Charges and Penalties for Illegal Cannabis Cultivation in California

Charges and Penalties for Illegal Cannabis Cultivation in California

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With California’s legalization of recreational marijuana in 2016 through Proposition 64, people over the age of 21 in California were allowed to legally cultivate up to six living marijuana plants for personal use. That said, cannabis cultivation is still considered illegal in California if it goes against the specific criteria outlined in Proposition 64. Furthermore, illegal cannabis cultivation can result in misdemeanor or felony charges which could potentially include severe penalties such as fines and even jail time.

In recent years, it is not uncommon to see headlines in the news about illegal cannabis cultivation discoveries and subsequent raids in California that result in arrests and criminal prosecution. Because cannabis is often considered a highly-lucrative industry, people may at times try to capitalize by illegally cultivating or selling marijuana without the appropriate licenses that are required in the state. Given how widespread illegal cannabis cultivation is, our team at Forward Law Group covers a topic here that many people across California are extremely interested in–the criminal charges and accompanying penalties for illegal marijuana cultivation in California. 

With expansive knowledge about California’s marijuana laws and tremendous experience with cases related to illegal marijuana cultivation, our Forward Law Group attorneys seek to provide essential information that people in the state can utilize. We begin by providing a brief overview and background of California’s marijuana laws, before discussing what is legal and what is not related to cannabis cultivation, and potential charges and penalties for illegal marijuana cultivation. Let’s dive in!

History of California’s Marijuana Laws

California was the first state in the US to legalize medicinal marijuana with Proposition 215–known as the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. This allowed people in California who were seriously ill to obtain and use marijuana for medicinal purposes upon a recommendation from a licensed physician. Related to cultivation, the Compassionate Use Act also allowed ill Californians who received recommendations to cultivate cannabis for personal use. 

Although Proposition 215 was the first key step to completely legalizing marijuana, it gave legal access to only a pre-defined group of people–people with illnesses. This would change in 2016 with the passage of Proposition 64, also known as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, which would legalize recreational cannabis for people in California ages 21 and older. Through Proposition 64, Californians who were of age could legally:

  • possess, process, transport, purchase, obtain, or give away (to other people 21 years old or older) without compensation up to 28.5 grams of marijuana and up to 8 grams of concentrated cannabis;
  • possess, plant, cultivate, harvest, dry, or process up to six living marijuana plants and products produced by the plants; and
  • smoke, ingest, and use marijuana and marijuana products.

The bullet points above highlight some of the primary aspects of Proposition 64, but the legislation also included other changes to the law as well. For example, there were aspects related to the California court’s review and resentencing procedures for people convicted of marijuana charges, as well as details about the sealing and destruction of court records connected to cannabis-related arrests and convictions. 

Although Proposition 64 legalized recreational cannabis in California, cannabis is still considered illegal federally. Furthermore, even within California, there are many aspects related to cannabis use, possession, cultivation, and so on that remain illegal. People in California, for example, cannot smoke marijuana in public places such as bars or restaurants. In addition, people cannot smoke marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school, daycare center, or youth center.

Cannabis cultivation is one area where some people in the state have gotten in trouble with the law in recent years. In the section below, we do a deep dive into what is considered legal and illegal in terms of cannabis cultivation in California. 

Is It Legal to Grow Marijuana in California? 

Many people across California are interested in learning more about the legality of growing marijuana within the state. Simply stated, it is legal to grow marijuana in California–although there are rules in place related to who can grow it (adults over the age of 21) and how many plants they can grow (more on this below). It is also legal to cultivate marijuana commercially for the purposes of selling the cannabis, but this requires proper government-approved licensing. The process of applying for a cannabis license in California is long, detailed, and requires significant time. When people in California grow marijuana over the amount that is allowed without a license, they can face charges and penalties. 

Common Question: How Many Marijuana Plants Can I Grow Without a License in California?

If you are at least 21 years old, you can legally grow six (6) cannabis plants at home. One detail that is important to note is that certain cities and counties across the state have specific rules related to cultivation, so it is always best to check what local rules are. In unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County, for example, cannabis cultivation cannot be visible from public right-of-way, is prohibited in front yards, and plants cannot exceed a height of six feet–among many other rules.  

Can Landlords Prohibit Tenants from Marijuana Cultivation?

Even though people in California are legally allowed to cultivate up to six marijuana plants, tenants must still ultimately follow the rules that the landlord sets in the agreed-upon contract. Landlords can not only ban the cultivation of any cannabis, but in addition, can also prohibit the use of marijuana in the rental property. This is similar to how landlords can prohibit the use of tobacco, for example. If a tenant cultivates marijuana without approval from the landlord, the tenant can ultimately be evicted from the property. If you are a landlord that is in need of assistance with a tenant who is cultivating cannabis, contact our Forward Law Group team today. 

