Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, Legislators and Law Enforcement Unveil Bill to Combat Marijuana Grow Houses
Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum unveiled a legislative proposal to fight the increasing threat that marijuana grow houses pose to neighborhoods throughout Florida. The Marijuana Grow House Eradication Act also contains powerful child protection provisions including enhanced penalties for those who have a child present at a grow house and enhanced penalties for those who have illegal drugs in close proximity to children under the age of three.
In 2006, law enforcement detected marijuana grow houses in 41 of Florida’s 67 counties, ranking Florida second only to California in the amount of grow houses. Many marijuana growers have moved from rural fields to sophisticated growing operations in the suburbs of Florida. This cultivation shift has been accompanied by new techniques to vastly increase the drug’s potency. This extremely potent form of marijuana contains up to 15 times the amount of THC, the addictive chemical found in marijuana, than marijuana common 20 years ago. Grow house marijuana has a street value of $4,000-$6,000 per pound and can be traded pound for pound for cocaine.
The legislation, sponsored by Senator Steve Oelrich (R – Gainesville) and Representative Nick Thompson (R – Fort Myers), creates a tough new penalty for those who grow 25 plants or more. This legislative change specifically targets for-profit growers who exploit Florida’s current trafficking standards of 300 plants and the federal threshold of 100 plants to avoid prison time. Additionally, the bill creates a new penalty against those who own a house for the purpose of cultivating marijuana, as well as a new penalty for those who live in or are the caretakers of marijuana grow houses. Additionally at present, law enforcement around the state is required to store cumbersome grow house equipment in order to preserve it as evidence. In order to address this growing storage burden, the bill allows a photograph or video recording of equipment used in the cultivation of a marijuana plant to be considered as evidence in the prosecution of the crime. The bill will also allow law enforcement to destroy grow house equipment upon the completion of all investigations and provides immunity from any civil liability to law enforcement for the destruction of the grow house equipment.
“As Florida’s Attorney General, my priority is protecting our children and our communities from the devastation of illegal drugs,” said Attorney General McCollum. “This legislation targets those who grow marijuana for profit.”
"Whether grown outdoors or in a garage, marijuana today is extremely potent and dangerous and the cultivation of this illicit drug will not be tolerated by DEA," said Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Miami Field Division.
“Every time law enforcement can detect a grow house and arrest those involved with it, less crime will be on our streets,” Senator Oelrich said, also stating that the main purpose of this legislation is eliminating the spread of illegal drugs in Florida. “This legislation will provide law enforcement with critical tools to get these narcotics out of our kids’ hands and put drug traffickers behind bars.”
“In Florida, those who use grow houses to traffic drugs belong in prison,” added Representative Thompson. “Under this legislation we are clearly telling drug dealers, ‘if you grow, you go!’"
The Marijuana Grow House Eradication Act is expected to be heard during the 2008 Legislative Session. Also in attendance at the event were Larry Holifield, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Miami Field Division Office, Cape Coral Chief of Police Rob Petrovich and Major Jeff Taylor of the Lee County Sheriff's Office.