DEA Proposes Downgrading Marijuana to Schedule III; GA Governor Signs New Hemp Regulations

Cannabis leaves

April 30, 2024, was a landmark day for the cannabis industry and cannabis consumers in Georgia and throughout the rest of the country, as government officials announced major changes to the federal and state laws that govern cannabis, including marijuana and hemp.

At the federal level, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced its proposal to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule III controlled substance. As it currently stands, marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law, just like heroin and methamphetamine, meaning the federal government does not recognize any medicinal applications. Federal criminal laws also carry harsh penalties for possession and distribution of Schedule I substances, including long mandatory minimum prison sentences.

As a Schedule III controlled substance, marijuana will be treated like Tylenol with codeine and other prescription medication. That might resolve a dispute between the DEA and Georgia pharmacies that wish to sell medical THC oil. Reclassification to Schedule III will also increase research into the medicinal benefits of marijuana. And finally, marijuana companies will have an easier time accessing banking services.

Critically, possessing and distributing marijuana will still be a federal crime even if marijuana is reclassified to Schedule III. Rather than facing a mandatory minimum of ten years in prison, however, ten years would be the maximum. As such, we will likely see far fewer federal prosecutions for marijuana offenses, which have already been declining for several years now as the DEA has targeted other drugs. 

Marijuana will also remain illegal in the states where it is currently illegal, though little is expected to change in states that have legalized recreational or medical marijuana. While the DEA’s new proposal is not quite a revolution, it is a substantial reform, though it is unclear at this time whether President Biden will follow up with additional pardons and sentence commutations for people convicted of marijuana offenses.

On the same day, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed SB 494, a bill creating a regulatory framework for the purchase and sale of consumable hemp products like Delta-8, Delta-10, and other hemp-derived cannabinoids. The legislation is significant as it creates rules and regulations for a market of cannabis products in Georgia that are psychoactive. Essentially, it is legal to get “high” in Georgia with these products, even as marijuana remains illegal in the state. Our firm has covered the biggest changes coming in SB 494.

If your or a loved one has been charged with felony offenses relating to the distribution or sale of marijuana or hemp products, contact our firm. We’re ready to fight for you.


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