Houston Criminal Defense Blog

Marijuana Farm & $125,000 in Plants Destroyed by Harris County Authorities After Anonymous Tip

Houston-Criminal-Defense_02-1000-ffccccccWhite-3333-0.20.3-1[1]Acting on an anonymous tip, local law enforcement officers from several area agencies shut down a Marijuana farm earlier this week. The farm was growing a number of plants with an estimated value of more than $125,000.

Although grow house and cultivation operation busts are common throughout Texas and in many areas across the United States, this particular seizure stands out for one particular reason: the tip off came from an anonymous user of a free smart phone app. According to officials from the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, officers were turned on to the marijuana field – located in south Harris County near Highway 288 – after a user of the iWatchHarrisCounty app alerted authorities.

iWatchHarrisCounty is a mobile crime tipping app that allows users to send crime tips from their mobile phones anonymously. It is designed to work similarly to traditional neighborhood crime watches in that it alerts authorities to reports of “behaviors and activities that make [users] feel uncomfortable or do not look right.” The app enables user to submit tips, images, and videos. Although this new technology may not amount to Big Brother and while it is still in initial stages, it has proven effective in aiding local law enforcement officers in policing crime, particularly in this case.

Acting on the tip submitted by the anonymous app user, the Harris County Narcotic Task Force – a law enforcement unit comprised of Sheriff’s deputies and officers from the Baytown and South Houston police department – conducted an investigation of the field on Tuesday. At the location, they found cultivation materials and a large amount of marijuana plants. No suspects were found during the investigation and the grow operation remains under investigation. The plants were later destroyed by authorities.

Marijuana Cultivation Laws in Texas

Marijuana has become one of the hottest topics within the national legal realm and continues to face an embroiled battle between conflicting state and federal legislation, fierce opposition, and aggressive advocacy. As several states throughout the country have begun to decriminalize or even legalize the use of marijuana, Texas remains firm in its stance on upholding federal laws that make marijuana use, possession, and cultivation an illegal offense. While several legislative efforts supporting the decriminalization of marijuana have circulated throughout the Lone Star State, none have yet to pass. There are also proposed bills that actually seek to expand the scope of Texas’ marijuana laws.

Whatever the case may be in the national or statewide marijuana discussion, the fact remains that marijuana is still illegal in Texas. As such, it becomes essential that all residents understand the laws and the potential penalties they may face. In addition to the criminal penalties individuals face for the possession of marijuana, serious criminal consequences exist for those who cultivate marijuana plants.

Penalties for Marijuana Cultivation

Depending on the amount of marijuana plants found, marijuana cultivation charges can be prosecuted as either misdemeanor or felony offenses. A person’s criminal history and prior criminal convictions may also play a role in the severity of a cultivation charge. As cultivation charges are based on the aggregate weight of the plants found, penalties are determined by the laws imposed for standard possession charges.

The unique factor at play here, however, is that plant materials and other non-intoxicating components of the plant can comprise the bulk of the aggregate weight. This means that a plant that weighs one pound will actually have less weight in actual harvested, cured marijuana – the product that ultimately ends up on the street. Nevertheless, criminal penalties are still based on weight, which means that alleged offenders face more severe penalties with increasing amounts of weight, even though they may be in possession of less actual marijuana. This is a distinct discrepancy, as many other states enforce cultivation laws based on the number of plants found rather than their weight. Under Texas law, cultivation penalties are structured as follows:

  • 2 ounces or less – misdemeanor, up to 180 days imprisonment, up to $2,000 fine
  • 2 to 4 ounces – misdemeanor, up to 1 year imprisonment, up to $4,000 fine
  • 4 ounces to 5 pounds – felony, between 180 days to 2 years imprisonment, up to $10,000 fine
  • 5 pounds to 50 pounds – felony, between 2 to 10 years imprisonment, up to $10,000 fine
  • 50 pounds to 2,000 pounds – felony, between 2 to 20 years imprisonment, up to $10,000 fine
  • More than 2,000 pounds – felony, between 5 to 99 years imprisonment, up to $50,000 fine

The facts are clear; those who are arrested and charged with the cultivation of marijuana – on any scale – can face serious criminal penalties, harsh financial consequences, and numerous other social repercussions that come with having a criminal conviction on one’s record. If you, a loved one, or someone you care about has recently been arrested and charged with the cultivation or possession of marijuana, do not hesitate to bring your case to the attention of a Houston criminal defense attorney from Billy Skinner & Associates. Learn more about the charges and penalties you face and how our firm can be of assistance.