Updated July 1, 2020
“Spice” and other synthetic cannabinoids are often sold as a purportedly legal alternative to marijuana. However, possession of fake or imitation marijuana is illegal under both Nevada and federal law.
Fortunately, our Las Vegas, Nevada criminal defense lawyers know how to fight Nevada charges related to fake marijuana. We have a proven track record of getting Nevada drug offenses dismissed or reduced. And we are not afraid to defend you aggressively, if needed, at a trial in front of a jury.
To help you learn more about Nevada’s law against possession of Spice, our Las Vegas, Nevada criminal defense lawyers discuss the following, below:
- 1. What is Spice?
- 2. Schedule I “controlled substances analog” — N.R.S. 453.043
- 3. Possession of Spice – N.R.S. N.R.S. 453.336
- 4. Sale of Spice – N.R.S. 453.321
- 5. Spice and the United States Controlled Substances Act — 21 U.S.C. 811
- 6. Spice and the United States Controlled Substances Act — 21 U.S.C. 811
Synthetic cannabinoids are designer drugs designed to mimic the effects of THC, the psychoactive substance in marijuana. Fake marijuana is often sold as “potpourri” or “herbal incense.” It is usually sold in small foil packets, often with a picture of a cartoon character. In an attempt to get around drug laws, these packets may be labeled “not for human consumption.” Other popular names for imitation marijuana include “K2,” and “Black Mamba.
Fake marijuana consists of herbs, incense or other leafy materials sprayed with synthetic chemicals designed to mimic the effects of THC. These chemicals are often dissolved first in toxic solvents, such as acetone.
The chemicals used to make fake pot can be more potent than the THC that occurs naturally in marijuana. Synthetic pot can also have more dangerous side effects, including:
- severe anxiety,
- convulsions, and
- suicidal thoughts.
“Spice” is categorized as a “controlled substances analog” under N.R.S. 453.043. That section of the Nevada criminal code provides:
“Controlled substance analog” means a substance the chemical structure of which is substantially similar to the chemical structure of a controlled substance placed in schedule I or II and:
(a) Which has a stimulant, depressant or hallucinogenic effect on the central nervous system substantially similar to the stimulant, depressant or hallucinogenic effect on the central nervous system of a controlled substance placed in schedule I or II pursuant to NRS 453.166 or 453.176; or
(b) With respect to a particular person, which he or she represents or intends to have a stimulant, depressant or hallucinogenic effect on the central nervous system substantially similar to the stimulant, depressant or hallucinogenic effect on the central nervous system of a controlled substance included in schedule I or II.
A Schedule I controlled substance is a drug which, in the opinion of the government:
- Has a high potential for abuse; and
- Has no accepted medical use in treatment in the United States or lacks accepted safety for use in treatment under medical supervision.1
Schedule 1 drugs include both marijuana and commonly abused drugs such as heroin and LSD. Nevada’s Schedule I also expressly includes “synthetic equivalents of tetrahydrocannabinol substances or synthetic substances, derivatives and their isomers with a similar chemical structure.”2
Effectively these laws mean that fake marijuana is treated the same as unlawful marijuana in Las Vegas or Nevada. Unlike marijuana, however, there is no exception for medical use of Spice in Nevada.
For more information on medical marijuana, please see our article on: Medical Marijuana Laws in Nevada.
Penalties depends on the amount of spice and if the defendant has prior convictions. See our page on drug possession (NRS 453.336) to learn more.
For a first-or second offense involving less than 14 grams of spice, it is a category E felony:
The court will grant eligible defendants who plead guilty or no contest a deferral of judgment, which means that the court will dismiss the case if the defendant completes certain court-ordered terms. Otherwise, category E felony convictions carry probation and a suspended sentence, which may include up to one year in jail. (But if the defendant has two or more prior felony convictions, the court may impose one to four years in Nevada State Prison and up to $5,000 in fines.)
Possession of fake marijuana for sale is a difficult charge to prove. Even when the facts seem to be against you, our Las Vegas, Nevada drug defense lawyer will often be able to negotiate the charges down to simple possession.
In a worst-case scenario, however, the penalties for a first offense for possessing fake marijuana for sale in Nevada can include:
- A potential fine of up to $5,000, and either
- Probation (with up to 1 year in county jail), or
- 1-4 years in Nevada state prison.
For more information on penalties and defenses for possession of Spice for sale, please see our article: Nevada’s drug possession for sale law, N.R.S. 453.337.
N.R.S. 453.321 makes it a felony to import, transport, sell, manufacture or even give away any synthetic cannabinoids.
As a first offense, the sale of Spice can be punished in Nevada by:
- 1-5 years in state prison, and
- A fine of not more than $10,000.
For more information on penalties and defenses for selling Spice in Nevada, please see our article: Nevada’s drug sales law, N.R.S. 453.321.
Possession and sale of fake marijuana are also prohibited under the United States Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”), 21 U.S.C. 811.
Under the CSA, possession of synthetic cannabinoids is punishable by:
- A fine of not less than $1,000, and
- Up to one (1) year in federal prison.
However, the sale of synthetic drugs, or possession with intent to sell, is considered trafficking and is a serious felony. The minimum penalty for federal trafficking of Spice is:
- A fine of up to $1,000,000, and/or
- Up to 20 years in federal prison.
The federal government usually ignores small-time possession and sales and leaves them up to the state of Nevada to prosecute it, if at all. However, the sale of large amounts – particularly over the internet – runs an increased risk of prosecution under federal law.
The federal Controlled Substances Act also applies to drug offenses committed on federally owned properties within Nevada. Such properties include:
- National parks (including Rocky Mountain National Park),
- Post offices,
- Interstate airports,
- Federal buildings,
- Federal courthouses, and
- Federally assisted housing.
To learn about California’s laws on Spice, please see our article on the sale of synthetic (“designer”) drugs in California.
- N.R.S. 453.166.
- Nevada Administrative Code 453.510 Schedule I, paragraph 9.