Recreational marijuana may be legal now in Nevada, but only licensed dispensaries are permitted to hold it for sale. Possessing marijuana with the intent to sell outside of this regulatory system is a serious felony. A first offense of possession for sale on the black market carries:
- 1 – 4 years in State Prison, and
- up to $5,000 in fines, and
- a 5-year waiting period to seal the defendant’s record
Las Vegas Nevada marijuana laws allow the possibility to plea bargain these charges down to possession for personal use or a full dismissal. Common defenses to a criminal prosecution of marijuana possession for sale include:
- the defendant had no intention to sell the marijuana,
- the police entrapped the defendant, and/or
- the police performed an illegal search
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys answer frequently-asked-questions about marijuana possession for sale laws in Nevada, including punishments, defenses, record seals, and immigration consequences. Click on a topic to jump to that section:
- 1. Is “marijuana possession for sale” illegal in Las Vegas, NV?
- 2. Can I go to jail for marijuana possession for sale in Las Vegas, NV?
- 3. How do I fight the charges?
- 4. Can I get my record sealed for intending to sell marijuana in Las Vegas, NV?
- 5. Can I get deported?
- 6. Related offenses
Yes, it is a crime in Nevada to possess pot with the intent to sell it (also called “possession for sale”). This crime has two elements:
- The suspect was in possession of some quantity of marijuana, and
- The suspect intended to sell the marijuana.1
In order to prove the possession element, the prosecution will try to show that the marijuana was in the suspect’s control. This means that the marijuana was found on his/her person, car, home, or in some place that he/she exercised control over.
To determine the intent element, Las Vegas courts look at the circumstances surrounding the alleged pot possession. The following situations can suggest to a judge that the defendant meant to sell the marijuana. For example:
- If the amount of marijuana seized is large: Prosecutors will argue that a suspect possessing a large amount of pot is a smoking gun for an imminent sale. Their reasoning is that someone who smokes pot for solely personal use would probably possess only a small quantity of pot at any one time. A defense attorney could argue that the defendant merely “stocked up” on large quantities of marijuana for personal use in the same way people stock up on soda or water from Sam’s Club.
- If the marijuana is stored in separate bags or containers, especially if they are evenly measured: The prosecution will argue that marijuana divided into packages of pre-measured amounts indicate an intent to sell. Their reasoning is that someone who possesses pot purely for recreational purposes would not have the need to organize their personal stash with any sort of precision and would probably store it all in a single container. A defense attorney would argue that the defendant merely bought the pre-measured bags of pot for personal use and has not used them yet. Or maybe the defendant likes to keep his/her marijuana very organized.
- If the suspect is found with a lot of cash, especially small bills: Prosecutors may try to argue that having a lot of cash on hand is an indicator that the defendant has sold pot in the past and was going to continue selling it. To the prosecution, a few large bills raise less suspicion than a lot of small bills; this is because a lot of small bills would result from a lot of small pot sales.
- If the suspect is found in a location where drug deals typically happen: If suspects are arrested in a place where many pot sellers do business, the prosecution will argue this indicates that they were intending to sell. The defense attorney could argue that the suspect was at that location merely to buy weed, or that the suspect was there purely to socialize with other pot users.
- If the suspect is found carrying a weapon: If the suspect is armed, the prosecution may argue that he/she was carrying the weapon for self-defense in case the drug deal went wrong. A defense attorney could argue that the suspect was merely exercising his/her constitutional right to bear arms.
- If the suspect is not high and/or has no paraphernalia at the time of arrest: If the suspect is not high nor has any bongs, pipes or papers at the time of arrest, the prosecution may argue that the suspect could not possibly have had the pot for personal use. A defense attorney could argue that recreational pot users are not high or have paraphernalia with them all the time.
Police are still aggressive about catching suspected drug dealers even though recreational pot is now legal in Nevada. Penalties are no less harsh despite the laxer rules on personal possession.
Yes, though it may be possible to get the charges reduced or dismissed.
The length of the sentence corresponds to the defendant’s criminal history of possession for sale:2
|Marijuana Convictions for Possessing Marijuana with Intent to Sell||Penalties in Nevada|
|1st offense||category D felony
The court may grant probation and a suspended sentence.
|2nd offense||category C felony
The court may not grant probation and a suspended sentence.
|3rd or subsequent offense||category B felony
The court may not grant probation and a suspended sentence.
Note that if the marijuana involved weighed fifty pounds (50 lbs.) or more, then Nevada’s harsher trafficking laws apply.
Also note that accomplices face identical penalties as those who physically possessed the marijuana.
The best defenses depend upon the facts of the case. Some common strategies are the following:
3.1. No intent to sell
The prosecution has the burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intended to sell the marijuana. If the court finds there is insufficient evidence, then the charge may be reduced to simple possession.
3.2. Police entrapment
Police are not allowed to induce criminal suspects into committing a crime they are not predisposed to commit.
Example: An undercover cop has been surveilling William, who just walked out of a licensed dispensary with a bag of pot. The cop goes up to William and says his friend Max has chronic pain but cannot afford to buy marijuana at retail prices. William says, “I feel terrible Max can’t get the relief he needs because of money. I’ve never done this before, but if you give me your friend’s number, I’ll call and offer him some of my stash at a reduced fee.” The cop shows his badge and arrests William for possession with intent to sell.
Here, the cop entrapped William because William would never have intended to sell his pot but for the police’s interference.
3.3. Police misconduct
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution outlines strict rules for searches and seizures that the police have to follow. If the defense attorney can show that the police conducted an illegal search to obtain the marijuana, the court can ignore (“suppress“) the marijuana as evidence. As a result, the state may be left with insufficient evidence to proceed.
Yes, five (5) years after the case ended. Note that marijuana charges that get dismissed may be sealed right away. Also note that record seals are never guaranteed.3
Yes. Non-citizens who have been arrested on any drug charge are urged to seek legal counsel right away. It may be possible to get the charge lessened or changed to a non-deportable offense.4
Additional marijuana crimes in Nevada are:
Also refer to our pages on medical marijuana.
Call us if you are facing a drug charge…
If you are facing a conviction for marijuana possession for the purpose of sale in Nevada, you can schedule a consultation with our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers.
Learn more about Nevada drug crimes.
¿Habla español? Más información acerca de la posesión de marihuana con fines de venta en Nevada.
Arrested in California? See our article on Health & Safety Code 11359 HS.
Arrested in Colorado? See our article on Colorado marijuana laws.
- NRS 453.337. See also Katelyn Newberg, Nevada’s drug classification for cannabis ruled unconstitutional, Las Vegas Review-Journal (September, 14, 2022)(“[This] ruling will prevent people from being prosecuted for marijuana-related crimes under laws that only apply to Schedule 1 drugs but don’t specifically reference marijuana.”).
- NRS 179.245; NRS 179.255.
- Immigration and Nationality Act INA § 237(a)(2)(B)(i); 8 USC 1227(a)(2)(B)(i).