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From evaluation services openly advertised on Venice Beach to the many accessory shops scattered throughout the metro area, the medical marijuana culture in Los Angeles is constantly growing. Since California is such a marijuana-friendly state, it is easy to assume that cultivation of the plant at home without credentials is a minor offense. However, it is considered a serious crime, and offenders are often treated harshly by judges.
Examples Of Cultivation Cases
Cultivating marijuana without the proper licenses and credentials is a violation of the California Health and Safety Code. Section 11358 outlines the requirements for cultivation. A person who has a medical marijuana prescription may cultivate a plant at home in some instances. If not, the person must buy marijuana from a dispensary or pharmacy.
An unlicensed individual does not have to be in the same room as the marijuana plant to be charged. A person who lives in a home where unlawful plants are found can be charged, and a business owner who illegally cultivates plants can be charged.
Dispensaries and pharmacies must maintain their licenses and credentials to remain in compliance for legal cultivation. If they do not comply, they can be charged with criminal violations of state laws. Cultivation charges against individuals or businesses can arise from illegally performing any of the following actions:
Penalties For Cultivation In Los Angeles
Unfortunately for cultivators, California law classifies cultivation as a felony offense. For this reason, the penalties are harsh. First-time offenders may spend 16 months or up to a few years in jail. However, new legislation in California that aims to reduce crowding may keep low-profile drug offenders from jail sentences. In some cases, a person may receive a sentence for drug rehab instead of jail if the individual is a first-time offender.
To receive an alternate drug rehab sentence, a person must also be cultivating the marijuana only for personal use. For example, an unlicensed person with 50 plants would not qualify. An older woman who cultivates her own plants for self-medicating without a prescription would likely receive a lighter sentence with drug rehab instead of jail. Sentences for these charges usually vary and are decided on a case-by-case basis.
How To Avoid Harsh Penalties
In some cases, there is weak evidence or wrongful charges. For example, a woman who has a medical marijuana prescription may prefer her own marijuana but may need help cultivating it because of a disability. If her sister is her primary caregiver and cultivates the plant but is charged with a crime, the sister could likely have the charges dismissed. California law allows primary caregivers of medical marijuana patients to help cultivate plants when necessary.
If the evidence is weak or the charged individual is a first-time offender, it is possible to negotiate a lesser charge. With a lesser charge, a person can avoid jail or a lengthy rehab program. In many cases, a good attorney is able to negotiate a deal for a charge reduction to simple possession of marijuana. Drug counseling and community service may be ordered, and many judges in Los Angeles order individuals to attend recovery meetings as well.
Why A Good Attorney Is Necessary
The courts are crowded in Los Angeles. Public defenders often have more cases than they can handle. Only a private attorney who has helped others accused of cultivation has the time to negotiate an optimal deal or fight to have the charges dismissed.