DEA Issues Proposed Rule to Reschedule Marijuana to Schedule III Controlled Substance.  The Drug Enforcement Administration has released a proposed rule to transfer marijuana from schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”) to schedule III of the CSA, consistent with the view of the Department of Health and Human Services that marijuana has a currently accepted medical use as well as DHHS’s views about marijuana’s abuse potential and level of physical or psychological dependence. The CSA requires that such actions be made through formal rulemaking on the record after opportunity for a hearing.

DEA says that if marijuana is transferred into schedule III, the manufacture, distribution, dispensing, and possession of marijuana would remain subject to the applicable criminal prohibitions of the CSA, but presumably as a lesser offense. Any drugs containing a substance within the CSA’s definition of “marijuana” would also remain subject to the applicable prohibitions in the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

In addition, any final rule rescheduling marijuana to schedule III would not affect workers, including commercial truck drivers, who are subject to the Transportation Department’s prohibitions against use of marijuana and DOT’s drug testing requirements.

Comments on the proposal will be due 60 days after notice is published in the Federal Register.

Marijuana has been listed in schedule I since the CSA was enacted in 1970; other drugs in schedule I include heroin, ecstasy, and LSD.   The Justice Department, of which DEA is a subagency, has authority to amend the classification.  Although in 2016 DEA denied two petitions to reschedule marijuana, in 2023 HHS conducted a scientific and medical evaluation of marijuana based on a comprehensive review of available data at that time and recommended that marijuana be transferred to schedule III.

The American Trucking Associations has voiced concerns that the Department of Transportation’s testing regulations only allow testing for drugs listed in Schedules I or II; if marijuana is reclassified to Schedule III, it could impact the ability of DOT to mandate testing of transportation workers, including truck drivers, for marijuana.

PHMSA Proposes Increases in Hazmat Registration Fees.  The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has published a proposed rule to increase the annual registration fees paid by shippers and carriers of hazardous materials.

PHMSA’s proposal would increase the annual fee to be paid by those registrants qualifying as a small business or not-for-profit organization from $250 to $375 and by those registrants not qualifying as a small business or not-for-profit organization from $2,575 to $3,000.  The definition of a small business is found here–size standards vary by industry and are generally based on the number of employees or the amount of annual receipts the business has.

The agency states that fee adjustments are necessary to fund PHMSA’s Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness grants program at newly authorized levels in accordance with the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (Pub. L. 117–58), which increased the amount of revenue that may be raised by the registration fees from $28,318,000 to $46,825,000 per year.

Federal law states that no registrant may pay more than $3,000 in fees per year, so the fees for large businesses are capped at $3,000.  NPTC worked with a coalition of associations to keep the small business fees limited to no more than $500 annually.

PHMSA has also proposed to implement an electronic-only registration fee payment process. Finally, PHMSA proposed to revise requirements to clarify that a certificate of registration may be carried in either electronic or paper form for both motor carriers and those who transport hazardous materials by vessel.

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