Nevada "Possession of Marijuana" laws (NRS 453.336)


It is now legal in Nevada to possess up to 1 oz. of marijuana. But using pot in public is still a misdemeanor, carrying a $600 fine. And only adults 21 and older may possess pot for personal use unless they have a valid medical marijuana card.

Possessing more than 1 oz. of pot is still a felony under Las Vegas Nevada marijuana laws. And possessing 50 lbs. or more of weed is automatically prosecuted as trafficking, which may carry years in State Prison.

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

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

Marijuana
Smoking marijuana in public is still against Nevada law.

1. Is possessing marijuana legal in Nevada?

Yes, with certain restrictions. 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 consume the pot only in a private residence.1

Note that federal law still prohibits marijuana possession, and anyone who smokes pot risks prosecution by federal authorities.2 But it is unlikely that the DEA will crack down on recreational users who follow state rules and smoke only at home.

1.1. Can I smoke pot in public?

No, as of now recreational marijuana in Nevada may only be consumed in private residences.3 However, state lawmakers are considering licensing "lounges" where people may smoke a joint in public. Currently, state law prohibits being under the influence of drugs without a legal prescription.4

1.2. Can I possess marijuana at a casino or in a hotel room?

No. Pot is prohibited throughout casinos and hotel property in Nevada, including in the privacy of a hotel room. Housekeeping staff who smell or find pot in hotel rooms may inform their superiors, who can then call the authorities. Therefore, tourists are advised not to bring or purchase weed in Nevada.5

1.3. Can I smoke pot in a dorm room or at school?

No. Nevada's secondary, undergraduate and graduate schools including UNLV follow a zero-tolerance drug policy for both students and staff.

Students found in violation of school policy may face expulsion, losing scholarships, and criminal charges for smoking in public.6

1.4. Can I carry marijuana at airports?

It depends on the airport, but it is safer not to. Some airports such as McCarran International ban marijuana.7 And federal law prohibits pot past TSA checkpoints and on planes.8

1.5. Can I carry marijuana in local or state government buildings?

It depends on the building, so people should call in advance to learn the rules before attempting to carry marijuana inside. The safest bet is to leave the pot at home, especially since it would be illegal to consume the pot in a government building.9

1.6. What rules can an employer impose on me?

Employers are free to prohibit pot in the workplace. Even if employers allow it, remember it is still against Nevada law to smoke anywhere but in a private residence. Nevada employers also have the right to test workers for drugs and fire them for drug use.10

1.7. What rules can my landlord or HOA impose on me?

Landlords and homeowner associations in Nevada have the right to prohibit pot from the premises and evict residents who violate their rules. Pot is still illegal under federal law, so property owners and HOAs are under no legal obligation to permit its consumption. Leases and CC&Rs typically have clauses about drug usage.11  

1.8. Can I drive with marijuana in my car?

Nevada law treats weed like alcohol when it comes to driving...

Driving under the influence of pot or with elevated cannabis levels is prosecuted as a DUI, just like drunk driving. Learn more about DUI with marijuana.12

And just as drivers may not drink while driving or drive with an open container, drivers may not smoke pot while driving or drive with an open container of weed. Therefore drivers should keep their marijuana in a sealed bag locked away in the trunk or glove compartment.13

Note that federal law prohibits crossing state lines with pot, even if pot is legal in both states.14

1.9. Where else is marijuana possession restricted?

Pot is prohibited in all federal government buildings as well as federal lands. This includes national parks, forests and monuments, post offices, courthouses, airports, federal housing, and veterans administration buildings.

A first possession conviction under federal law can be punished by up to one (1) year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.15

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, constructive, 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.16

3. Can I go to jail for marijuana possession in Nevada?

It depends on the circumstances:

3.1. Smoking pot 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.

Note that the police typically issue a citation (similar to a traffic ticket) for smoking pot in public. Law enforcement usually reserves making arrests for suspected pot dealers or traffickers.17

3.2. Possessing more than 1 oz. to less than 50 lbs. of pot

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 possession offense 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 prison, and
  • maybe $5,000 in fines

A third or subsequent possession offense is a category D felony. The penalties include:

  • one to four (1 - 4) years in prison, and
  • maybe $20,000 in fines

Note that marijuana possession convictions from other states count as past convictions in Nevada.18

Also note a criminal defense attorney may be able to plea bargain marijuana possession charges down to a 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. Penalties can range from one year in prison to a life sentence depending on the amount of pot in the case.19

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

The accused must have been aware that he/she was in possession of the marijuana in order to convicted.20 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:

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

Example: Harold borrows Samuel's car to buy two ounces of pot 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 pot possession and book him at the Henderson Detention Center.

Samuel had no idea the pot was there. If Samuel's attorney can get Harold to admit that he was the one who bought the pot 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.

4.2. Lack of possession

Another strategy for defending against marijuana possession charges in Nevada is to argue that the defendant never had possession of 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 pot and stores it in a kitchen drawer. The person who sold Harold the pot was an informant, so the North Las Vegas Police get a search warrant for the apartment. After the police find the pot, they arrest both Harold and Samuel for pot 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 pot sale. If the prosecutor believes that Samuel never possessed the pot, 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?

Yes, usually. The waiting period depends on the class of crime for which the defendant was convicted.21 Note that pot cases that get dismissed (where there is no conviction) may be sealed right away.22

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

Dismissal (no conviction)

No waiting period

Misdemeanor

(smoking in public)

1 year

Category E felony

(a first or second offense of possessing more than 1 oz. but less than 50 lbs.)

2 years

Category D felony

(third or successive offense of possessing more than 1 oz. but less than 50 lbs.)

5 years

6. Can I be deported for possessing marijuana?

Yes, if the alien was convicted of possessing more than thirty grams (30 g.) of pot. 30 grams is about one ounce (1 oz.).23

US immigration law imposes harsh consequences including deportation for drug-related convictions.

Any non-citizen facing criminal charges should retain counsel as soon as possible to try to get the charge dismissed or changed to a non-deportable offense. Learn more about the criminal defense of immigrants in Nevada.

7. Related offenses

Additional marijuana crimes in Nevada are:

Also refer to our article on the recent legalization of recreational pot.

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Call a Nevada criminal defense attorney...

Arrested? Call our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys 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.

¿Habla español? Más información sobre el delito de posesión de marihuana de Nevada.

To learn about California laws, go to our page on California marijuana possession laws.


Legal References:

  1. NRS 453D.400.
  2. 21 U.S.C. § 844.
  3. NRS 453D.400.
  4. NRS 453.411; Andrew Craft, Nevada could become first state to have marijuana lounges, Fox News (September 20th, 2017).
  5. See NRS 453D.400.
  6. See, e.g., Selected Nevada State College Policies.
  7. Michael Scott Davidson, Pot possession, advertising banned at Las Vegas airport, Las Vegas Review-Journal (September 5, 2017).
  8. See 21 U.S. Code § 955.
  9. NRS 453D.400.
  10. NRS 618.375.
  11. NRS 118A.
  12. NRS 484C.110.
  13. See NRS 484B.150.
  14. 21 U.S. Code § 812.
  15. 21 U.S. Code § 844.
  16. NRS 453.336.
  17. NRS 453D.400.
  18. NRS 453.336.
  19. NRS 453.339.
  20. NRS 453.336.
  21. NRS 179.255.
  22. NRS 179.245.
  23. INA § 212(h).

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