Police discovered my grow house! Now what?
Grow houses are illegal labs created for the cultivation of drugs such as marijuana, also known as cannabis. They usually contain a system of equipment that delivers food, water and light to the plants. In order to avoid suspicion from police and other authorities, grow houses obtain high amounts of electricity illegally. Although grow houses are primarily located in residential neighborhoods, they are not usually open and visible. Instead, they are typically hidden on a residential property and only accessible via secret entryways and tunnels.
In Florida, the manufacturing of marijuana is punishable by law. A landlord who is aware of the grow house and permits a tenant to rent or lease the property can be charged with a third-degree felony and if convicted, can serve up to five years in prison as well as incur a $5,000 fine. The tenant as well as any individual that resides on the property and knows about the grown house or engages in the cultivation can be charged with a second-degree felony and if convicted, can serve up to fifteen years in prison. Additionally, if the cultivation occurs with a child present or near a school or any other place that provides child care services, an individual can be charged with a first-degree felony and if convicted, can serve up to thirty years in prison.
Moreover, Florida imposes different penalties based on the amount of plants or pounds of marijuana cultivated in the grow house. A grow house that has between 25 pounds and 2,000 plants carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 3 years as well as fines of up to $25,000. A grow house that has between 2,000 and 10,000 plants carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 7 years as well as fines of up to $50,000. Finally, a grow house with more than 10,000 plants carries a mandatory minimum of 15 years as well as a fine of up to $200,000.
As opposed to marijuana trafficking charge which requires the existence of 300 or more plants to successfully convict, a grow house only requires more than 25 plants. Trafficking charges will apply when a grow house has more than 300 plants since trafficking laws are stricter and have mandatory minimum sentences. If the plants are proved to be for personal consumption, then a lesser charge of marijuana possession may apply instead of a cultivation charge. Another major element for the successful conviction of a cultivation charge is proving that each plant is alive. If a plant is dead, it will not be counted towards the 25 minimum required plants for a cultivation charge.
Grow houses carry a multitude of risks to those that operate them – it’s important to know before you grow.