Legal and Illegal Cultivation of Marijuana in Arizona

by Aaron Black • April 06, 2019
Marijuana cultivationSince Arizona voters approved medical marijuana nine years ago to the chagrin of law enforcement and some elected and non-elected officials medical marijuana patients and their caregivers have been allowed to grow marijuana plants strictly for the use of the patient.

However, Arizona Revised Statute §13-3405(A)(3) still forbids “producing” marijuana and authorities have been arresting people for cultivating hundreds and even thousands of cannabis plants in Maricopa and other counties charging them with varying levels of cultivation felonies under §13-3405(B).

Most recently, last November, authorities in Yavapai County after a month-long investigation arrested seven people in connection with two marijuana cultivation operations. Officers seized 791 pounds of cultivate marijuana, 67 cannabis plants, and 180 grams of THC wax among other illicit drugs.

Producing up to two pounds of marijuana is a class five felony. Growing up to four pounds is charged as a fourth class felony. And more than four pounds is a class three felony. All of these sections carry prison sentences of various lengths if convicted.

In addition, those charged with cultivating large numbers of marijuana plants may also be charged with related felonies such as possessing cultivation equipment, possessing cannabis and cannabis seeds, and trafficking entailing transporting, conspiring to sell, and selling marijuana.

Medical marijuana and cultivation in Arizona

The Arizona Department of Health Services reported that 169,478 patients and 935 caregivers were qualified under the medical marijuana law, A.R.S. §36-2801, as of May 2018.
This law allows medical marijuana patient cardholders or their registered caregivers to grow their medication under certain conditions.

Patients, 21 years or older, who live 25 or more miles from a state licensed medical marijuana dispensary in any direction may legally grow up to 12 plants.

The plants must be “contained in an enclosed, locked facility” meaning out of sight of public view such as in a closet or an extra bedroom. The exception to enclosed and locked is when the plants are being moved to the cardholder’s new home or facility.

Patients can’t possess more than 2.5 ounces of medical marijuana at a time.

It’s illegal to share or sell the marijuana they produce with those who don’t have a medical marijuana permit.

Ramifications of a cultivation conviction

A felony conviction has far reaching effects. Beyond incarceration convicted felons may lose or endure the following.
  • The right to own and possess firearms
  • The right to vote in elections
  • Colleges can deny your application
  • Fines involved can mean financial hardship
  • You might be fired from your job
  • Employers may choose not to hire you
  • If you have a professional certification it can be suspended or revoked

Defenses to marijuana cultivation charges

The specific circumstances of the investigation and arrest can help determine the best defense possible to pursue. These are the common defenses.
  • Lack of knowledge

    Ignorance of the law typically is not a defense, but the fact that you didn’t know about a particular violation is. Intent is an element the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt to earn a conviction.

    You didn’t know marijuana plants were growing on your property, whether rented or owned. It could be that a previous owner or tenant planted the marijuana. It’s also possible that a roommate or a family member did the planting without your knowledge or consent. So, without knowledge of the offense you didn’t intend to commit a crime.
     
  • Miranda rights violations

    You have the right to not be compelled to be a witness against yourself.

    The moment law enforcement performs an arrest they must advise you of your Fifth Amendment right protecting you from self-incrimination, and that anything you do say becomes evidence that will be used against you. You must also be told that you have the right to be represented by an attorney and if you can’t afford one an attorney will be appointed for you.

    But beware. Law officers don’t have to give you those Miranda rights admonitions during their investigation when you aren’t in custody.
     
  • Voluntariness standard

    Simply put, police can’t coerce or trick you into making a confession.
     
  • Invalid search warrant

    Law enforcement must have sufficient grounds to ask a judge for a search warrant specifying what they’re looking for. If the warrant wasn’t properly supported then any evidence they find during the search can’t be used against you. This protection is provided by the Fourth Amendment guarding against unreasonable searches and seizures.
     
  • Errors made during the investigation

    These can be police reports that are misleading, falsified, or that have incorrect information or mistakes.

In your defense

If you’re charged with cultivating marijuana you’ll need an experienced criminal defense attorney at your side throughout the process beginning when you are a person of interest under investigation and when you are arrested and charged.

I chose defense work to help people who are at risk and to ensure that authorities play by the rules to achieve their “beyond a reasonable doubt” duty. I will scrutinize the reports filed by law enforcement investigators searching for inconstancies, mistakes, and sloppy work.

In your defense I also will conduct interviews of witnesses and investigators under oath to challenge their statements and hunt for conjecture.

I know the serious and potentially life-changing challenges you’re facing. I work to win a dismissal or, if you choose, I will negotiate with the prosecution attempting to reduce the charge to a less serious one with less harming punishment.

Free legal advice

Contact Criminal Defense Attorney in Phoenix, Aaron Black or call for a free telephonic case consultation 24 hours a day at (480)729-1683.