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California and Nevada Possession of an Ounce of Marijuana

Posted by Neil Shouse | Apr 17, 2009 | 0 Comments

Although California marijuana Law and Nevada marijuana Law differ in many respects, both states take a relatively lax approach to citizens convicted of possessing marijuana as long as the amount weighs in at one ounce or less (California specifically says 28.5 grams or less, which is the metric equivalent of an ounce.) For a first-time offender in both California and Nevada, possession of an ounce or less of marijuana is a misdemeanor, calling for the citizen to pay fines ($600 in NV, $100 in CA) and requiring no jail time.

Once citizens start racking up more then one possession offense, however, marijuana law in Las Vegas get stricter more quickly than the law in L.A. In California, the $100 fine still holds even for repeat-offenders (though after the third offense, the court might require rehab). In Nevada, a second offense of possession of an ounce or less raises the fine to $1,000. And a third defense is elevated to a gross misdemeanor, which gives the judge the discretion to sentence the citizen to up to a year in a Las Vegas jail.

Once the amount of marijuana in question exceeds an ounce, penalties for pot possession in Nevada and California become harsher. In California, it's still a misdemeanor, but punishment tops off at $500 and six months in jail. Las Vegas marijuana law makes first-time possession of more than an ounce a felony, punishable by one to four years imprisonment with an optional $5,000 fine. In reality, though, jail can often be avoided for a first time offense in both states, especially if the citizen convicted of possession submits to some kind of rehabilitative program. This reflects a national trend in the criminal justice system to prevent drug abuse by treatment, support and education rather than by incarceration. (Also see our article, "Can I go to jail for being high on pot in Nevada?")

About the Author

Neil Shouse

Southern California DUI Defense attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT).

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