Florida Has More Indoor Cannabis Grow Sites Seized Than Any Other State; Melbourne Criminal Lawyer Mark S. Germain Examines Crackdown on Cultivation Seizures in Florida

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According to the 2011 National Drug Threat Assessment report by the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Florida ranks first in the nation for the number of indoor grow sites forcibly taken and second for the number of cannabis plants eradicated in 2009. Melbourne marijuana crimes lawyer Mark S. Germain analyzes law enforcement efforts and possible reasons for indoor marijuana grow site takings in Florida.

The increased discovery and eradication of indoor marijuana farms by government authorities directly relates to the increase of indoor growing operations, states Melbourne marijuana defense attorney Mark S. Germain.

The United States Department of Justice released their annual National Drug Threat Assessment 2011 report earlier this year revealing Florida first in the nation among other states for the number of indoor marijuana grow sites forcibly taken, in addition to placing second for total number of cannabis plants eradicated per state in 2009.

The increase in marijuana grow site seizures in Florida follows a national trend of increasing grow site takings in the U.S within the past five years. According to the United States Department of Justice National Drug Threat Assessment 2011 report, indoor marijuana plants seized by police in the United States increased 70.7%, from 270,935 in 2005 to 462,419 in 2010; eradication of outdoor marijuana plants rose 150.5%, from 3,938,151 in 2005 to 9,866,766 in 2010. Correspondingly, the total number of plants eradicated from both indoor and outdoor sites in the United States greatly increased by 145.4%, or 6,120,099 plants, with 4,209,086 total marijuana plants eradicated in 2005 and over double in 2010 with 10,329,185 plants.

Prominent Melbourne marijuana defense lawyer Mark S. Germain, one of the founding partners at the Law Offices of Germain and Coulter, LLC, whose firm represents hundreds of clients charged with marijuana offenses explains, “The increased discovery and eradication of indoor marijuana farms by government authorities directly relates to the increase of indoor growing operations. Government success in seizing and punishing owners of outdoor grow sites caused an increase in indoor marijuana cultivation; however, the Florida legislature took notice and increased their efforts to eradicate indoor grow houses as well.”

Other reasons for the increase in indoor marijuana production in the United States include:

  •     The grower has more control over the plant and its environment, which allows the plant to mature for a longer period of time;
  •     Indoor marijuana grow sites are more difficult for police to detect than outdoor grow sites; and
  •     An increase in domestic marijuana growth due to the Mexican drug war and violence across U.S./Mexico borders.

The Florida legislature acknowledged the indoor growing trend in 2007 and began making even greater efforts to decrease marijuana cultivation and violence related to drug crimes in Florida, specifically relating to marijuana grow houses. By 2008, the state’s legislature passed a law enhancing the penalties related to cultivation of marijuana in Florida. Under the "Marijuana Grow House Eradication Act," the number of growing plants necessary to prosecute an alleged offender for drug trafficking, a first-degree felony, decreased from 300 plants to only 25. The law aims to eradicate large marijuana cultivation sites by convicting growers with harsher penalties.

“Florida marijuana crime penalties have become much more severe since the enactment of the Marijuana Grow House Eradication Act,” says Mark S. Germain, a Melbourne cannabis cultivation defense attorney. “Under the new law, possession of 25 or more plants is prima facie evidence of intent to sell or distribute, and considered drug trafficking. All trafficking offenses have mandatory minimum sentences, and are considered first degree felonies with penalties depending on the quantity of marijuana found at the scene of the crime.

For someone convicted of trafficking between 25 and 2,000 pounds of marijuana or 300 plants or more, the mandatory minimum prison sentence is three years and a fine of $25,000. If the amount is between 2,000 and 10,000 pounds or between 2,000 and 10,000 plants, there is a mandatory minimum prison sentence of seven years and a fine of $50,000. For 10,000 pounds or more or 10,000 plants or greater, the mandatory minimum sentence is 15 years in prison and a fine of $200,000.

If a marijuana grower is not charged with trafficking in Florida, but merely possession of marijuana, they can still face serious penalties. Under Florida law, simple possession of 20 or more grams of marijuana is classified as a felony of the third degree, and can result in up to five years in prison and/or up to $5,000 in fines. A first-time offender in possession of anything less than 20 grams of marijuana is classified as a first degree misdemeanor offense, which can result in up to one year in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines. Additionally, if the grower has any previous criminal convictions, the penalties will increase.    

“Along with hefty fines and possible jail or prison time, any drug-related conviction in Florida will lead to a driver's license suspension anywhere from six months to two years, depending on the severity of the crime,” states Melbourne marijuana trafficking lawyer Mark S. Germain. “Drug crimes within 1,000 feet of a school, college, public park, public housing, daycare center, or church are weighted with even tougher penalties.”

Individuals arrested for drug offenses in Florida may also face federal charges under the federal Controlled Substances Act, depending on whether the alleged offender crossed state or country lines. Federal marijuana penalties are even harsher and can result in longer mandatory sentencing in a federal prison, in addition to greater fines.

Mark S. Germain of the Law Offices of Germain and Coulter, LLC is a criminal defense attorney in Melbourne and represents clients throughout the Palm Bay area, including the areas of Brevard County, Volusia, Seminole County, Osceola County, Indian River County and Orange County.


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