The Nevada chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit to remove cannabis from the state’s list of controlled substances, arguing that law enforcement agencies continue to arrest and prosecute people for marijuana despite legalization.
“State law — and the will of Nevada voters — is clear that cannabis is legal to possess and use for medicinal and recreational purposes,” the Nevada ACLU said in a statement on Monday. “Yet state agencies, including the Nevada State Board of Pharmacy, continue to list it as a Schedule I substance alongside meth, heroin, and cocaine.”
In a lawsuit filed last Friday with Clark County’s Eighth Judicial District Court, attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada Foundation note that the Nevada Board of Pharmacy continues to list cannabis and cannabis derivatives as Schedule I controlled substances, despite the legalization of both medical marijuana and adult-use cannabis for adults. The Cannabis Equity and Inclusion Community, a nonprofit organization focused on creating policies that foster restorative justice for communities harmed by the failed War on Drugs, and Antoine Poole, an individual who was convicted of felony possession of a controlled substance in 2017 for possessing marijuana after it was legalized, are the named plaintiffs in the legal action.
In 2000, voters approved an amendment to the Nevada Constitution to legalize medical cannabis that specifically acknowledged the medical value of cannabis. In 2016, voters further liberalized the state’s cannabis laws with the passage of a ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana.
For cannabis to remain as a Schedule I controlled substance, the Board of Pharmacy must maintain that cannabis has no medical value or cannot be safely distributed. But the ACLU notes that the Nevada Constitution explicitly allows for the “use by a patient, upon the advice of his physician, of a plant of the genus Cannabis for the treatment or alleviation of cancer, glaucoma, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome… or other chronic or debilitating medical conditions.”
“Unfortunately, the Nevada Board of Pharmacy has failed to amend its schedule of controlled substances to keep pace with the changes in Nevada law; the schedule is now in violation of our state’s constitution and statutes,” the lawsuit states.
Nevada ACLU Wants Cannabis Off Controlled Substances List
The suit asks the court to compel the pharmacy board to remove cannabis from Nevada’s list of controlled substances. ACLU of Nevada Attorney Sadmira Ramic said that the failure to remove cannabis from the state’s list of controlled substances is contrary to the will of the people.
“Police departments and district attorneys in Nevada have wasted an immense amount of taxpayer dollars by seeking criminal convictions and penalties for small-time cannabis possession,” Ramic said. “Despite Nevada voters’ explicit desire to have cannabis treated like alcohol, it is readily apparent that they are treated very differently. The failure to remove cannabis as a Schedule I substance not only goes against voters’ will, but it violates the Nevada Constitution which unequivocally recognizes cannabis’s medical value.”
Cannabis Equity and Inclusion Community founder A’Esha Goins leads efforts at the nonprofit group to advocate for communities disproportionately impacted by the drug war, including helping those with past cannabis convictions clear their records through expungement. But state policies are leading to more people for the organization to help.
“As long as the Pharmacy Board has it scheduled as Schedule I, then it is an initiator for the police to keep putting people in jail for possession,” Goins told local media. “I’m frustrated, but the issue is it’s compactive, right? In so much trauma to not just them but their family. So it has to change.”
“We’re consistently fighting for policy changes that will ensure freedom for Black and Latinx people that choose cannabis as a treatment,” Goins said in the statement from Nevada ACLU. “It’s disheartening that we are four years after legalization and we’re still dealing with policies that can derail people’s lives over cannabis possession. The classification of cannabis as a Schedule I substance must be stopped.”