Minnesota passed a medical marijuana law in 2014. Other states continue to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use. More and more people believe that using or even growing one's own marijuana should not be a crime. The law regarding growing marijuana has not changed, and it remains a crime in Minnesota, even for those with a medical marijuana recommendation.
Those with qualifying conditions under Minnesota's medical marijuana program may not have the financial means to comply with the law. Because the law requires medical marijuana patients to purchase from state-licensed shops and has quite a few annual fees, those with debilitating medical conditions may choose not to participate. The program offers no protection for patients growing their own medicine.
Cultivation charges are treated like possession charges
At first glance, people may think Minnesota has lenient marijuana cultivation laws. After all, it's treated like simple possession, and some possession results in only a fine. Unfortunately for those caught growing marijuana, the possession statute bases penalties and charges on weight.
Unless the person growing marijuana only has a couple of recently sprouted seeds or clones, a single plant could result in felony charges. Possession of up to 42.5 grams is a misdemeanor. Anything over that amount is considered a felony. A single plant, still in the early stages of growth, could weigh well over two ounces. Plants are usually weighed right when a garden gets discovered and pulled out. The wet weight of the plants would well exceed the potential weight of any future harvest.
Possession of over 42.5 grams and up to 10 kilograms (roughly 22 pounds) is a felony offense that carries five years in jail and a $10,000 fine. If you have a large number of plants, it's possible that they could weigh more than that. Weights of over 10 kilograms up to 50 kilograms carry 20 years in jail and a fine of $250,000.
The courts likely won't allow medical defenses
You may hope that because you have a medical condition, the courts will offer leniency. However, many times those who grow marijuana for serious medical reasons are not allowed to discuss those medical reasons in court. The courts often consider marijuana cultivation charges relatively serious offenses, and the potential penalties speak to the court's attitude toward these crimes.
Getting sentenced to jail and a huge fine won't be the only potential penalty. If you were growing the marijuana in your house or in a garden in your yard, law enforcement could even try to seize your home via asset forfeiture. After all, you used your home or land in the commission of a crime. The courts will also consider other factors, like if you had extraction equipment used to make marijuana wax or concentrates, if there were children with access and if you have a previous criminal record.