Even as a growing number of Americans recognize the value of marijuana as medicine, and with 20 states legalizing it and two approving the drug for recreational purposes, those who cultivate, sell and possess it continue to face harsh penalties.
In one of the most recent cases, our Birmingham marijuana defense attorneys have learned that a 60-year-old father and his 30-year-old son have been sentenced to 60 months each in connection with their alleged growth of some 450 plants at a location outside of Mobile.
Under Alabama law, a person who is caught cultivating marijuana can be charged either with possession with intent to distribute or trafficking. A person charged with possession with intent to distribute faces a felony and a minimum of one year in prison, with the possibility of up to 10 years behind bars.
A person convicted with trafficking marijuana in Alabama will be sentenced according to the alleged amount involved. Anything between 2.2 and 100 pounds is considered a felony with a minimum mandatory of 3 years behind bars, with a possible sentence of up to 99 years. A person convicted in connection with trafficking between 100 and 500 pounds of the drug faces a minimum of five years behind bars, and the minimum for up to 1,000 pounds of the drug is 15 years, plus a maximum fine of $200,000.
All of this is per Alabama Code 13A-12-231.
Such cases can also be prosecuted under federal law, as this case was. Often, larger cases or those that involve some sort of interstate commerce of the drug will be handed over to federal authorities.
In this case out of Mobile, the criminal justice system moved swiftly. They were arrested in June and sentenced by mid-October. Normally, cases would take longer than that, but these two men accepted a plea deal that gave them five years each, followed by four years of probation.
According to investigators, sheriff’s deputies were serving an eviction notice at the home where the two men lived. Once inside the residence, authorities reportedly noticed several pieces of equipment typically used to grow marijuana.
Confronted with the equipment, the son, who told deputies he was a “hippie tree-hugger from Colorado” said he and his father had been growing the plants outdoors on the property for more than a year.
Authorities proceeded to search the property and discovered roughly 2 pounds of the drug that had been harvested, along with about 440 immature plants, firearms and other drug paraphernalia.
The wife and mother of the two also lived in the residence, but she was not charged.
It’s important to keep in mind that coming from a state where the drug is not only culturally acceptable but legally allowable, the laws in Alabama have yet to change. Under both state and federal law, marijuana is still considered a Schedule I narcotic, which is the highest classification level for illegal narcotics. Authorities here will not take your use, possession, cultivation or sale of the drug lightly, no matter what your reasoning.
It’s not clear how much the prosecution relied on the statements made by the men at the time of their arrest, but it seems clear that their statements certainly did not help. We always advise defendants to refrain from offering up any additional details to authorities before they have had an opportunity to review the case and possible defenses with their attorney.