Possession of marijuana in Nevada (NRS 453.336)

Marijuana possession of up to one ounce (1 oz.) is now legal in Nevada if done for personal use in a private residence. But using pot in public is still a misdemeanor, carrying a $600 fine. And only adults 21 and older may possess marijuana for personal use (unless they have a valid medical marijuana card).

Marijuana possession of more than one ounce (1 oz.) is still a felony in Nevada, though jail can often be avoided for a first offense. And possessing fifty pounds (50 lbs.) or more of marijuana is automatically prosecuted as trafficking, which may carry years in Nevada State Prison.

It is usually possible to seal criminal records for pot possession convictions one (1) or two (2) years after the case is closed. Non U.S. citizens convicted of marijuana possession face deportation if the amount was more than thirty grams (30 g.).

Below our Las Vegas marijuana possession attorneys answer frequently-asked-questions about Nevada pot laws including definition, penalties, defenses, record seal wait times, and immigration consequences. Click on a topic to go to that section.

Also see our related articles on possession of marijuana for purpose of sale, selling marijuana, and cultivating marijuana in Nevada.

Marijuana
Smoking marijuana in public is still against Nevada law.

1. Is possessing marijuana legal in Nevada?

It is now legal for adults 21 and older to possess up to one (1) oz. of marijuana (or up to 1/8 ounce of cannabis concentrate) in Nevada. However, adults may only use the marijuana in a private residence.1 Public possession or use of marijuana is still against state law.2

Note that is still a type of DUI to drive while high or with elevated cannabis blood levels. Learn more about DUI with marijauana.3

Also note that employers still have discretion to drug test employees for pot and to terminate their jobs accordingly. For more information on recent changes in marijuana law, see our article on Nevada Question 2 and the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act.

2. What is "marijuana possession" in Nevada?

The legal definition of marijuana possession encompasses actual, constructive, and joint possession:

Marijuana2 optimized
Marijuana possession refers to actual, consructive, and joint possession.
  • Actual possession means physically holding or carrying the marijuana on one's person. An example is keeping an edible in one's pocket or purse.
  • Constructive possession means storing or keeping marijuana in a place the person has control over. Examples include one's room, car, office, or storage facility.
  • Joint possession means when more than one person has possession of marijuana. An example is when two roommates keep their stash of weed in their living room.

The location of the marijuana is key to Nevada police deciding whether to arrest someone for marijuana possession. Cops may jump to the conclusion that a suspect is in possession of marijuana if they find marijuana on the suspect's body, vehicle, home, work desk, or other location the suspect has control over.

A blood test that is positive for marijuana might also serve as evidence that a suspect possessed pot. This is because the suspect presumably exercises control over his/her body and therefore deliberately ingested the drug.

But note that there is no marijuana possession when the suspect did not know that the marijuana was there. If someone slips a joint in the suspect's backpack without his/her knowledge, the suspect committed no crime because he/she was unaware of it.4

3. What are the penalties for marijuana possession in Nevada?

3.1. Possessing 1 oz. or less in public:

It is a misdemeanor to smoke or otherwise consume marijuana in a public place, retail marijuana store, or a moving vehicle. The punishment is a $600 fine.5

3.2. Possessing more than 1 oz. to less than 50 lbs.:

Img dui marijuana
A first-time offense of possessing more than 1 oz. of marijuana is a category E felony in Nevada.

The punishment for possessing more than one (1) ounce but less than fifty (50) pounds of marijuana increases with each successive offense.

A first or second offense of possessing more than one (1) of marijuana in Nevada is a category E felony. For a first offense, the judge will probably order probation in lieu of incarceration if the defendant has no history of drug crimes. And the judge may dismiss the case if the defendant completes a rehab course like drug court. Otherwise, the penalties may include:

  • one to four (1 - 4) years in Nevada State Prison, and
  • maybe $5,000 in fines

A third or subsequent offense of possessing more than one (1) ounce of marijuana in Nevada is a category D felony. (Note that marijuana possession convictions from other states count as past convictions in Nevada.) The penalties include:

  • one to four (1 - 4) years in Nevada State Prison, and
  • maybe $20,000 in fines6

Note a skilled criminal defense attorney may be able to plea bargain marijuana possession charges down to a lesser offense or complete dismissal.

3.3. Possessing 50 lbs. or more:

Possessing fifty (50) pounds or more of marijuana is prosecuted as the harsher Nevada crime of trafficking. The sentence depends on the amount of marijuana involved:

Trafficking 50 to less than 1,000 pounds of marijuana (or one (1) to less than 20 pounds of concentrated cannabis) is a category C felony in Nevada carrying:

  • one to five (1 - 5) years in Nevada State Prison, and
  • up to $25,000 in fines

Trafficking 1,000 to less than 5,000 pounds of marijuana (or 20 to less than 100 pounds of concentrated cannabis) is a category B felony in Nevada carrying:

  • two to twenty (2 - 10) years in Nevada State Prison, and
  • up to $50,000 in fines

Trafficking 5,000 pounds or more of marijuana (100 pounds or more of concentrated cannabis) is a category A felony in Nevada carrying:

  • Life in Nevada State Prison with the possibility of parole after five (5) years, or 15 years in Nevada State Prison with the possibility of parol after 5 years, and
  • up to $200,000 in fines7

Note that even trafficking charges may be able to be negotiated down to lesser penalties or possibly a dismissal.

