UPDATE: Starting January 1, 2017, it will be legal to possess up to 1 oz. of marijuana (or up to 1/8 ounce of cannabis concentrate). This new law applies only to adults aged twenty-one and older, and the possession/use may not occur in public. It will still be a type of DUI to drive while high (or with elevated cannabis blood/urine levels), and employers still have discretion to drug test for pot and terminate accordingly. Until January 1, 2017, it will remain illegal to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana. See our article on Nevada Question 2 and the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act.
Of all the marijuana laws in Nevada, possession of marijuana may be the most unfair. It punishes otherwise responsible citizens merely for keeping some pot for personal use and who have no intention of ever doing anything hurtful with it or profiting from it.
But precisely because possession is the least serious of Las Vegas's marijuana laws (which include selling or growing marijuana, possession of marijuana for the purpose of sale, and trafficking marijuana), the penalties tend to be less harsh as well.
Below is information about the definition of marijuana possession in Las Vegas, defenses that may help against a charge of marijuana possession, and the penalties that Clark County courts may impose upon a conviction of marijuana possession.
What is "marijuana possession" in Las Vegas, NV?
The prosecution may argue that you are "in possession" of marijuana in Las Vegas, NV, if you are found smoking marijuana or if you knowingly "exercised control" over the marijuana. Therefore, the location of the marijuana is very important:
If the marijuana is found on your person, in your car, in or around your home, in a storage unit belonging to you, or in any other place that you have some authority over, the prosecution will argue that you were in possession of the marijuana since you had some control over the location.
Furthermore, if marijuana is found in your system during a drug test or you were caught driving under the influence of marijuana in Nevada, the prosecution may try to use that to prove you have been in possession of marijuana since you presumably "exercise control" over your body.
How might a criminal defense lawyer argue against a charge of "marijuana possession" in Las Vegas, NV?
A key element to Nevada's law for marijuana possession is that the citizen accused must have been aware that he/she was in possession of the marijuana. For example, if another person leaves a bag of pot underneath your couch and you do not know about it, then you are not legally "in possession" according to Nevada law, because you were not aware of it.
Therefore, if you are arrested for being in possession of marijuana in Las Vegas, a good criminal defense attorney may try to argue that you had no idea about the marijuana's existence.
Also, as explained above, location is very important for proving marijuana possession in Clark County: If the marijuana is found someplace that you normally have control over, such as in your car, the prosecution will try to hold that against you.
Therefore, a good Nevada criminal defense attorney may try to argue that the location where the marijuana was found was not someplace that you have sole control over (or even any control over). This would help cast doubt on whether you were responsible for the marijuana being there.
What penalties might I face for marijuana possession in Las Vegas, NV?
If you are convicted of marijuana possession in Clark County, NV, the penalties you may face depend on whether the amount of pot you were accused of possessing exceeds an ounce. Whether you have been convicted in the past of marijuana possession factors into it as well.
(Aliens convicted of marijuana possession for personal use are deportable unless the amount was thirty grams (30 g.) or less--click on the this link to learn more about deportable crimes in Nevada.)
Below are the typical penalties for marijuana possession in Nevada. But if you are facing a conviction for marijuana possession, it is crucial you retain a criminal defense lawyer to negotiate aggressively with the prosecution to minimize these penalties or to argue your best case should you go to trial.
If you are convicted of possession of one ounce (1 oz.) or less of marijuana in Las Vegas, then the consequences are relatively lenient (assuming it is just a first or second offense for possessing marijuana). However, penalties grow harsher with each successive possession conviction:
If it is your first offense, it is just a misdemeanor in Nevada. You may face fines of up to $600 or be assigned to a drug rehabilitative treatment program.
If it is your second offense, it is still only a misdemeanor in Nevada. This time you will face a larger fine, up to $1,000, or you may be assigned to a drug rehabilitative treatment program. (NRS 453.3363, NRS 453.580)
If it is your third offense, it is now a gross misdemeanor in Nevada. A judge may fine you up to $2,000, or sentence you to a Clark County jail for up to a year, or both. (NRS 193.140)
If it is your fourth offense or greater, then it is a category E felony in Nevada. Unfortunately, the judge may then call for one to four years in the Nevada State Prison. You may be fined up to $5,000 as well. (NRS 193.130)
If you are convicted of possession of more than one ounce (1 oz.) of marijuana in Las Vegas, consequences get more serious more quickly. Clark County courts consider it a felony, even for a first offense, and penalties similarly increase with each successive conviction:
For a first offense, a Las Vegas judge will probably grant you a suspended sentence and probation as long as you have never been convicted of any other drug crimes before. This usually requires you to do drug court, and upon successful completion, the felony would be dismissed. Otherwise, you may face standard category E felony penalties, which include one to four years in Nevada State Prison and perhaps an additional $5,000 fine.
For a second offense, it is still a category E felony in Nevada, so you would also face no more than one to four years in Nevada State Prison and maybe a $5,000 fine.
If it is your third or subsequent offense for possessing marijuana, OR if you have been convicted two or more times of breaking drug laws anywhere in the United States, then you may face penalties for a category D felony. This entails one to four years of Nevada State Prison, and the judge may order a fine of up to $20,000.
If you are convicted of possession of more than fifty pounds (50 lbs.) of marijuana in Las Vegas, then Nevada's harsher trafficking laws may apply.
Again, penalties for marijuana possession in Las Vegas, Nevada, may be significantly reduced with the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney fighting for you.
If you are in need of criminal defense legal representation in Las Vegas, contact our Las Vegas Criminal Defense Lawyers at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) to schedule a free consultation.
Return to the Nevada Marijuana Law main page.
¿Habla español? Más información sobre el delito de posesión de marihuana de Nevada.
To learn about California marijuana possession laws, go to our page on California marijuana possession laws.