Nevada Officials Approve Plan To Let People With Marijuana Convictions Become Police Officers

Nevada officials have officially adopted a proposal to amend hiring standards for police officers to allow job candidates who were previously disqualified for certain marijuana-related offenses to now be eligible for law enforcement positions.

After holding a public hearing on the reform in October, the state Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) voted to approve the change, revising regulations around hiring that currently prevent a person from becoming a peace officer if they have been convicted of an offense involving the unlawful use, sale or possession of a controlled substance.

The new language says the restriction doesn’t apply “to a person who has been convicted of an offense involving the unlawful use, sale, or possession of marijuana if the offense is not unlawful at the time the person submits an application for certification as a police officer.”

The commission said the change will expand the pool of eligible candidates for law enforcement positions and “aid agencies in the ability to fill much needed positions.” There will be no adverse effects from the reform, it says, nor additional costs to regulators.

Approval of the change, which was first proposed in May, does not mean that officers can use cannabis once employed, but it represents a significant policy change, especially given that the current rules are written in a way that explicitly emphasizes the no-tolerance policy for marijuana.

“As with any psychoactive drug, POST strongly believes there is no room for marijuana usage in the policing profession,” the agency’s current administration manual says. “POST strongly encourages law enforcement agencies across the state to adopted [sic] policies prohibiting the on or off duty recreational or medical use of marijuana.”

It even goes so far as to say that people who merely possess a state-issued medical cannabis patient card are “prohibited from attending POST courses, including the Basic Training Academy.” It’s unclear if the commission will maintain such language in light of the regulatory reform that was adopted.

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After a Las Vegas police officer was fired for testing positive for THC metabolites in 2019, he sued the department, and a district judge ruled in 2021 that the zero-tolerance policy for cannabis was “untenable,” while agreeing with the plaintiff that state statute protects employees’ lawful use of marijuana outside of work.

Nevada leaders have recently approved a number of adjustments to marijuana rules, adopting a package of laws in June that doubled the state’s limit on personal possession and expanded business license eligibility for people with prior felony convictions.

Gov. Joe Lombardo (R) also signed legislation that month to create a new working group to study psychedelics and develop a plan to allow regulated access for therapeutic purposes.

In May, the state Senate approved a resolution urging Congress to federally legalize marijuana, and the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) voted to send a proposed regulatory amendment to the governor that would formally protect athletes from being penalized over using or possessing marijuana in compliance with state law.

Regulators this summer also began approving the state’s first conditional licenses for marijuana consumption lounges.

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Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.

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