The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Nevada isn’t accepting the Nevada Board of Pharmacy’s classification of cannabis: Despite legal cannabis for adults 21 and over in Nevada, the Board of Pharmacy continues to list cannabis as a schedule 1 substance—having no medical value.
A back-and-forth legal saga ensued, beginning earlier this year, when the ACLU of Nevada filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Cannabis Equity Inclusion Community (CEIC) and a man named Antoine Poole. The case, CEIC v. Nevada Board of Pharmacy, was first filed last April in Clark County court—saying the classification of cannabis defies the Nevada Constitution.
The CEIC is a nonprofit organization focused on policies that will make opportunities real and attainable for communities and people impacted by the War on Drugs. Poole was convicted of felony possession of a controlled substance for possessing cannabis—after it was legalized both for medical and recreational uses.
West Juhl is Director of Communications and Campaigns for the ACLU of Nevada, and believes the Board’s classification of cannabis is incongruent with the Nevada Constitution.
“It’s wrong as a matter of law, because our state Constitution specifically names a number of medical uses for cannabis,” Juhl told High Times. “The district court’s ruling was very clear in confirming this. I think it’s also wrong as a matter of commonsense. The people of Nevada have made it very clear that we want to regulate cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol and to move away from old, obsolete ideas about marijuana from the failed War on Drugs.”
In Nevada, the discord between the state’s Constitution and the Board’s policy mirrors the general discord between state and federal law in states with legal cannabis.
ACLU of Nevada Lawsuit Goes Through Appeal Process
The suit was met with pushback after gaining steam. Last November, Clark County District Court Judge Joe Hardy sided with the ACLU of Nevada ruling that classifying cannabis as a schedule 1 drug in Nevada is unconstitutional. Then the Nevada Board of Pharmacy appealed that District Court ruling shortly after.
Despite the appeals process, the ACLU of Nevada held their ground. “Despite Nevada voters’ approval of laws to legalize cannabis possession for medical and recreational use in 1998 and 2016, respectively, the Nevada State Board of Pharmacy has failed to honor the Nevada Constitution, Nevada Revised Statutes, and the will of Nevada voters,” the ACLU Nevada said in a press release.
“The idea that the Board of Pharmacy is fighting this, I think is legally ridiculous. There is no basis for it,” Matthew Hoffmann, Partner at Battle Born Injury Lawyers, told FOX5, explaining that the Nevada Constitution was amended in 1998—explicitly stating that cannabis has medical purposes.
Placing cannabis on schedule 1—as the federal government does—essentially means that the Board believes cannabis has more risk than fentanyl and other schedule II drugs. Hoffman said that the federal classification has no bearing on what a state agency does.
“It has been a loophole that has been leading to criminal arrests and convictions over the course of the last two decades,” Athar Haseebullah, Executive Director of the ACLU of Nevada, told FOX5. “Fentanyl is listed as a schedule 2 substance, methamphetamine and cocaine are listed as schedule 2 substances because according to the Nevada State Board of Pharmacy, cannabis appears to be of more risk than those substances,” Haseebullah said.
ACLU Chapters Active in Multiple States
In 2019, the ACLU of Pennsylvania sued Pennsylvania’s Lebanon County to allow parolees and probationers to consume cannabis. Despite legalizing medical cannabis in the state, Lebanon County originally chose to disregard state law.
Also in 2019, the ACLU of Arizona targeted the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. The ACLU sent a letter to Maricopa County Attorney General Bill Montgomery demanding his office no longer prosecute medical cannabis patients. The ACLU also demanded that Montgomery stop issuing threats to patients. Previously, Montgomery prosecuted and threatened licensed medical cannabis patients for possessing cannabis products sold at state-licensed dispensaries.
ACLU of Nevada’s lawsuit against the Nevada Board of Pharmacy remains ongoing.
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