What Happens If You Get Caught Growing Marijuana in California?

Another question that people in California often have centers around what happens in the case that a person gets caught growing marijuana in the state. This is a question that has a wide scope of answers based on the specific details of a case. For example, if a tenant gets caught cultivating five marijuana plants, they will often have the opportunity to “fix” this by getting rid of the plants before they are at risk of being evicted by the landlord. Even then, they will not face any criminal charges because they were growing less than the maximum number of plants that a person over 21 can cultivate. 

However, the circumstances change when a person is growing hundreds of marijuana plants illegally without a license in California. In this scenario, there is the potential for both misdemeanor and felony charges that can result in fines, probation, and even jail time, among other potential consequences. In the next section, we provide an in-depth look and potential charges and penalties related to illegally growing marijuana in California. 

Potential Charges and Penalties Related to Illegally Growing Cannabis in California

There are numerous different charges and penalties associated with illegally growing cannabis in California. Marijuana cultivation laws are covered under California Health and Safety Code 11358, which states:

Each person who plants, cultivates, harvests, dries, or processes cannabis plants, or any part thereof, except as otherwise provided by law, shall be punished as follows:
(a) Each person under the age of 18 who plants, cultivates, harvests, dries, or processes any cannabis plants shall be punished in the same manner provided in paragraph (1) of subdivision (b) of Section 11357.
(b) Each person at least 18 years of age but less than 21 years of age who plants, cultivates, harvests, dries, or processes not more than six living cannabis plants shall be guilty of an infraction and a fine of not more than one hundred dollars ($100).
(c) Each person 18 years of age or over who plants, cultivates, harvests, dries, or processes more than six living cannabis plants shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for a period of not more than six months or by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars ($500), or by both that fine and imprisonment.

In summary:

  • People under 18 who are caught growing any amount of marijuana are often charged with an infraction, and may also be required to perform community service and a drug program.
  • People over 18 but under 21 who are caught growing any amount of marijuana are often charged with an infraction and subject to a fine. 
  • People over 21 who are caught growing more than six plants are often charged with a misdemeanor and face up to six months in jail and/or a $500 fine. 

In certain cases, people over 21 can be charged with a felony in California for growing more than six plants if they have a previous criminal record–especially if they have already been convicted for growing more than six marijuana plants previously. 

Can You Go To Jail for Growing Marijuana in California?

The simple answer to this question is yes. Under California law, if an adult over 21 is convicted of illegally cultivating cannabis (more than six plants), one of the potential penalties is jail time. In many cases, however, first-time offenders typically do not get jail time. That said, it is ultimately dependent on the specific circumstances surrounding a case. In all cases, getting the help of a dedicated attorney who has experience with marijuana law and cannabis cases can be beneficial in helping you achieve the best outcome. Forward Law Group has helped people across California successfully overcome illegal marijuana cultivation charges.

Other Marijuana-Related Charges in California

While growing cannabis illegally has its unique charges and penalties, there are many other marijuana-related charges in California that people can face if they break the law. Some of these charges include:

  • California Health and Safety Code Section 11359—This covers possession of marijuana with intent to sell. In most cases, those convicted can face up to six months in jail and a $500 dollar fine. 
  • California Health and Safety Code Section 11360—This deals with the unlicensed sale and transportation of marijuana in California. Typically, if convicted, this crime is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $500 dollar fine. 
  • California Vehicle Code Section 23222(B)—This considers driving a vehicle with possession of more than the legal 28.5-gram limit. This is typically considered an infraction that is punishable by a $100 fine.
  • California Vehicle Code Section 23152(F)—Although this code covers all drugs (beyond marijuana), it describes drug-related DUIs. Common penalties for a first-time offender can include up to six months in jail, up to a $1,000 fine, DUI school, and a suspended license.  

No matter how small or significant the marijuana charges you are facing are, our lawyers at Forward Law Group are here to help you. For more information about our California marijuana criminal defense services and to learn how we can help you, contact our friendly and helpful team today. 

Forward Law Group: Experienced Lawyers in Marijuana Criminal Defense Law

At Forward Law Group, we understand the impact that a marijuana-related charge can have and the extreme stress that it can cause. Beyond the actual penalties, a marijuana-related criminal conviction can stay on your criminal record and cause difficulties with employment and housing. If you have been charged with illegal marijuana cultivation in California, our lawyers will develop a strategic and impenetrable defense plan that helps ensure you get the outcome that you want and can move forward with your life. Our lawyers are extremely well-versed in California’s marijuana laws and have helped clients achieve successful outcomes despite facing the most rigid prosecutors. We take pride in providing phenomenal service to our clients–providing them with a detailed case analysis, walking them through every aspect of the case, and consistently being there to answer all questions. Call us today at (818) 471-8389 to take the first step in making sure you are well-protected and in a good position to overcome your case!