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Judge: Nevada pharmacy board cannot regulate cannabis, must remove from Schedule 1 drug list

Naoka Foreman
Naoka Foreman
CommunityCriminal JusticeMarijuana
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Cannabis plant ready for harvest

A Clark County District Court judge has ruled in favor of local cannabis advocates and declared that ​​the Nevada State Board of Pharmacy is no longer authorized to govern cannabis and must remove marijuana, cannabis, and cannabis derivatives from the controlled substances list.   

The ruling issued Wednesday states that “if the [pharmacy] board designates a substance as a ‘controlled substance’ but the designation falls outside the authority delegated by the ​​Legislature, the designation is invalid.” 

This new ruling focused specifically on the pharmacy board’s ability to regulate cannabis, after the judge’s previous decision in September that the board must remove the drug from the state’s list of controlled substances. Hardy previously said he couldn’t rule on the question of regulatory authority over cannabis until the two sides submitted draft orders due on Oct. 5.

Nevadans have been able to purchase medical marijuana from dispensaries since 2000, but attorneys in the case said the pharmacy board “forcibly” continued listing cannabis in a manner similar to illicit substances, such as heroin and methamphetamine.

“The notion that a state agency is able to engage in unlawful actions because it’s happening at the federal government – it’s just not the way it works,” said Athar Haseebullah, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada (ACLU), on July 15 after the first hearing. “They don't work for the feds. We didn’t sue the DEA here. We sued the State Board of Pharmacy because this is a state action.”

In April, the ACLU of Nevada brought forth a lawsuit against the pharmacy board, representing Cannabis, Equity and Inclusion Community (CEIC), on behalf of Antoine Poole, a Las Vegas resident who was convicted of felony possession of a controlled substance for marijuana in 2017. The conviction occurred the same year recreational cannabis became legal in Nevada.

But now, a loophole that advocates said exacerbated racial disparities and was exploited by the pharmacy board is closed after Clark County District Court Judge Joe Hardy ruled in favor of the lawsuit against state pharmaceutical leaders.

In his ruling, Hardy said, “the Board exceeded its authority when it placed, or failed to remove marijuana, cannabis, and cannabis derivatives on its list as Schedule I substances.”

Hardy said the medical value of cannabis is “enshrined” in Nevada law and that, according to a 2019 law, the regulatory body authorized to govern and regulate the legal marijuana industry is the Cannabis Compliance Board.

According to the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), substances are classified as Schedule 1 if they have no “accepted medical value and have a high potential for abuse.” But Nevada voters legalized medical cannabis use in 2000, and another ballot question led to the legalization of recreational cannabis sale and use in 2017.

The board’s attorneys unsuccessfully argued that the will of the voters was upheld because the ballot measure did not specifically ask to reschedule marijuana.

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