Written by attorney Lori Elaine Hall Laird

What You Need to Know If You Are Arrested for Operating a Marijuana Grow House

If you are under investigation or in custody and facing charges of cultivation of marijuana, you may be subject to serious penalties that can deprive your of your liberty and have an adverse impact on your future. Because more and more “grow houses" are cropping up throughout Texas and across the U.S., both Texas and federal law enforcement authorities are aggressively pursuing investigations and criminal cases against those operating marijuana cultivation operations. Law enforcement agencies eradicated over 8 million marijuana plants in a single recent year according to the Department of Justice National Drug Intelligence Center.

Law enforcement officers carefully analyze water and electricity use to identify grow houses. There are a wide range of issues that may create the basis for a valid defense when a person is accused of operating a business for cultivation of marijuana or manufacturing of other narcotics like methamphetamine. Some of these issues include:

Searches of the Premises: Law enforcement agents must conduct searches that are reasonable under the Fourth Amendment. A warrantless search of one’s home is presumptively unreasonable so the officers must prove a valid exception to the warrant requirement, such as exigency (i.e. emergency), hot pursuit or some other exception. Even if a law enforcement officer obtains a search warrant, judges sometimes erroneously issue the warrant based on insufficient evidence, or officers “fudge" the facts to obtain the warrant. When a warrant is valid on its face, there are still reasons that the search may be improper, such as when the search goes beyond the scope of the warrant. Sometimes a “consent search" is conducted, but the person who gives consent does not own the premises or have authority to consent to the search.

Challenging Informants: Police often use the testimony of those who purchase marijuana from those with cultivation operations or sell marijuana from the grow house to prosecute these cases. Many times these informants may be small scale dealers who view a cultivation operation as a threat to their business or individuals seeking to gain other advantages, such as favorable treatment in their own criminal case. Aggressive cross-examination of such informant can expose their motives to lie or distort the truth.

Attacking Electronic Surveillance: Police may use electronic wiretaps, GPS tracking devices, and other forms of high tech surveillance when investigating a marijuana cultivation operation. These types of surveillance may intrude on Fourth Amendment privacy interest protected by the prohibition against unreasonable search and seizures. Experienced drug crimes attorney Lori Laird investigates information gathered through electronic monitoring to determine Constitutional and statutory grounds to seek exclusion of such evidence.

Grow Lights/Electricity Usage: Many law enforcement agencies use helicopters with infra-red imaging equipment that will detect glow lights like a beacon. The police may engage in various actions to investigate such discoveries including reviewing electric bills or conducting informal “visits" to detect the odor of cannabis before seeking a search warrant. We will examine such actions for substantive and procedural violations of law and the rights of our clients.

The use of hydroponic cultivation methods involving artificial light from grow lamps and minimal soil has resulted in marijuana grow operations springing in upper scale suburban neighborhoods. These advances in cultivation and drug manufacturing processes along with the real estate housing bust has resulted in many innocent homeowners and landlords being swept up in criminal charges for drug trafficking, marijuana cultivation and drug manufacturing on properties that they own.

While the penalties for marijuana cultivation can result in a misdemeanor or felony conviction, the grading of the offense and severity of the punishment is based on the quantity of marijuana. The penalties for marijuana cultivation include:

Amount of Marijuana Grading Maximum Sentence Maximum Fine

2 Oz. or Less Class B Misdemeanor Six Months (180 days) $2,000

Over 2 less than 4 Oz. Class A Misdemeanor One Year $4,000

Over 4 Oz. to 5 Lb. State Jail Felony 180 days to 2 years $10,000

Over 5 to 50 Lb. 3rd Degree Felony 2 to 10 Years $10,000

Over 50 under 2000 Lb. 2nd Degree Felony 2 to 20 Years $10,000

2000 Lb. or more 1st Degree Felony 5 to 99 Years (or Life) $50,000

If you are facing charges of cultivating marijuana or drug manufacturing in Houston, Galveston, Angleton, Richmond, Baytown, Webster, League City or anywhere throughout Harris County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County or Chambers County, Lori Laird is a former law enforcement officer who relies on this experience when defending drug cases in Texas. Ms. Laird works diligently to seek dismissal of the charges, acquittal at trial or the best possible disposition. Call 832-699-1966 today for your free consultation or visit our website to learn more about my firm.

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