Caught growing cannabis (UK guide)
New updated sentencing guidelines as of December 2022
The government updated the sentencing guidelines for getting caught cultivating cannabis in the UK in April 2021. Some things have changed very slightly so if you have been caught growing cannabis in the UK, please read this guide before going to court so you know what to expect.
This guide is based on the actual sentencing guide the judge in court will be referring to when deciding what your punishment will be.
Find the actual UK sentencing guidelines by following this link Production of a controlled drug/ Cultivation of cannabis plant – Sentencing (sentencingcouncil.org.uk)
Step 1 – Decide what role you played and *harm* they say you caused.
Leading role: This is going to be for organisers of commercial grows on a boss level. People who gained significant financial rewards and on the more serious side could have been using a business to hide the crime or abused their position of trust.
Significant role: This is a person working within a chain, at some kind of management level. This person may have recruited or included others through threat of violence or offering financial rewards. Someone who has awareness of the commercial gain, but not a full understanding. This person will be working for financial gain (not just filling needs of own habit)
Lesser role: This is normally for someone working alone on their own actions which is the best case in court. If you are working with others the lessor role will only apply if you have been pressured into it through threat of violence or are involved through naivety. You will only be in the lesser role if you have no influence over others in the process at all.
The category of harm (how many plants were growing)
Category 1: Cannabis Production on a commercial basis capable of producing very high quantities on an industrial scale. We would guess this is on Very large scale such as a factory or commercial premises, but there is no specific guide on this provided.
Category 2: Simply put, this is for a cannabis operation capable of producing significant quantities for commercial use. We would guess this would be large scale in a domestic residence, but also there is no specifics provided.
Category 3: This has changed slightly as it has been reduced to just 20 plants. This is on the basis of the plants being capable of yielding 55 grams each.
Category 4: This has also changed to just 7 plants (previously was 9) which is strange as your typical hobby would consist of a 3x3 (9 plant set up) so most will now sit in the Category 3 range.
Step 2 - Possible Sentence for Cultivation of Cannabis a Class B Drug
Having determined the role of the offender and the Category of harm in step 1, the court will now look at the guide below to determine a starting minimum and maximum sentence.
So if you got caught with 19 plants and you acted completely alone, you would be in Category 3 with a Lessor Role and a sentence range between a community service order and 26 weeks in prison.
Leading role: 4.5 years up to Max 10 years
Significant role: 5 years up to Max 7 years
Lesser role: 2.5 years up to Max 5 years
Leading role: 4.5 years up to Max 8 years
Significant role: 2.5 years up to Max 5 years
Lesser role: 26 Weeks up to Max 3 years
Leading role: 2.5 years up to Max 5 years
Significant role: 26 Weeks up to Max 3 years
Lesser role: Service Order up to Max 26 Weeks
Leading role: 26 Weeks up to Max 3 years
Significant role: Service Order up to Max 26 Weeks
Lesser role: Cash Fine up to Max Service Order
Step 3 – Features that increase or decrease the seriousness
Factors that will Increase Seriousness
Exploitation of others to commit the offence, Level of profits gained, steeling electricity or other utilities, Ongoing operation and specialist equipment used, Danger exposed to others during the process, presence of weapons, use of violence, offence committed on license, previous offences and use of specialist equipment to conceal the grow.
Factors that will Decrease Seriousness
Involvement due to pressure, intimidation or through nativity, if it’s a one off incidence, no previous convictions, good character (family, Job, mortgage), willingness to change and maybe to address addiction, mental health conditions, Age or lack of maturity, Sol or primary carer for relative.
The court will look at the minimum sentencing guide using the step 2 guide and decide if there is good reason to offer a reduction on the minimum sentence. They will look at the seriousness of the offence and who was involved, then look at previous convictions and decide if you would be better off not going to prison etc.
The court favours what we might like to refer to as a grass. Those who assist with the prosecution of others and help the court will get a reduced sentence themselves.
The court will offer a reduced sentence for those that plead guilty at the earliest opportunity.
The court will consider carrying out a proceeds of crime confiscation order. This is quite self-explanatory as that if you have high value assets you cant explain they may take these away as they may have been paid for with the financial rewards from your cultivation.
They will agree on reasons for the sentence they are imposing to use while addressing you in court.
They will consider time already spent on bail and reduce this from your sentence
It would seem that if you are growing 7 plants or less and you are doing so without the involvement of anyone else, you should not be worried in court. I cant understand why this has been reduced from 9 to 7 as now it is just more incriminating and makes no sense. 9 plants is a perfect hobby size grow in a 1x1m tent which we guess most opt for.
If you was growing under 20 plants and are a person of good character, working on your own without the involvement of anyone else, it would seem also that you are going to be okay.
So long as you are of reasonably good character and go along with everything they say in court. Definitely accept the drug addiction rehabilitation course they offer as they don’t like those who refuse. Also make sure you are well presented in court and show respect to the people in power (especially the judge) you should be fine, but every case is different.
A word of caution
The sentence courts hand out in the UK is not based only on how many plants you grow, its actually not based on that at all. You could be caught growing just 7 plants and get 3 years in prison at the maximum level. This of course is highly unlikely, but if you were controlling someone else through violence and had a horrible criminal record, you might get a long prison sentence for a small grow. Basically, any scenario where you are not acting alone could result in you receiving a higher sentence in court.
The sentencing guidelines are very non specific when it comes to growing on a more commercial scale, so the only way to know what they consider a large scale commercial operation would have to come from those experienced at that level and what they was individually sentenced to in court.
what we need is those with experience and those who may have been sentenced for growing cannabis in the UK to post your views and comments to help our readers gain confidence in this topic.
We welcome your comments