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Business News: ACLU sues state over cannabis classification

By Bob Conrad
Reno Business Weekly

Nevada’s cannabis industry in 2021 contributed $508 million in tax revenue to the state. 

“A substantial piece of the 15% wholesale tax paid by cannabis cultivators goes to local governments, while the remainder is deposited into the state’s Distributive School Account to fund public education,” according to the Marijuana Policy Project, a group that advocates for legalizing cannabis. “The 10% cannabis retail tax has added hundreds of millions of dollars to the state’s rainy day fund.”

The MPP’s data show Nevada tax coffers have grown each year since cannabis was legalized for recreational users in 2017. In its first year of legalization, the Silver State garnered $30 million in revenue. That number continues to grow. Nearly $160 million in taxes was generated by cannabis users in 2021.

But laws have not kept pace with the growing industry. 

Cannabis in the United States became illegal because of racist policies. The 1937 Marijuana Tax Act made it cost prohibitive for medical doctors to prescribe cannabis to patients, something that was commonplace until politicians started cracking down on Mexican-American farm workers and their use of the plant.

The ACLU says small time cannabis offenses have wasted taxpayer dollars while legal cannabis sales generate millions in tax revenues in Nevada.
Image: Ty O’Neil / This Is Reno

Former President Richard Nixon, blaming Blacks, Jews and leftists, further cracked down on cannabis by designating it a Schedule I substance. That designation remains through today.

Cannabis is illegal federally – classified as a Schedule I controlled substance – but even state law, despite cannabis being legal to use in Nevada, maintains cannabis as a Schedule I drug alongside methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine.

The Nevada State Board of Pharmacy continues to list cannabis as a Schedule I substance, and that listing prompted a lawsuit this week by the ACLU of Nevada seeking to get cannabis removed from the list. 

“For cannabis to be classified as a Schedule I substance, the Board of Pharmacy must find that it has no accepted medical use in treatment or it cannot be safely distributed to the public,” ACLU representatives said. “However, 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.’”

The ACLU alleges the pharmacy board’s classification continues to waste taxpayer dollars by continuing criminal convictions against those using and possessing cannabis.

ACLU Attorney Sadmira Ramic said: “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.”

One such person is Antoine Poole who was found guilty of a felony in 2017 for possessing marijuana. Another is a Las Vegas police officer who was terminated after testing positive for cannabis. The officer sued to get his job back.

“Despite Nevada voters’ explicit desire to have cannabis treated like alcohol, it is readily apparent that they are treated very differently,” Ramic said. “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.” 

Health District wants more convenience stores to stock healthy foods

Vassar Market is participating in Washoe County Health District's Grab Healthy program to bring more healthy food and drinks to corner markets.
Vassar Market is participating in Washoe County Health District’s Grab Healthy program to bring more healthy food and drinks to corner markets. Image: Bob Conrad / This Is Reno

The Washoe County Health District is seeking more corner and convenience stories to stock healthier food and drinks. Health officials said many people rely on smaller convenience stores for food, and options for healthier options are often limited in smaller stores.

“Corner stores have the potential to improve the health disparities associated with the lack of healthy food access in underserved neighborhoods,” said Kevin Dick, district health officer. “This is a step in the right direction to improving chronic illness which is connected to health barriers such as access to healthy foods.”

Three local stores since last year have signed up for the county’s Grab Healthy program, which offers stores marketing and educational support to sell the fresher food. 

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