In Allegheny County and throughout western Pennsylvania, people frequently cultivate marijuana plants and with the recent signing of the Pennsylvania medical marijuana bill, this may seem like a relief to marijuana growers. But it is important to remember that while the new medical marijuana law allows patients with one of 17 qualifying conditions to access the drug, the medical marijuana must be purchased from an authorized dispensary. Therefore, if you are found with marijuana plants even if the crop is just for your own use, it can still cause serious legal problems.
If you grow marijuana in your basement or garden, and the police charge you with the cultivation of marijuana, you will need to retain a defense attorney who is knowledgeable in the current marijuana laws.
The Number of Marijuana Plants That Can Get You Arrested
You can be arrested for growing even one marijuana plant. The severity of the penalties you face will vary depending on the quantity of your plantings.
How a Marijuana Charge Can Harm You
If you are caught growing two to 10 pounds of marijuana, or 10 to 21 plants, you risk one year in prison and $5,000 in fines for a first offense. For a second offense, you can face two years in prison and $10,000 in fines.
If you cultivated 10 to 50 pounds, or 21 to 51 plants, you can draw three years in prison and $15,000 in fines for a first offense.
If you have previously been convicted of any other drug, controlled substance, or marijuana cultivation offense in the past, the minimum mandatory penalties increase upon sentencing. A second offense is punishable by a $30,000 fine and a minimum prison sentence of four years. You could face even greater fines depending on how much money you made from the illegal marijuana cultivation.
Other possible consequences of a marijuana cultivation conviction:
- You will have a criminal record that can negatively affect your ability to find a good job, maintain current employment, join the military, obtain certain professional licenses, or be admitted to graduate school.
- Your driver’s license will be suspended for six months for a first offense, one year for a second offense and two years for a third offense.
- You may be unable to obtain a federally subsidized student loan or other forms of financial assistance for education programs.
- If you share custody of your children, a marijuana conviction could be damaging to your custodial agreement and you might lose some of your rights to see your kids.
Steps to Take if You Have Been Charged
Marijuana charges as considered criminal offenses, and it’s best to have an experienced Pittsburgh marijuana defense attorney on your side to help you navigate the complexity of the legal process around these cases. Your attorney can help evaluate the evidence being brought against you by the Commonwealth and assess what can and cannot be used to prosecute you. It’s also important to have an attorney who understands how to fight these types of cases and work toward maintaining your rights by drawing on prior experience and an in-depth understanding of the Pittsburgh criminal system.
Your marijuana lawyer will go over what happened both before and after your arrest. Importantly, he or she will assess whether there was probable cause to charge you with a crime. This includes determining if the marijuana plantings really belonged to you.