Cannabis Equity & Inclusion Community v. Nevada Board of Pharmacy
What's at Stake
Nevadans, like voters in many states, have chosen to legalize marijuana for medicinal and recreational use. In Nevada, these changes—adopted through citizen ballot initiatives and, in the case of medical marijuana, enshrined in the Nevada Constitution—were intended to ensure that marijuana is regulated much like alcohol and that law enforcement resources are focused on violent crime, not the prosecution of non-violent drug offenses. Despite these legal changes, Nevada’s Board of Pharmacy continues to regulate marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance for purposes of state law, akin to the Board’s treatment of cocaine and fentanyl. The Board’s scheduling designation for marijuana has enormous implications for criminal defendants in Nevada since state law makes it a felony to possess or engage in certain other activity with respect to a Schedule I controlled substance, as designated by the Board.
This case, brought by an individual and organization harmed by the Board’s scheduling designation for marijuana, involves the question whether the designation violates the Nevada Constitution and state statutes. The ACLU of Nevada is counsel in the case, and the ACLU’s State Supreme Court Initiative is co-counsel on appeal.
Voters legalized medical use of cannabis in Nevada through a ballot initiative in 2000 that is now enshrined in the Nevada Constitution under article 4, section 38. Voters also legalized cannabis for recreational usage in Nevada in 2017.
However, despite the clear will of voters, Nevada’s State Board of Pharmacy, which is led by unelected officials, continues to regulate cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance.
Cannabis Equity & Inclusion Community (CEIC) and Antoine Poole are among those Nevadans harmed by the Board’s scheduling determination for cannabis. They sued the Board in Nevada state court, seeking a writ of mandamus requiring the Board to remove its designation of marijuana as a Schedule I substance, along with declaratory and injunctive relief. The Eighth Judicial District Court of Clark County granted relief. It concluded that the Board’s scheduling designation, which rested on the Board’s conclusion that marijuana has no accepted medical value, was inconsistent with the Nevada Constitution, which expressly recognizes marijuana’s medical use. Further, the court concluded that the statutory regime created by voters when they legalized recreational marijuana use had displaced any authority the Board once had to regulate marijuana. The Board appealed.
Together with the ACLU of Nevada, the ACLU’s State Supreme Court Initiative is co-counsel for CEIC and Mr. Poole on appeal. Briefing in the appeal is now complete, and the parties are awaiting an argument date.