Cultivation of Marijuana Charges

In 2017, the Marijuana Grow House Unit and Street Crime Unit of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office conducted more than sixty (60) grow house bust operations. In many of these cases, the first indication that a criminal investigation has begun is when the officers come to the property with a search warrant to conduct the marijuana cultivation house raid.

The Tampa Electric Company might trigger the investigation if an illegal electric connection provides unmetered electricity to a home or business. Related charges in these cases include trafficking in marijuana, cultivation of marijuana, rent/own/lease for the purpose of trafficking, grand theft of electricity, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

The State of Florida leads the nation in its harsh enforcement of marijuana laws for possession and cultivation of cannabis. In fact, Florida leads the nation in raids on indoor cannabis cultivation or marijuana hydroponic operations.

Law enforcement officers devote tremendous resources to finding “grow houses” through sting operations. Many of these sting operations involve confidential informants or officers following people home from hydroponic gardening supply stores throughout the Tampa Bay area.

Many law enforcement officers describe their sting operations as “fishing out of a barrel.” Grow house sting operations are ineffective because they target only the most inexperienced operators.

Attorney for Marijuana Cultivation Crimes in Tampa, FL

In “manufacture of cannabis” cases in Florida, the police often search a home with or without an arrest warrant or a search warrant. Any search of a home is the most scrutinized type of search under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

If you are being charged with growing marijuana, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Sammis Law Firm. We can fight your charges aggressively to help fight for the best result in your case.

We fight drug cases involving the cultivation of cannabis throughout the greater Tampa Bay area, including all of Hillsborough County, Hernando County, Pasco County, Pinellas County, Manatee County, and Polk County, FL.

Call (813) 250-0500.

Defenses for Marijuana Cultivation under Florida Law

The defense in these felony drug cases often hinges on the following:

  • your attorney’s experience in marijuana cultivation cases;
  • the thoroughness of your attorney’s investigation into the facts of the case;
  • the questioning of the officers during depositions to discovery problems with their testimony; and
  • the issues raised in motions to suppress and motions to dismiss.

Many of these searches by law enforcement are illegal because they violate the Fourth Amendment. Any issue with the legality of the search can result in the prosecutor dropping the charges or the judge granting a motion to exclude the evidence against you.

Marijuana Cultivation Grow House in Hillsborough County, Florida

Our Attorneys are Members of the NORML Legal Committee

If you are under investigation or have been arrested for Marijuana Cultivation or Trafficking, contact an attorney experienced in defending cultivation of marijuana cases throughout the State of Florida. Our attorneys are members of the NORML Legal Committee, committed to the reform of marijuana laws in Florida.

The attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm work hard to stay current on the most recent changes in the law affecting marijuana cultivation prosecutions and defenses.

Additionally, we work with a network of lawyers throughout the State of Florida and the rest of the nation, fighting similar battles to defend individuals charged with marijuana offenses, including cultivation and trafficking. Read more about the pros and cons of the Legalization of Marijuana in Florida.

The Charge of Cultivation of Marijuana or Manufacture of Cannabis

Under Florida law, Section 893.13(1)(a) governs the offense of cultivation of marijuana, which is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in Florida State Prison. The offense is considered a Level 3 (three) offense, which assuming no other additional charges or prior record, would equate to 16 points on your Florida Criminal Punishment Code Score Sheet.

In Tampa, Hillsborough County, FL, the marijuana cultivation charge is written up as the criminal offense of “manufacture of cannabis” under the same statute and subsection.

Raids on Indoor Marijuana Cultivation Homes in Florida

The explosion of law enforcement resources being shifted to finding marijuana cultivation operations in Florida is incredible. In 2008 more than 1,022 grow houses were raided in Florida. That marks a sharp increase from 2006, when only 480 grow houses were found in Florida, and from 2007 when 944 grow houses were found in Florida.

Marijuana cultivation and cannabis grow house operations have increased dramatically in St. Petersburg, and Clearwater for Pinellas County, FL.

Those high numbers do not necessarily mean that more marijuana is grown here compared with other urban areas. Instead, aggressive law enforcement policies in Florida are probably catching more individuals growing marijuana, especially the small unsophisticated operation.

Marijuana grown indoors using hydroponic supplies is much more potent than the marijuana of 30 years ago. Thirty years ago, marijuana contained about 7% THC. Today, the hydroponic versions of marijuana have THC levels above 25%.

The Unsophisticated “Grow House” is the Most Likely Target of a Sting Operation

As information becomes more readily available on the internet about how to grow marijuana indoors, more people make an attempt to start a small, unsophisticated operation for their own personal consumption.

