In simple terms, “Trafficking” means knowingly being in possession (either actual or constructive) or selling, delivering or bringing into the state, very large amounts of marijuana.
Marijuana Trafficking offenses in Nevada are pretty uncommon due to the large quantity needed to give rise to the offense and the fact that Nevada is not known for large illicit grow operations as in other states. At a minimum 100 pounds is required to trigger the statute (NRS 453.339), which would result in a Category C felony, punishable by 1 to 5 years in prison and a stiffer than usual fine. Larger amounts carry greater penalties, scaling up to life in prison for 10,000 pounds or more.
Bail amounts depend on the category of felony but range from $5,000 to ‘No Bail’, where the Court would need to set the bail after the defendant appears to answer the charge.
An interesting aspect of the charge is that it uses a different definition of “marijuana” than the rest of the laws governing marijuana, both criminal and civil (those law governing medical marijuana). Normally, marijuana is defined by NRS NRS 453.096 as:
“All parts of any plant of the genus Cannabis, whether growing or not; The seeds thereof; The resin extracted from any part of the plant; and Every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture or preparation of the plant, its seeds or resin. “Marijuana” does not include the mature stems of the plant, fiber produced from the stems, oil or cake made from the seeds of the plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture or preparation of the mature stems (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil or cake, or the sterilized seed of the plant which is incapable of germination.
So, for most crimes, when considering the weight of the contraband, the stems and stalks are not taken into consideration. The inert parts of the plant are not included and particularly the fiber is not – most likely an accommodation to industrial hemp, which is still under the genus Cannabis, but has no or very little THC. Contrast this definition with the definition contained in the Trafficking law:
“For the purposes of this section: “Marijuana” means all parts of any plant of the genus Cannabis, whether growing or not. The weight of marijuana is its weight when seized or as soon as practicable thereafter.
Thus, the roots, stalks, stems and everything else will be considered contraband, which of course increases the chances of falling into Trafficking. Do not be surprised if no effort is taken to remove dirt and debris when this is being weighed. The timing of the weighing is also interesting as it is designed to increase the weight by ‘wet weighing’ the plant. This is in stark contrast to the definition of “usable marijuana” which is used for determining the weight of allowable amounts of medicinal marijuana (2.5 ounces) in the State of Nevada. That statute NRS 453A.160 defines “usable marijuana” as:
The dried leaves and flowers of a plant of the genus Cannabis, and any mixture or preparation thereof, that are appropriate for the medical use of marijuana; and The seeds of a plant of the genus Cannabis. The term does not include the stalks and roots of the plant.
Thus, while a large quantity of marijuana is required to trigger a Trafficking offense, the Trafficking law departs dramatically from other laws in order to include as much of, and in fact the whole plant, plus its water weight.
While we do not see many of these cases filed, we have seen a disturbing practice by the State prosecuting agencies to try to treat concentrates such as wax or oil differently than plant matter. In other words, while it is clear that resin and THC are compounds or derivatives of the plant marijuana, the State has on occasion charged people with Trafficking under NRS 453.3385, a different law that governs hardcore and scheduled I drugs but excludes marijuana. That statute carries a life sentence for possession of as little at 28 grams (roughly one ounce) of contraband. This improper tactic is mean to place extreme pressure on the defendant (no bail – possible life sentence) while ignoring the plain language of the law. Whether this is wholly intentional or just bad lawyering is unknown, but it is also connected with the general vagueness created by the legislature and the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services over how much concentrates a person who has a medical marijuana card can legally possess. Current law states that the amount is an “equivalent” of 2.5 ounces of “usable marijuana” the definition used above for medical patients. However, there is no standardized or defined way to compare the two.
If you are charged with this offense it is a very serious matter and one that requires the services of an attorney well versed in this field. Call The Wright Law Group, P.C., at 702-405-0001 for a free consultation.