4. How do I fight marijuana possession charges in Nevada?

Two common defenses for marijuana possession charges in Nevada are (1) lack of awareness, and (2) lack of possession.

4.1. Lack of awareness

A key element of Nevada's marijuana possession law is that the accused must have been aware that he/she was in possession of the marijuana.8 So if a house guest leaves a pound of pot underneath the homeowner's couch without the homeowner's knowledge, then the homeowner is not legally "in possession" under Nevada law because of the homeowner's lack of awareness. Henderson criminal defense attorney Michael Becker gives another example:

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Lack of knowledge is a defense to marijuana possession charges in Nevada.

Example: Harold borrows Samuel's car to buy two ounces of marijuana in Henderson. Harold stashes the pot underneath the driver's seat for later. The next day Samuel gets pulled over and consents to a search of the car. When the police find the marijuana, they arrest Samuel for marijuana possession and book him at the Henderson Detention Center. Samuel had no idea the marijuana was there. If Samuel's attorney can get Harold to admit that he was the one who bought the marijuana and put it in Samuel's car without his knowledge, then the prosecutor may drop the marijuana charges against Samuel.

Common evidence criminal defense attorneys may use to try to show lack of awareness include eye-witnesses, phone records, and surveillance video. As long as the prosecutor cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was aware of the marijuana, the possession charge should be thrown out.

4.2. Lack of possession

Another strategy for defending against marijuana possession charges in Nevada is to argue that the defendant never had possession over the marijuana. This argument is useful in cases where the marijuana is found in locations that the defendant did not have control over. North Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse gives an example: 

Example: Harold and Samuel share a North Las Vegas apartment. Without Samuel's knowledge, Harold buys two ounces of marijuana and stores it in a kitchen drawer. The person who sold Harold the marijuana was an informant, so the North Las Vegas Police get a search warrant for the apartment. After the police find the marijuana, they arrest both Harold and Samuel for marijuana possession. During negotiations, Samuel's attorney explains to the prosecutor that Samuel does not have exclusive control over the kitchen and did not know about the marijuana sale. If the prosecutor believes that Samuel never possessed the marijuana, the case against him should be dropped. 

In these types of cases, the defense attorney would try to show that the defendant did not have sole control over the location where the marijuana was found. This defense helps cast reasonable doubt as to whether the defendant was responsible for the marijuana being there.

5. Can I get marijuana possession convictions sealed in Nevada?

Record
Misdemeanor marijuana convictions may be sealed after 1 year in Nevada.

Marijuana possession records can be sealed in Nevada. The waiting period depends on the class of crime the defendant was convicted of. Note that marijuana cases that get dismissed (where there is no conviction) may be sealed right away.9

A misdemeanor conviction may be sealed one (1) year after the case ends. This encompasses possessing or smoking an ounce or less of marijuana in public.

A category E felony conviction may be sealed two (2) years after the case ends. This encompasses a first or second offense of possessing more than an ounce of marijuana (but less than 50 pounds).

Category D, C, or B convictions may be sealed five (5) years after the case ends. This encompasses a third or successive offense of possessing more than an ounce of marijuana (but less than 50 pounds). This also encompasses trafficking less than 5,000 pounds of marijuana.

And category A convictions may be sealed ten (10) years after the case ends. This encompasses trafficking 5,000 pounds or more of marijuana.10

Type of marijuana conviction in Nevada Waiting period to get record sealed after case closes

Dismissal (no conviction)

No waiting period

Misdemeanor

1 year

Category E felony

2 years

Category D felony

5 years

Category C felony

5 years

Category B felony

5 years

Category A felony

10 years

6. Can I be deported for possessing marijuana?

Aliens convicted of marijuana possession for personal use may face removal proceedings if the amount was for more than thirty grams (30 g.). 30 grams is about one (1) ounce. Learn more about deportable crimes in Nevada.11

If a non U.S. citizen gets convicted of possessing more than one (1) ounce of marijuana in Nevada, he/she should retain counsel as soon as possible to try to get the charge dismissed or changed to a non-deportable offense. Learn about the criminal defense of immigrants in Nevada.

Rx call help4 optimized
Call our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys at 702-DEFENSE for a FREE consultation.

Call a Nevada criminal defense attorney...

If you are in need of criminal defense legal representation in Nevada, contact our Las Vegas Criminal Defense Lawyers at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) to schedule a free consultation. We may be able to get the charges lessened or dropped completely so your record stays clean.

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.


Legal References:

  1. NRS I.P. Question 2, § 14.
  2. NRS 453.336.
  3. NRS 484C.110.
  4. NRS 453.336.
  5. Id.
  6. Id.
  7. NRS 453.339.
  8. NRS 453.336.
  9. NRS 179.255.
  10. NRS 179.245.
  11. INA § 212(h).

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