Richmond District Fire Uncovers Grow House (CA Health & Safety §11357 & §11358)

When a two-story Richmond District house caught on fire in the early morning hours, a neighbor called it in to the local Fire Department.  Firefighters responded and quickly put out the one-alarm conflagration, but they discovered something else in the meantime – a false wall in the garage of the home that was hiding a secret grow area with approximately 167 fully matured marijuana plants and 555 seedlings.  There have been no arrests in the case and police have yet to speak to the homeowner.

There are at least 6 sections of the California Health and Safety Code that deal with marijuana.  (CA Health & Safety §11357) in particular, deals with the penalties associated with possession of marijuana. Penalties are different, however, when it comes to the cultivation of cannabis plants (CA Health & Safety §11358).  In California, taking part in growing marijuana plants, harvesting them, drying them, or processing any part of them is considered a felony.  If you can prove that the plants are for personal use and not for sale, then there is no limit to the number of plants that you are allowed to grow.  However, this can be difficult to prove, as you can imagine – especially when growing even one marijuana plant can land you in jail for three years and subject you to a $10,000 fine.

If you can prove that you did not intend to sell the marijuana, (CA Penal Code §100) allows for what is called “diversion,” or receiving drug treatment/rehabilitation instead of a jail term.  The state, however, takes several things into consideration when making the determination as to whether your pot plants are for personal use: 1) whether or not your consumption of the drug is parallel to the amount you are growing; 2) whether you have a traceable, legitimate means of income; and 3) the actual number of plants you grow – the fewer the number of the plants, the easier it is to argue that they are for personal use.