In many cases, law enforcement also conducts “trash pulls,” where officers literally go through a house’s trash cans looking for raw ent, or receipts or other documentation reflecting a grow house operation
Even though several states have legalized marijuana, you can still be arrested and prosecuted for growing marijuana unlawfully. Law enforcement agencies at the federal and state level still devote significant resources into investigating illegal marijuana “grow operations,” which involve the use of multiple “grow houses” in residential neighborhoods to grow large amounts of marijuana indoors while avoiding detection from law enforcement.
Because marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, the DEA and other federal agencies are still aggressively investigating and prosecuting marijuana grow houses cases.
As the DEA noted in its 2020 “Threat Assessment” report, marijuana supply from foreign countries like Mexico “has largely been supplanted by domestic-produced marijuana.” In other words, marijuana arrests at the border are decreasing while increasing in the suburbs.
Whether the investigation is being conducted by federal or state law enforcement, or, as is often the case, both, law enforcement officers are trained to look for certain patterns in marijuana grow house cases, such as whether certain houses in a neighborhood are using a disproportionate amount of electricity, stealing utilities, emitting an odor of raw marijuana, or have covered windows or discarded growing equipment outside, such as potting soil or electrical supplies. Investigators also look at features such as the seize of the house’s basement, the height of its fences, whether there are special vents, and whether the lights stay on at unusual times.
In some cases, officers can take out search warrants and use special equipment to detect if marijuana is being grown inside a house. Even without a warrant, law enforcement officers can sometimes detect radio interference from grow house equipment and use that to identify a grow house.
As in other investigations, law enforcement also relies on surveillance, especially in cases involving multiple grow houses where law enforcement tries to tie certain houses or individuals together as part of a bigger operation. For example, law enforcement officers are trained to believe that individuals making frequent and short visits to certain houses is a sign of a grow operation, and officers often obtain property records to look for common ownership or potential straw purchases.
The penalties for unlawfully growing marijuana can be severe, especially where there is a high quantity of marijuana involved. At the federal level, prosecutions in marijuana grow house cases are usually brought under 21 U.S.C. § 841, which prohibits the “manufacturing” of marijuana. These charges usually carry a mandatory minimum sentence of at least 10 years if convicted, though the mandatory minimum can be higher depending on the quantity of marijuana or the defendant’s criminal history.
In states where marijuana remains illegal, manufacturing marijuana can carry harsh sentences, including mandatory minimum sentences that depend on the amount of ple, growing between 10 and 2,000 pounds carries a mandatory minimum of 5 years in prison, 2,000 to 10,000 pounds carries 7 years, and 10,000 pounds or more carries a 15 years. The potential sentences are worse for individuals with prior convictions.
Even in states where marijuana is legal, law enforcement has targeted and raided growers operating in the black market or people grow marijuana without a state license
Our firm has represented several individuals with felony drug charges based on their operation or participation in a marijuana grow operation. In one recent federal case, we helped our client receive a probation sentence in a case involving 13 people, multiple houses, 1,500 plants, and check out this site over $7 million of seized marijuana.