Growing Use of Foreclosed Homes for Illegal Marijuana Cultivation in Las Vegas

Thousands of homes across Nevada lay unoccupied as the state leads the nation in foreclosure rates for the 4th year in a row. One in eight housing units filed for foreclosure last year alone. Empty homes in a neighborhood are generally bad for property value, but they also create the opportunity for drug crime as a recent Las Vegas arrest shows us.

Late last week, a quiet community on the outskirts of Las Vegas was shocked as police charged into a two-story stucco house, searching for a domestic violence suspect. The police were met with an even bigger surprise when officers found a jungle of marijuana plants growing throughout the house. The house was occupied by a woman and her two sons, who are now facing drug charges in Las Vegas. 61 plants were discovered, which is a significantly smaller quantity than was discovered earlier in the year at another home with 878 marijuana plants.

These foreclosed homes, turned marijuana grow houses, are also frequently well-armed. In 2009, the Nevada High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area reported that 40% of the weapons seized by southern Nevada DEA agents came from marijuana growing operations. While it has not been reported that the family arrested possessed weapons, this presents another detail that may alarm many Las Vegas homeowners who live in the suburbs.

Nevada has eased restrictions on the use of marijuana in some medicinal cases. However, illegal cultivation on any scale is still a serious crime. Among additional possible charges that can be brought against a person for illegally growing marijuana is “trafficking in marijuana” under NRS 453.339. This statute provides that a person who knowingly or intentionally manufactures, delivers, sells or brings marijuana into Nevada knowingly or intentionally (through actual or constructive possession) is guilty of a criminal offense. This offense can result in:

  • A category C felony if 100 to 2,000 pounds of marijuana are found, punishable by up to $10,000 in fines and/or 1 to 5 years in prison.
  • A category B felony if 2,000 to 10,000 pounds of marijuana are found, punishable by up to $50,000 in fines and/or 1 to 20 years in prison.
  • A category A felony if 10,000 pounds or more of marijuana are found, punishable by up to $200,000 in fines and/or life with the possibility of parole or a definite prison sentence of 15 years.

As Nevada continues to see high rates of home foreclosures, we will undoubtedly continue to see more cases like these. An arrest for marijuana cultivation in Las Vegas is still not something to take lightly. Men, women, or families who are arrested for trafficking in marijuana (as in the case of this family) should consult with a defense attorney as soon as possible.

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