Proposed Historic Shift in Federal Marijuana Classification Will Affect Marijuana Testing in Hiring

Marijuana Schedule III

In a groundbreaking move, the Biden administration is gearing up to significantly alter the federal government’s stance on marijuana. A proposed plan is on the table that aims to reclassify marijuana, no longer listing it among the most dangerous and addictive substances— a shift that could reshape decades of drug enforcement policy.

Decriminalizing Low-Level Offenses

Central to this plan is the push to expunge the criminal records of Americans charged with low-level marijuana offenses. This change seeks to eliminate the long-lasting impact these records have on individuals, often obstructing their opportunities for employment and hindering their ability to lead prosperous lives. The administration is clear in its intent to remove these barriers, allowing those affected to move forward without the burdens of their past mistakes.

A New Category for Marijuana

The proposal does not aim to legalize marijuana at the federal level outright. Instead, it suggests reclassifying marijuana from a Schedule I to a Schedule III drug. This reclassification would align marijuana with substances like ketamine, testosterone, and Tylenol with codeine, which are recognized for having moderate to low potential for dependence. By categorizing it as a Schedule III drug, marijuana could be lawfully prescribed as medication, opening new avenues for its use in medical settings.

Implications for Employment and Drug Testing

The administration’s plan draws a clear line regarding drug testing policies. For non-federal employers, the proposal carries an implicit warning: if they choose to continue marijuana testing in their hiring processes, consistency demands that they also test for all Schedule III drugs. This could lead to significant changes in employment drug testing practices across various industries. Now this does not mean you can be high at work, just as being drunk at work or zonked out due to medications (prescribed or over-the-counter) is not acceptable: in fact, it can be a major safety issue.

However, the bill maintains strict provisions for federal employees, particularly those in law enforcement or roles critical to national security and public safety. In these instances, drug testing for marijuana will continue, underscoring the government’s cautious approach to fully integrating this policy shift.

For companies who have strict policies on the use of legal medications, usually due to safety, please remember that the EEOC recognizes that the possession or sale of Schedule III drugs is legal with a valid prescription under the Controlled Substance Act. Additionally, the ADA would then require an employer to accommodate an individuals use of medical marijuana IF doing so would allow them to perform the essential duties of their job without creating an undue hardship for the employer.

Looking Ahead

As this proposal makes its way through the legislative process, it promises to spark a broad discussion on drug policy and its implications for society at large. By reevaluating how marijuana is classified and handled legally, the Biden administration is taking a pivotal step towards more sensible drug laws that better reflect the current understanding and societal attitudes towards marijuana.

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Wendy Sellers
Wendy Sellers, known as “The HR Lady®,” is a dedicated HR consultant and business partner of all size businesses, a conference speaker, and management trainer who specializes in understanding the unique culture and goals of organizations in order to improve business outcomes.

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