Although the mere possession of cannabis is illegal under federal law, many states, including California have decriminalized not only the possession of cannabis, but, in some cases, have allowed for the growth and cultivation of cannabis. However, in order to be permitted to grow and cultivate this plant, California law requires state authorization. Nevertheless, some exceptions to this allowance exist, and for those who are charged with the unauthorized cultivation of cannabis, retaining the services of an attorney knowledgeable in cannabis and other drug-related law can help to ensure that they can successfully counter the prosecution’s case. Earlier this month, the Merced County Sheriff’s Office, with assistance by the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency, seized nearly 200 acres of cannabis plants, numbering in the hundreds of thousands. From the article, it appears that the crop owners are claiming that they are growing hemp, presumably for clothes and ropes, both of which are legal purposes. However, the Sheriff’s Office, and the DEA, do not appear to be taking this explanation seriously based upon the types of plants discovered and the high levels of THC they contain. A discussion of California’s cannabis cultivation laws, including the exceptions to authorization, will follow below.
California’s Cannabis Cultivation Law
As of January 1, 2018, recreational cannabis use and possession became legal in California for those 21 years of age and older. Previous to this date, medical cannabis use was permitted. As part of this decriminalization, California allows the growth and cultivation of cannabis in certain instances. Specifically, under California’s cannabis laws, it is legal for adults 21 and older to purchase, possess, and consume up to 28.5 grams of cannabis in their home or in a place that is licensed for cannabis consumption. Further, adults aged 21 and over are permitted to cultivate up to six cannabis plants for their personal use; cultivation of any amount of cannabis plans is impermissible by one under the age of 21. However, the cannabis must generally be grown indoors, unless local law allows it to be grown in an outdoor secured area.
Cultivation of greater than six cannabis plants by an adult 21 or over is typically a misdemeanor, with a potential penalty of up to six months in a county jail and/or a fine of up to $500. However, the following individuals, if caught cultivating more than six cannabis plants, may have felony charges asserted against them:
- Those who have previously been convicted of serious violent felonies;
- Registered sex offenders;
- Serial cultivators – that is, those who have had two or more prior convictions for cultivating more than six marijuana plants; and
- Those who also violate certain California environmental laws in their cannabis cultivation activities.
It should be noted that, in some cases, the following individuals may be eligible for a drug diversion program of rehabilitation in lieu of jail:
- The individual is a non-violent first- or second- time offender; and
- The charges against him/her are limited to possession and/or cultivation for personal use of more than 6 marijuana plants.
Defenses to the Unlawful Cultivation of Cannabis
The following defenses are available to individuals charged with cultivating greater than six cannabis plants:
- The cannabis belonged to another individual;
- The defendant was not aware that the cannabis was where it was found;
- The defendant was not aware that the cannabis was, in fact, cannabis;
- The defendant is a licensed medical cannabis user whose medical needs require him/her to cultivate more marijuana than California law otherwise allows; or
- The cannabis was found as a result of an illegal search.
Speak to a Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with unlawful cultivation of cannabis, and you believe you are within one or more of the above-listed exemptions, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Manshoory Law Group, APC as soon as possible. The attorneys at Manshoory Law Group, APC have extensive knowledge of and experience in the ever-changing area of drug law, and we will ensure that you are provided with an effective and aggressive defense, so that you have the best possible opportunity at defending the charges asserted against you. Attorneys are available 24/7 to take your call. Contact us today for an initial consultation.