Nevada pharmacy board’s regulatory role over Cannabis in limbo

Nevada pharmacy board’s regulatory role over Cannabis in limbo

Nevada Supreme Court Weighs Lawsuit Challenging Cannabis Regulation Authority.

Nevada Supreme Court justices are weighing arguments in a lawsuit that seeks to remove the Nevada Board of Pharmacy from its administrative role in regulating cannabis.

The ACLU of Nevada originally filed the case in 2022 on behalf of the Cannabis Equity & Inclusion Community, a nonprofit group that advocates for policies beneficial to Nevada’s legal cannabis community, in Clark County District Court arguing the pharmacy board’s classification of cannabis as a Schedule I drug was unconstitutional.

District Judge Joe Hardy ruled in favor of the ACLU, determining the pharmacy board’s classification as unconstitutional, but the board appealed the decision to the state’s top court. Arguments were heard Tuesday; it’s unknown when a decision will be handed down.

Nevada Administrative Code classifies marijuana as a Schedule I substance, along with other drugs like methamphetamine and heroin. This classification is defined as substances with high-potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.

The pharmacy board, which functions under the state’s executive branch and is made up of unelected members, decides how substances are scheduled. The board cannot license anyone in the state to sell marijuana. That’s handled by the Cannabis Compliance Board, which was created in 2019 to handle regulations.

This separation is part of what should disqualify the board from making decisions on the drug’s classification, argued ACLU Nevada’s legal director Chris Peterson.

Because medical cannabis is legal in Nevada, the ACLU said the board’s classification is now outdated. Medical marijuana has been regulated in dispensaries here since 2014; legal recreational marijuana since 2016.

“The reality is we’re simply trying to drag the executive branch into the modern world that we’re living in,” Peterson said.

The pharmacy board asserted that the District Court’s ruling in favor of the ACLU was “detached from principles of federalism.” Marijuana is still illegal federally.

The board also cited Senate Bill 277 passed by the 2023 Legislature directing the Cannabis Advisory Commission to study potential effects of cannabis being removed from Schedule I classification. The board maintained the Legislature would not ask for a report on potentially removing the substance from Schedule I if the classification had been unconstitutional.

“Why would the Nevada Legislature in 2023 commission a study on the potential impact of removing marijuana from NAC 453.510 at some point in the future if this had already occurred by passage of the Nevada Medical Marijuana Initiative in 2000?” the pharmacy board said in its brief to the court.

If the court rules the scheduling unconstitutional, it could allow cannabis-related convictions due to scheduling to be overturned, Peterson said.

“I think it won’t solve the harm it’s done to people over the years, but at least it gives people a place to start moving forward with their lives after carrying a conviction like that on their record,” Peterson said. “The reality is we’re simply trying to drag the executive branch into the modern world that we’re living in.”

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Region: Nevada

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