Federal law makes it criminal to grow marijuana. State cannabis laws vary, and some states allow recreational marijuana users to grow marijuana within their homes. However, there are restrictions to the amount that can be grown.
What About Medical Marijuana States?
Some states permit patients to grow marijuana. However, these states limit the amount of marijuana that the patient or caregiver may grow. These limits will differ by state. For instance, medical marijuana patients in California can grow marijuana as it is reasonably related to their medical needs.
In distinction, many states set strict limitations on the number of plants a patient may have. Michigan restricts marijuana cultivation to 12 plants per patient while Maine limits the number to 6 plants per patient.
In addition, some states might oversee how a patient or caregiver might cultivate the marijuana. For instance, Maine demands that the marijuana be kept in an enclosed and locked facility.
What Are the Penalties for Growing Marijuana?
Since growing marijuana is not permitted nationwide and there are some states that do not allow it, there still can be criminal punishments for growing marijuana. The penalties for growing marijuana depend on whether you are charged under federal or state law.
- Federal Penalties: Growing marijuana is a felony under federal law. Penalties will differ according to the amount of marijuana that is found growing, measured by weight. Fines can range from $250,000 to $4,000,000. Jail time can range from 5 to 40 years. Penalties are boosted if marijuana is grown within 1,000 feet of a school or other particular area.
- State Penalties: Typically, state regulations on growing marijuana are less serious than federal laws. Penalties will differ from state to state. Like federal penalties, state penalties will hinge on the amount of marijuana being grown. In most states, growing marijuana is a felony, although some states have changed it to a misdemeanor. States that permit the growth of medical marijuana have no punishments for patients or care-givers.
What Are Federal Marijuana Laws?
Both the possession and distribution of marijuana are prohibited under federal laws on marijuana, specifically, the Controlled Substances Act. Federal law makes it unlawful to use, keep, grow, and sell marijuana. There is no exception for the medical or so-called “recreational” use of marijuana in federal law. Possession of even a small amount of marijuana is a federal criminal offense. Simple possession with no intent to distribute is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.
Almost all states and some municipalities have legislated laws legalizing the medical and/or recreational use of marijuana use in recent years. Even growing and distributing marijuana is now permitted under state law in certain states. Yet, if there is a conflict between federal and state law, federal law always prevails.
The medicinal use of marijuana is allowed in almost all states in the U.S. today. Colorado may have the most relaxed state laws regarding marijuana. In Colorado, it is lawful to possess and use marijuana for medical and recreational purposes. It is legal to transport up to 2 ounces and legal to have as many as six plants growing in one’s garden for personal use, more if a person is a commercially licensed grower.
Generally, federal law enforcement authorities do not prosecute medical or even recreational marijuana use as long as individuals adhere to the law of the state in which they live and do not sell marijuana across state lines.
In August of 2013, during the second term of President Obama, the Department of Justice released a memo which stated that the federal government essentially would not interfere with states in which laws had been passed to legalize marijuana to be used for whatever reason, medical or otherwise.
During the Trump administration, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions had indicated that the federal government would pursue individuals in violation of federal laws regarding marijuana. As long as the laws are in place, the possibility remains that the federal government could choose to begin enforcing them.
What Amount of Marijuana Do I Have to Carry to be in Violation of Federal Law?
Possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor offense under federal laws. The question of how much marijuana is a felony only comes into play when a person grows or sells marijuana, but is not relevant when possession is charged.
Following is a list of penalties based on offense per the U.S. sentencing guidelines used by judges to decide the punishment for any amount of marijuana possessed:
- For a first offense: misdemeanor, up to a year in jail and up to $1,000 in fines;
- For a second offense: misdemeanor, up to 2 years in jail (with a mandatory minimum of 15 days) and up to $2,500 in fines; and
- Third offense or more: misdemeanor or felony, up to 3 years in jail, with a mandatory minimum of 90 days, and up to $5,000 in fines.
So what is a mandatory minimum? Mandatory minimums are sentencing laws legislated by Congress, which, as the name implies, require a judge to impose a minimum jail sentence even if a judge were to decide that no jail time is warranted in a certain case.
This means that even if a judge should wish to bypass jail time for a certain defendant based on the circumstances of their case, they have no choice but to impose the minimum sentence. Further, a person usually cannot seek parole before serving the mandatory minimum sentence.
What About Selling and Growing Marijuana?
Growing and selling marijuana is frowned upon by federal law. As one might anticipate, the penalties for selling or growing marijuana are more strict than the penalties for simple possession.
The punishments for selling and cultivating marijuana are as follows:
- Less than 50 plants (cultivating) or 50 kg (selling): a federal felony, up to five years in jail and up to $250,000 in fines;
- 50-99 plants or kilograms: a federal felony, up to 20 years in jail and up to $1,000,000 in fines;
- 100-999 plants or kilograms: a federal felony, 5-40 years in jail and up to $500,000 in fines; and
- 1,000 or more plants or kilograms: a federal felony, 10 years to life in jail and up to $1,000,000 in fines.
Sales to a minor or within 1,000 feet of a school, youth center, or other protected locations result in doubling of the above penalties. Also, repeat offenders are subject to increased penalties and mandatory minimums.
Individuals convicted of selling marijuana paraphernalia are subject to a penalty of 3 years in jail. Simply possessing paraphernalia is not a crime; however, those caught with paraphernalia are subject to a charge of possession of marijuana, once the paraphernalia items are tested for marijuana residue.
What Are the Legal Consequences of Marijuana Possession?
Marijuana possession charges are misdemeanors under federal law, however marijuana sentencing for possession involves both jail terms and fines. A first conviction for possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.
A second offense is punishable by a minimum, mandatory sentence of at least 15 days in jail, but a sentence of up to 2 years in jail is possible. Whatever the jail time imposed, fines of up to $2,500 are also possible.
A third offense of possession of any amount of marijuana is punishable by imposition of a mandatory, minimum sentence of 90 days in jail and possibly as long as 3 years in jail, as well as a fine of up to $5,000.
Do I Need a Lawyer If I Have Been Charged with Growing Marijuana?
If you are arrested for growing marijuana in a state that you are not allowed to, you risk facing heavy fines and a lengthy incarceration. You should consult with a drug lawyer immediately. They will be able to help you defend yourself against the charges.
Further, an attorney will be familiar with your state’s particular laws. Your lawyer may also be able to help decrease your sentence.