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Cultivation of Marijuana

Ohio Rev. Code 2925.04 makes it a crime to knowingly cultivate marijuana in the state. Marijuana is defined in Ohio Rev. Code 3719.01 as all parts of the cannabis plant, including its seeds and resin extract, but excluding its mature stalks, fiber made from mature stalks, and compounds or derivatives from mature stalks, except for resin which does count as marijuana. The plant is indigenous to Asia and grows in hot areas around the equator. It is not native to Ohio and does not naturally grow in the state. The dried leaves, stems, seeds and flowers of the plant Cannabis sativa can be used as a mind-altering drug, or in some states for medical purposes such as pain relief.

The plant can be grown indoors or outdoors, and the flowers, buds, seeds, and stems harvested for use as marijuana. The legal definition of cultivation includes planting, watering, fertilizing, or tilling the cannabis plant. Marijuana grow operations can be complex and involve the use of irrigation, lighting, and heating systems to get the plants to grow and flower. Common places where grow operations are found include residential basements, sheds, greenhouses, trailers, or fields.

Grow operations can include anywhere from a few plants for personal use to acres of plants cultivated for trafficking. Cultivation is a crime regardless of the number of plants. Even a single plant could result in a conviction, although the penalties vary based on the amount of cannabis being grown.

To be a crime, cultivation must be knowing under ORC 2925.04. That means a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you knew the plant was cannabis in order to convict you.

Penalties for Growing Marijuana

Cultivation of marijuana can be a minor misdemeanor or a serious felony. Similar to other drug offenses, the severity of the offense and the resulting penalties depends on the amount of pot involved.

Statutory penalties can include jail time and/or fines. Additionally, you face a possible driver’s license suspension and possible suspension of your professional license if you practice as a doctor, nurse, dentist, pharmacist, or other licensed professional.

  • Cultivation of less than 100 grams is a minor misdemeanor punishable with a fine of up to $150 and no jail time. If the offense was committed in the vicinity of a juvenile or a school, the offense becomes a fourth degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and up to a $250 fine.
  • Cultivation of 100 to 200 grams is a fourth degree misdemeanor with a possible sentence of up to 30 days in jail and up to a $250 fine. If committed near a juvenile or a school, it becomes a third degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and up to a $500 fine.
  • Cultivation of 200 to 1,000 grams is a fifth degree felony, punishable by 6 to 12 months in prison and a fine of up to $2,500. If committed in the vicinity of a juvenile or a school, it becomes a fourth degree felony with a possible sentence of 6 to 18 months and a fine of up to $5,000.
  • Cultivation of 1,000 to 5,000 grams is a third degree felony, with a sentence that may include 9 to 36 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. If committed near a juvenile or a school, it’s a second-degree felony punishable by 2 to 8 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
  • Cultivation of 5,000 to 20,000 grams is a third degree felony, with a presumption that some prison time will be served in the possible 9 to 36 months range, and up to a $10,000 fine. If the offense was committed near a juvenile or a school, it is a second-degree felony with a possible sentence of 2 to 8 years and up to a $15,000 fine.
  • Cultivation of more than 20,000 grams is a second-degree felony with a court required to impose the maximum 8-year prison term and a fine of up to $10,000. If committed near a juvenile or school, the offense becomes a first-degree felony and the court is required to impose the maximum 11-year prison sentence for a felony of that degree. You also face a fine of up to $20,000.

Other Consequences of Conviction

When you’re convicted of cultivating marijuana, jail time, fines, and a driver’s license suspension are just the beginning of how a drug conviction can affect your life. A conviction for any form of the offense can result in a lifelong criminal record. Having a drug conviction on your record creates a stigma that can prevent you from getting a good job or renting a nice place to live.

If you’re a college student or thinking of going to school, a drug conviction may prevent you from being accepted into school, and it definitely is a barrier to getting federal financial aid such as grants or student loans.

Drug convictions also may prevent you from getting approved for an immigration visa, green card, or citizenship, and can result in deportation if your legal immigration status changes because of the conviction, or you’re in the country without a visa or green card and get arrested.

Cultivation of Marijuana Defenses

If you’ve been charged with growing cannabis, an experienced Columbus defense attorney who reviews the facts of your case may spot any number of possible defenses available to you. It could be that the prosecutor just doesn’t have enough convincing evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were illegally cultivating pot plants. It could be that there are problems with the way the evidence was collected, or with how police went about investigating or arresting you.

A criminal defense attorney can look at the evidence and the prosecutor’s arguments and make a case for why you shouldn’t be convicted, or negotiate for a reduced charge and lighter penalties.

A couple of defenses that may be available when you’re charged with cultivation of marijuana include:

  • The plant wasn’t cannabis. Officers should be trained in how to recognize cannabis plants, but sometimes that training may be inadequate and the officer may not be able to tell cannabis from a similar plant. There have been stories in the news of a man whose garden of okra plants — a legal, edible plant — was raided by police, and of an elderly couple who had a Buckeye leaf sticker on their car because they were Ohio State fans and were pulled over by police because they thought the sticker showed a pot leaf. There are other issues of probable cause in the story about the sticker, but it demonstrates that police don’t always correctly recognize marijuana. If police misidentified the plant you were alleged to have been cultivating, you may have a defense to the charge.
  • You weren’t cultivating the plant or didn’t know it was cannabis. In September 2014, a grandmother in the U.K. made headlines when she found a mystery plant in her garden that turned out to be cannabis. Apparently a seed from a cannabis plant was accidentally mixed into a bag of birdseed, and the seed ended up taking root in her garden during some unseasonably warm weather. If the plant ended up in your field or garden by accident, or you didn’t know that it was cannabis, or you were not involved in planting, watering, fertilizing, or tilling the plant, you may have a defense to the charge.

Some other common defenses to drug charges include:

  • You had medical marijuana patient certification from a doctor
  • The police didn’t have probable cause to search the location where the plant was being cultivated
  • The police didn’t follow proper procedures or violated your constitutional rights when obtaining evidence, and the evidence shouldn’t be allowed into court
  • The police didn’t administer a Miranda rights warning when taking you into custody
  • The police used illegal wiretapping or surveillance in its investigation
  • The police used drug-sniffing dogs to obtain the evidence, and there were flaws in the outcome
  • The officer did not have reasonable suspicion to arrest you
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Charged with cultivation? Contact us.

A cultivation conviction can impact your life in many negative ways ranging from prison time to expensive fines to inevitable damage to your reputation. If you have been charged, a Columbus defense attorney can be an asset to protecting your rights and helping you avoid the maximum penalties. Call Luftman, Heck & Associates for a free legal consultation at or email us via advice@columbuscriminalattorney.com. We are available 24/7 to help you.

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