a member of the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law and serves on the Board of Directors for the East Alabama SHRM Chapter. He can be contacted at or 334-246-2901. Blog at