The crime of cannabis cultivation is defined as the act of tending cannabis plants.  This may including watering, feeding and nurturing.

What is the sentence for cannabis cultivation?

Cultivating any part of a cannabis plant is unlawful. However, it is not an offence to supply or to possess cannabis seeds but germinating or growing them is illegal.

cannabis cultivation

Another term used in this offence is production. A person can be charged either with production or cultivation, but not both at the same time. Production is classified as a ‘trafficking’ offence and it can be brought to court as a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing. This means that the courts can confiscate any proceeds if the person involved has benefited financially from their criminal conduct.

It’s no secret that in Cannabis Cultivation and production cases the police often inflate the commercial value of the drugs which has a direct impact on any sentence a court will pass as well as creating a false narrative to the jury hearing the case.

The law courts can be a frightening place.  Being accused of cannabis cultivation could mean facing a harsh prison sentence.

To help you to understand what the outcome might be as a result of being convicted of online fraud, we’ve detailed the sentencing guidelines below.  Please note that a competent and experienced solicitor may be able to get any prison sentence reduced or even avoid it entirely.

What type of actions are considered Cannabis Cultivation?

As stated above, cannabis cultivation is the tending of plants; this may include planting, watering, feeding and nurturing them.

Some police forces, such as Durham Police Force have deemed the crime of cannabis cultivation as being not a priority, and therefore do not invest much time in targeting individuals who are suspected of doing this on a small scale. If the plants are for personal use, they are more likely to work with the people in question, such as just removing the plants and issuing the grower with a caution.

Although the decriminalisation of drugs is a debate that many police force chiefs are keen to take part in, the reality of it becoming an installed policy is not close at this time.

Whatever your situation is, it’s essential that you don’t attend a police interview without being accompanied by a competent solicitor. The police may invite you for a ‘chat’ or even tell you they need to know your side of the story. However, the content of any meeting or telephone conversation that you have with the police can be used as evidence and proof of your involvement.

Under no circumstances should you attend the police station without a qualified and skilled legal representative. Doing so could put you at risk of being incriminated. The police have been trained in using tactics to gain a conviction. Some of their methods are not transparent and are designed to trip you up into incriminating yourself. You need the support of a legal professional to ensure that this does not happen.

What is the average sentence for cannabis cultivation offences?

The severity of the sentence depends on the role attributed to you in the Cannabis Cultivation investigation, combined with the quantity involved and the nature of the operation. The Sentencing Guidelines Council has produced definitive guidance for Drugs Offences, including Cannabis Cultivation.

The offence of cultivation is classified as being an either way offence. This offence carries a maximum sentence of six months imprisonment in the Magistrates’ Court and 16 years’ custody in the Crown Court, on trial on indictment. In some cases, the case is dismissed and a fine is given.

For simple possession of cannabis plant charges, the court is likely to impose a small fine if you are of previous good character or your past convictions are historic.

How does a court decide on the seriousness of the cannabis cultivation offence for sentencing purposes?

The information that judges are given with regards to sentencing are only guidelines, and each case will be looked at individually. One of the factors judges consider in every case of this nature is the defendant’s level of genuine remorse.

The following factors are considered when the court decides which sentence to give. They will look at:

  • Your previous conviction
  • Your level of remorse
  • Whether you’re being affected by what happened psychologically or emotionally
  • What happened in the case and what harm was done to the victims

The court should determine the offender’s culpability (role) and the harm caused (output or potential output) with reference to the tables below.

In assessing culpability, the judge or magistrate should weigh up all of the factors of the case to determine role. Where there are characteristics present which fall under different role categories, the court should balance these characteristics to reach a fair assessment of the offender’s culpability.

In assessing harm, output or potential output is determined by the weight of the product or number of plants/scale of operation. For production offences, purity is not taken into account at step 1 but is dealt with at step 2.

Where the operation is on the most serious and commercial scale, involving a quantity of drugs significantly higher than category 1, sentences of 20 years and above may be appropriate, depending on the role of the offender.

Culpability demonstrated by offender’s role

One or more of these characteristics may demonstrate the offender’s role. These lists are not exhaustive.

Leading role

  • directing or organising production on a commercial scale;
  • substantial links to, and influence on, others in a chain;
  • expectation of substantial financial gain;
  • uses business as cover;
  • abuses a position of trust or responsibility.

