California has long been one of the most open-minded states in regards to marijuana. Legalizing the authorized use of medicinal marijuana has gone a long way to decriminalize possession of marijuana in small quantities. Possession of less than 28.5 grams for personal use now only results in an infraction with a fine of up to $100, while it used to be criminally prosecuted and came with jail time and higher fines and penalties. Since 1996, medicinal marijuana has been legal for authorized patients under the Compassionate Use Act, however its growth and sale is still heavily regulated. Marijuana is hard to cultivate; it takes space, special equipment and knowledge of plant chemistry to cultivate marijuana for specific medical users, like nausea or pain. So, cultivation of medicinal marijuana is an important industry that needs to thrive in order to meet the needs of California's medical marijuana patients. However, cultivation of marijuana by anyone unauthorized to do so or for purposes other than those permissible by California state law is illegal. The penalties for unauthorized cultivation of marijuana are fairly steep considering the freedom authorized growers have to cultivate legally. Those who can grow legally are medical marijuana patients, authorized as such by the state of California, or their primary caregivers or cooperative distributors who provider them their medicine. Patients and primary caregivers are allowed to grow or maintain up to six fully grown or "mature" plants or up to 12 immature plants and will go unprosecuted if they follow the guidelines set forth by the medicinal marijuana laws under California Health and Safety Code 11362.77. While many may have the proper authorization to be able to cultivate marijuana for medicinal purposes, many others are not authorized to cultivate and they face serious criminal charges if caught. While simply possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use is punishable only as an infraction, the unauthorized cultivation of marijuana, medicinal or otherwise, is a criminal offense in California, regardless if it is for personal use or for distribution. The same goes for the manufacturing of marijuana products or derivatives. California laws on cultivation or manufacturing marijuana are complex in so much that some people or businesses are authorized to do so. If you do not have authorization to grow for your own medicinal use or to provide medicinal marijuana for qualified California patients, you can face a felony conviction if caught cultivating or manufacturing marijuana or marijuana products. Cultivation is an umbrella term to cover all stages of plant growth. Marijuana can take several months to grow and in the beginning will not have grown its buds, which are the psychoactive components of the plant. Prior to growing these buds, the plant is good for little more than making hemp products. However, marijuana plants are easily identifiable and you can be convicted for even having starters, sometimes called clones, only a few inches tall. Growing marijuana is also challenging; if you are caught facilitating its cultivation by having other people do it for you or providing the space and materials to do so, you can be convicted. You can also be convicted if you were caught with chemicals or products used to make manufactured marijuana products. Along with a felony drug charge on your criminal record, you will face between 16 months and three years in jail for cultivation with intent to sell and between three and seven years in prison for manufacturing marijuana products, in addition to a fine of up to $50,000. Keep in mind that cultivating or manufacturing marijuana is usually seen as indicative of an intent to sell and the harsh consequences of these charges reflect that presumed intent. If you are facing charges of unauthorized cultivation of marijuana, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. A good attorney can evaluate your case and advise you on how to strategize your defense. The prosecution must prove you were illegally cultivating marijuana or otherwise facilitating the cultivation, to convict you. Often, the prosecution sees cultivation of marijuana as an indicator of intent to sell, because the amount of plants grown usually far exceed what would be needed for personal use. However, if the defendant can prove they did not have intent to sell the marijuana, that there was not as much marijuana as the prosecution alleges or that they had authorization to grow that amount, the charge may be reduced to a possession charge, which would be punishable dependent upon the amount and form of the drug. In any case, marijuana laws in California are complex and may continue to change in face of further decriminalization. To avoid prosecution, be sure to inform yourself on the current laws and know your limitations and rights.
Are you in the Visalia or Tulare area and facing charges of marijuana cultivation? At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we know drug laws and can provide tenacious representation through out your case. Criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens has successfully represented clients in Fresno, Tulare and Kings Counties and can strategize a solid defense for your case. Contact our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss your case.