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Outdoor Marijuana Farms in California: What are the Consequences?

Outdoor Marijuana Farms in California: What are the Consequences?

There are two main schools of thought when it comes to growing marijuana — outdoors and indoors. Each marijuana grower has their own preference. Some appreciate indoor growing because it allows them to accurately control the environment with lights, ventilation, and hydroponics. Outdoor growers are often attracted by the relatively low costs involved, the extra space, and the “all-natural” end product.

But there is one major issue with outdoor growing that many California residents do not fully appreciate: It can be much easier for the authorities to find your marijuana farm. Because these operations usually involve hundreds or even thousands of plants, the consequences can be quite serious. What penalties might you face for growing marijuana outdoors, and how can you defend yourself in the best possible way?

Isn’t Marijuana Legal in California?

You might be wondering how such extreme consequences are even possible. Isn’t marijuana legal in California? Yes – it is true that the recreational use of marijuana has been legal for adults since 2016. But once you start growing this drug, you need to be very careful. Part of the 2016 bill allows adults to grow their own marijuana – but there are limits. You are only allowed to grow six plants for personal recreational use. And here is the key thing to remember: These plants must be grown indoors or on your private premises. The growing area must be locked, and the plants may not be visible from any public space – such as a road or pathway.

With all that being said, violating these laws is usually a misdemeanor that comes with a penalty of up to six months in jail. You may also face a fine of $500. Only in severe cases will your illegal grow-op result in felony charges. If any of these factors are present, you may face felony charges:

  • You have a violent felony on your record
  • You are a registered sex offender
  • You have two or more prior convictions involving illegal grow-ops
  • You violated environmental laws during the illegal growing process

Felony charges usually result in up to three years of prison time and a fine of up to $10,000.

To find out where you can grow marijuana outdoors legally, you need to pay close attention to the specific laws and regulations of the county. There are counties that regulate and license outdoor grows and there are counties that forbid outdoor grows under state law. You may also face charges related to manufacturing laws and general code violations. Although growing marijuana outdoors may be legal in some situations, you cannot simply assume that it is okay to grow anywhere in the state without checking the local regulations and codes.

Pay Close Attention to Labor Laws

Once some marijuana grows became legal in California, these legal operations were immediately treated like any other business. And like any other business, you need to be very careful not to violate labor laws. Marijuana growers may be relatively new to the world of legal business operations, having previously operated under the radar with no oversight or regulation. Suddenly, you might be confronted with the need to treat your employees in a manner that adheres to California’s very strict labor laws. The authorities pay close attention to these legal grows, as there have been many deaths and cases of worker exploitation. There have been numerous cases of workers being poisoned by carbon monoxide.

Concerns That Legal Pot Agriculture is No Longer Profitable

There are concerns that legalization has actually made growing marijuana less profitable. Many legal farms that have been operating for generations have been forced to shut down after the price of marijuana crashed by almost 95% since the legalization effort in 2016. The numbers are astonishing – with the price of a pound falling from $2,000 to just $400. Some are even selling for $100 a pound, making this plant almost completely worthless. It is the age-old law of supply and demand. With more people engaging in this trade, there is higher competition. And more competition always drives prices down. This is part of the reason so many growers in California today are cutting corners to squeeze a little more profit out of their crops – whether it is breaking labor laws, committing environmental crimes, or something else.

Shasta County is One of the Most Popular Places in the State to Grow Outdoor Marijuana

People have been growing marijuana outdoors in Shasta County for many years, and these activities began long before California legalized marijuana. In January 2022, over 11,500 plants were discovered across the county within a short space of time. A number of weapons were also recovered, and numerous pounds of fully-processed marijuana were seized. While suspects managed to flee one site before the police arrived, four individuals were detained at a second site.

Issues like these have prompted Shasta County to explore stiffer penalties for outdoor growers. In 2021, it was reported that violators could face fines of up to $10,000 per day. Repeat offenders would face up to $20,000 per day in fines. While California may have legalized marijuana, this does not mean that you will experience light penalties for breaking the law. Those who are growing excessive amounts of marijuana outdoors can suffer financial penalties and serious time behind bars. If you have been arrested for this offense, it is important to get in touch with a qualified, experienced criminal defense attorney at your earliest convenience.

How Can I Defend Myself Against Marijuana Growing Charges in California?

If you have been charged with any crime related to growing marijuana, you need to get in touch with a qualified, experienced drug crimes defense attorney in California. Book your consultation with Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox, LLP at your earliest convenience, and you can approach this situation in the most confident, efficient manner possible. While it may be daunting to face years in prison for growing marijuana, you do not need to simply sit back and accept needlessly excessive penalties. With our help, you can formulate a solid defense strategy based on your unique situation. Reach out today to get started.

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Stephen Levine, is a Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Defense — an honor achieved by only the top criminal law attorneys in California. Mr. Levine has over 40 years of experience in criminal defense and family law serving Southern California, and is a highly regarded Super Lawyer as well as AV Rated attorney.