Significant role

  • operational or management function within a chain;
  • involves others in the operation whether by pressure, influence, intimidation or reward;
  • motivated by financial or other advantage, whether or not operating alone;
  • some awareness and understanding of scale of operation.

Lesser role

  • performs a limited function under direction;
  • engaged by pressure, coercion, intimidation;
  • involvement through naivety/exploitation;
  • no influence on those above in a chain;
  • very little, if any, awareness or understanding of the scale of operation;
  • if own operation, solely for own use (considering reasonableness of account in all the circumstances).

Category of harm

Indicative output or potential output (upon which the starting point is based):

Category 1

  • heroin, cocaine – 5kg;
  • ecstasy – 10,000 tablets;
  • LSD – 250,000 tablets;
  • amphetamine – 20kg;
  • cannabis – operation capable of producing industrial quantities for commercial use;
  • ketamine – 5kg.

Category 2

  • heroin, cocaine – 1kg;
  • ecstasy – 2,000 tablets;
  • LSD – 25,000 squares;
  • amphetamine – 4kg;
  • cannabis – operation capable of producing significant quantities for commercial use;
  • ketamine – 1kg.

Category 3

  • heroin, cocaine – 150g;
  • ecstasy – 300 tablets;
  • LSD – 2,500 squares;
  • amphetamine – 750g;
  • cannabis – 28 plants;*
  • ketamine – 150g.

 Category 4

  • heroin, cocaine – 5g;
  • ecstasy – 20 tablets;
  • LSD – 170 squares;
  • amphetamine – 20g;
  • cannabis – 9 plants (domestic operation);*
  • ketamine – 5g.

With assumed yield of 40g per plant

What are some of the mitigating factors that might reduce the cannabis cultivation sentence?

Certain aspects of a case are known as the mitigating aspects which can influence the sentence that a judge gives. One of the factors judges consider in every case of this nature is the defendant’s level of genuine remorse.

The following are some of the other factors considered when the court decides which sentence to give. They will look at:

  • Any previous conviction
  • Your level of remorse
  • Your level of cooperation with the investigation
  • Whether the activity you took part in was originally legitimate
  • Your reputation / good character
  • Whether you have any serious medical conditions that require long term, urgent or intensive treatment
  • Whether you have a learning disability or a mental disorder
  • Whether you are the sole or primary carer for related dependents

Is it possible to reduce a sentence for cannabis cultivation with a guilty plea?

In recent years, several changes have been made to the sentencing system in the UK to save the court time and cost and to protect witnesses from the stress of needlessly going through a trial. For offenders aged 18 and over, pleading guilty early on in a case can reduce a sentence by as much as one third (maximum). The later the plea is entered, the smaller the reduction.

‘Early on’ refers to ‘the first stage of the proceedings’ and means anytime up to and including the first hearing at the Magistrates Court or Crown Court for indictable offences.

If a plea is entered 14 days after the first hearing, for example, the maximum level of reduction is just 20% or one fifth of the sentence. For indictable offences, the limit for a guilty plea to be made is within 28 days after the prosecutor has stated compliance with section 3 of CPIA 1996 and serving disclosure; although the decision is ultimately in the hands of the Judge who has discretion to apply whatever credit is deemed appropriate.

After these times there is a sliding scale of credit applied. This goes down to one tenth on the first day of the trial and to zero if entered during the course of the trial. In theory, the ten percent could be given if the plea is issued after the opening speeches on the first day, but prior to any witness evidence being heard.

If the accused does not want to plead guilty, then it’s important for the solicitor to regularly inform the court throughout the trial of the reasons why the client’s plea is not guilty.

What are some of the other consequences of the cannabis cultivation offence?

Ancillary Orders

A court can also make ancillary orders on a defendant if they are found guilty and convicted of a cannabis cultivation offence. These are extra elements of punishment that can be added to a sentence and include additional restrictions or requirements that can affect a dependent’s finances, your property or business or financial activity.

Ancillary orders that are typically added to the penalty for those who are found to be guilty of cannabis cultivation include:

  • Compensation for loss
  • Restraint orders
  • Reparation orders
  • Financial reporting order
  • Disqualification from directing a company
  • Confiscation orders

As part of your investigation, you may also have your assets frozen with the possibility of having cash or other assets seized.

