FDA seeks comments about potential of removing marijuana from Schedule I drugs

October 17, 2018

Mark Schremmer


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration wants to know the potential impact that would be created if marijuana was no longer internationally classified as a Schedule I drug.

The FDA published a notice to the Federal Register on Oct. 10 asking the public to comment on potential scheduling changes to marijuana and several other controlled substances.

Current federal law and international drug policies consider marijuana a Schedule I drug.

“FDA is requesting interested persons to submit comments concerning abuse potential, actual abuse, medical usefulness, trafficking, and impact of scheduling changes on availability for medical use of 16 drug substances,” the notice stated. “These comments will be considered in preparing a response from the United States to the World Health Organization regarding the abuse liability and diversion of these drugs. World Health Organization will use this information to consider whether or recommend that certain international restrictions be placed on these drugs.”

The drugs under review include marijuana and several synthetic cannabinoids, fentanyls and other substances. Schedule I drugs are defined as “substances with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” In addition to marijuana, some current examples of Schedule I drugs include heroin, LSD, ecstasy and peyote. Meanwhile, cocaine and methamphetamine are listed as Schedule II drugs by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

The World Health Organization will meet from Nov. 12-16 in Geneva and make recommendations to the UN Secretary-General on the need for and level of international control of the substances under review.

It is unclear what effect removing marijuana as a Schedule I drug might have on the trucking industry. However, previous guidance from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration pointed to the significance of marijuana being listed as a Schedule I drug.

FMCSA’s frequently asked question section on its website answered last October whether or not the legalization of the use and possession of marijuana by a state changes the treatment of marijuana use under federal regulations applicable to commercial motor vehicle drivers.

“No. Marijuana, including a mixture or preparation containing marijuana, continues to be classified as a Schedule I controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration,” the FMCSA wrote. “Under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, a person is not physically qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle if he or she uses any Schedule I controlled substance, such as marijuana. In addition to the physical qualification requirements, the FMCSRs prohibit a driver from being in possession of or under the influence of any Schedule I controlled substance, including marijuana, while on duty, and prohibit motor carriers from permitting a driver to be on duty if he or she possesses, is under the influence of, or uses a Schedule I controlled substance.”

Comments on the FDA notice will be accepted through Oct. 31. As of the morning of Oct. 17, more than 2,300 comments had been submitted online.