Recreational marijuana is now legal in California, and medical marijuana has been available for almost 20 years. Recreational users looking to save some money may try to grow the plant at home. However, it is important to know the limits of the law, as well as the safety risks associated with home cultivation and manufacturing. Home grow operations can lead to fires, which can then lead the police to charging residents with drug distribution charges.
When the fire department responded to a residential fire in Pittsburg, California, they found a grow operation and notified the police. Investigators now believe the fire was started by the marijuana grow operation to cultivate approximately 200 plants. An electric bypass meter had been installed, which investigators believe was the cause of the fire.
When arson investigators responded to a multi-building fire in Stockton that destroyed a number of businesses and damaged a residential home, investigators found the charred remains of grow equipment. Firefighters had also reported seeing marijuana plants inside the building.
"We all know what it's used for, but the mere possession of that equipment isn't against the law," said Deputy Les Garcia, spokesperson for the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office, “it's the cultivation part that's a crime. If the firefighters say they saw marijuana plants prior to the building becoming fully engulfed, that changes things, but I don't know what they witnessed. That information will come from their statements as part of the investigation."
Since the passage of Prop. 64, many of the criminal charges involving marijuana have been eliminated or reduced. However, an individual may still face serious fines and possible time in jail if they are found to be in possession of more than one ounce of marijuana, or cultivate more than 6 plants at one residence. Additionally, while use of marijuana may be legal for many residents, the possession or manufacture other drugs may still result in felony drug charges.
A man in Pasco County, Florida was making butane hash oil in his home, when a chemical reaction exploded, starting a fire. Steven Brown, 24, and others in the residence fled the house while the fire spread to neighbors' homes. Brown took the drugs with him when he left the home, but left two dogs caged on the property. The dogs were later discovered dead. Brown already had 12 active warrants for his arrest, including first-degree arson, cruelty to animals, and possession of a place for the manufacturing of a controlled substance. He will now face additional charges.
On top of drug charges, when a grow operation goes wrong, those involved can face additional criminal charges. In New York, two men were operating a grow house were indicted on assault charges after a fire caused the death of a firefighter. Authorities were investigating a report of a gas leak when there was an explosion, killing a 17-year veteran of the fire department. Authorities found marijuana plants, heaters, and fertilizers associated with the growing operation, as well as tanks of helium.
If you have been charged with possession for sale of marijuana or other drugs, contact the criminal defense lawyer who has dedicated her legal career to defending people from drug charges in the East Bay. With over 30 years of experience, Lynn Gorelick understands how a drug charge can affect your future, and how to fight to keep a conviction off your record. If you are facing drug charges, contact the local East Bay criminal defense attorney who understands that you do not have to plead guilty just because you were arrested.