Those small, unsophisticated marijuana cultivations are the most likely type of “grow house” to be discovered by law enforcement officers in Tampa, Hillsborough County, and the surrounding areas of Clearwater and St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, Bartow, Polk County, New Port Richey and Dade City, Pasco County.

Many of our clients have no criminal record. A drug accusation such as marijuana cultivation or trafficking can have serious collateral consequences, which are most destructive to an individual with no criminal record who attempts to cultivate cannabis for personal consumption as a hobby or out of curiosity.

Sting Operations in Marijuana Grow House Cases

Large grow house operations are more sophisticated, and less likely to fall prey to the most common types of sting operations. How do law enforcement officers find marijuana grow house or cannabis cultivation operations in Florida?

  1. Law enforcement officers wait outside a hydroponic store and then follow anyone who makes a purchase home.
  2. Law enforcement officers set up a dummy online hydroponic store, forum, or informational website to gather information about citizens that visit the site to request additional information.
  3. A neighbor reports suspicious activity.
  4. A disgruntled employee or unhappy former love interest can report their knowledge about the presence of marijuana in the home to the police.
  5. A confidential informant is arrested and then attempts to avoid being prosecuted by “setting up” other individuals.
  6. Officers receive information about unusually high electric bills at a residence.
  7. Officers notice certain signs of the cannabis cultivation operation from outside the house, such as mold growing on the eaves or usually wiring.
  8. The occupant of the house fails to put his trash at the curb for pick up, which can raise an officer’s suspension after they have begun surveillance on the house.
  9. The police searched the trash left at the curb and discovery evidence of marijuana being grown in the house.

Officers have become increasingly creative in finding indoor cultivation of marijuana operations in Florida, including using confidential informants working at hydroponic stores to gather information from customers. The law enforcement officers then use those leads to conduct surveillance on the individuals until they gather enough information to obtain an arrest or search warrant.

In other cases, the law enforcement officers simply conduct a “knock and talk,” which involves a number of officers approaching the front door of a house in an attempt to gain “voluntary consent” to search the residence. Furthermore, law enforcement officers can search electric bills, or survey the outside of the home looking for any indications of indoor marijuana cultivation.

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Other Marijuana Offenses Under Florida Law

Criminal charges for marijuana crimes include:

  • Possession of less than 20 grams of cannabis under Florida law is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in the county jail.
  • Possession of more than 20 grams of cannabis under Florida law is a third-degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in Florida State Prison.
  • Sell, delivery, or manufacture of marijuana or cannabis within 1,000 feet of a church, park, daycare, or school is a second-degree felony punishable by 15 years in Florida State Prison.
  • Selling marijuana to a minor in Florida is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in Florida State Prison.
  • Trafficking in Cannabis –
  • More than 25 pounds of marijuana but less than 2,000 pounds of marijuana [or more than 300 cannabis plants but less than 2,000 cannabis plants] is a first degree felony punishable by 30 years in Florida State Prison with a 3 year minimum mandatory sentence (meaning that at least three years of the sentence must be served day for day), plus a $25,000.00 fine.
  • More than 2,000 pounds of cannabis but less than 10,000 pounds of cannabis [or more than 2,000 marijuana plants but less than 10,000 marijuana plants] is a first degree felony punishable by 30 years in Florida State Prison with a 7 year minimum mandatory sentence and $50,000.00 fine.
  • More than 10,000 pounds of marijuana [or more than 10,000 cannabis plants] is a first degree felony punishable by 30 years in Florida State Prison with a 15 year minimum mandatory sentence and a $200,000.00 fine.

Additional Resources

Florida Leads U.S. in Indoor Hydroponic Marijuana Cultivation – Article discussing Florida’s distinction as the leader in Indoor Marijuana Cultivation in the U.S. and the potency of this hydroponic cannabis.

Watch a video from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office explaining how its Marijuana Growhouse Unit has raided 53 houses growing illegal indoor marijuana and seized more than two tons of marijuana with a street value of more than $7 million. After the final disposition of the criminal case, HCSO destroyed 880 pounds of marijuana by incineration at the McKay Bay Refuse-To-Energy Facility in Tampa.

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Choosing an Attorney for a Cannabis Cultivation Case in Florida

At the Sammis Law Firm, our attorneys are focused on fighting marijuana and cannabis cultivation cases in the Tampa Bay area, including Tampa or Plant City in Hillsborough County, Bartow in Polk County, New Port Richey or Dade City in Pasco County, St. Petersburg or Clearwater in Pinellas County, and Brooksville in Hernando County, FL.

Contact a drug crimes lawyer for any cannabis cultivation case in Florida to discuss defenses that may apply given the particular facts and circumstances of your case.

Call (813) 250-0500.

Picture of Marijuana Plants Grown Inside House

This article was last updated on Monday, August 21, 2023.