In addition, the court may demand payment of the following if the accused is convicted:

Payment of costs applied for by the prosecutors

Although the police meet some of the costs involved in the prosecution, the costs of investigation are typically sought from the convicted. These may include the costs of:

  • The work done in obtaining enough evidence for prosecution either at the initial stage or later at the request of Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)
  • Seeking medical or expert evidence as part of the investigation, (where a witness is required to attend Court, the cost of the attendance falls on the CPS).
  • Re-interviewing witnesses
  • The entire costs of the prosecutor, including fees for the use of external Barristers used by the CPS, can be recovered from the defendant, subject to means. At the end of the case, the prosecutor under The Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 will request the Judge to order a sum to be paid for the costs incurred by the prosecutor in bringing the prosecution.

Victims surcharges

The term victims’ surcharges can be explained as paying compensation to a fund for victims and can range between £20 to £170 depending on what sentence you were given at conviction.

CAN sentences be added to national information databases?

There are several national databases that hold information about individuals and any allegations made about them, their criminal and court records. These include the DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) which was previously known as the CRB (Criminal Record Bureau) and the Police National Computer (PNC).  Depending on what happened, whether the accused is convicted and what sentence was issued, the accused may be added to one or all these databases. Their purpose is to provide information to potential employers and to regulate the ability to take part in certain activities.

If your case progresses to court and you are convicted of cannabis cultivation, your conviction will be noted on your CRB / police record. The period of the endorsement will depend on the nature and length of your sentence.

Below are details on how long you will be listed as holding a criminal record if convicted. This is something very serious to consider when it comes to future employment. The term ‘spent’ refers to when your name can be removed from the databases.

Rehabilitation Period
(the time it takes for the sentence to become ‘spent’)
Sentence Adult (aged 18+) at time of conviction Young person (aged under 18) at time of conviction
Prison sentences of more than 4 years Sentence is never spent Sentence is never spent
Prison sentences of more than 2.5 years (30 months) but less than 4 years Sentence length 7 years Sentence length 3.5 years
Prison sentences of more than 6 months but less than 2.5 years (30 months) Sentence length +4 years Sentence length +2 years
Prison sentences of less than 6 months Sentence length + 2 years Sentence length +18 months
Conditional Discharge Length of order Length of order
Absolute Discharge None None
Conditional Caution 3 months 3 months
Simple Caution / Youth Caution None – immediately ‘spent’ None – immediately ‘spent’
Other Including Compensation Order, Supervision Order, Bind Over, Hospital Order Length of the order / once compensation is paid Length of the order / once compensation is paid

How Can Stuart Miller Solicitors Help?

We handle drug offence cases regularly and have in-depth knowledge and experience in this field. We can help you by recommending the best course of action to take to mitigate the outcome. No matter what size your case is, get in touch.

Our Criminal Law Solicitors have expertise defending those wrongly accused of Cannabis Cultivation under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. Due to years of experience in successfully defending such cases, we understand the complexities of the cultivation requirements which include the growth medium such as hydroponics, potassium, as well as the stages of development.

Our street-smart Criminal Law Solicitors also have knowledge of the market value and how the drugs are brought to the market. Armed with practical knowledge our Lawyers will challenge every aspect of the prosecution’s case in the quest to achieve the best possible outcome for you.

Section 6 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 makes it unlawful for a person to cultivate any plant of the genus Cannabis. Cannabis Production is a Class B offence under the 1971 Act.

The law states that it is not an offence to supply or possess cannabis seeds. However, it’s a crime to grow the seeds. The law also gives the prosecution the power to charge the accused person with either Production or Cultivation. In suitable cases the prosecution may prefer ‘production’ rather than Cultivation because Production is a considered to be a trafficking offence which allows the Court to order Confiscation Proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 . Confiscation Proceedings can have devastating consequences for you and your family since the prosecution will argue that your assets, property and well-earned money represents proceeds of Cannabis Cultivation and seek the confiscation of virtually everything you have.

Would you like to discuss your case before instructing us?

If you’d like to have a no-obligation chat with us before you instruct us to take your case, then call us today.

In addition to giving you a free consultation, we can also represent you at the police station if you’ve been arrested. We can look at securing your legal aid.

Please Contact Us and ask to speak to our drug offence lawyers and cannabis cultivation solicitors to arrange a meeting in person, online or by telephone. If you prefer, you can WhatsApp us from the link you will find at the bottom banner if you open this page on your mobile phone device.

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