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Marijuana production and cultivation charges, even for small grow-ops, can carry significant penalties. Depending on the allegations and the number of plants lengthy jail sentences are a real possibility. An experienced drug defence lawyer is your best chance to defend against grow-op charges in Toronto.

Marijuana is one of the illegal drugs prohibited by the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA). The CDSA labels cannabis and synthetic cannabis as Schedule II drugs. However, unlike other Schedule II drugs, an indictable offence for cannabis is not liable to life imprisonment. Those charged with the production and cultivation of cannabis may still face up to 7 years of jail time, or more with aggravating factors.

Any indictment for marijuana production results in a criminal record that will affect your future. As well, you are at risk of forfeiture and seizure of your personal property, including your home and finances. Police will try and seize any property that is related to the illegal production and distribution of the marihuana, and any proceeds from the sale of the marihuana.


To be indicted for a grow-op offence the Prosecution must be able to prove three factors:

  • The substance is marijuana
  • The accused knew it was marijuana (knowledge)
  • That they produced it or aided in the production (control)

If the police were able to seize the product or equipment, it is easy to test the substance itself to prove it is marijuana. Equipment seized with cannabis residue can also be used to build a case that the substance is marijuana.

Proving that the substance is marijuana is fairly straightforward. Proving the accused knew what it was and that they produced or aided in its production present a greater challenge. Satisfying these factors beyond a doubt requires more evidence and the inference thereof.

If charged with drug offences it’s important to find a criminal lawyer with experience defending drug charges. They can help you navigate production offences and build an effective defence.

Toronto grow-ops are typically on private property thus requiring the police to first obtain a search warrant for the property. Often in larger drug-related police investigation police may also restore to obtaining wiretaps and use extensive surveillance to gather evidence. Criminal defence lawyer, William Jaksa, is experienced in challenging search warrants and wiretaps.


While cannabis production has set penalties, there are a number of variables that influence the severity of penalties. These include:

  • Production Scale – the size and scale of the production site
  • Health & Safety Factors
  • Other Considerations – hydro bypass, sophistication level, organized crime, etc.

Production Scale

The size and scale of the production site includes the number of plants, the market value of the potential product, and the sophistication level. In most cases production scale is divided into one of three sizes:

  • 6-200 plants
  • 201-500 plants
  • More than 500 plants

In addition to sentencing for the scale and production, aggravating factors and additional charges will create longer minimum sentences.

Health & Safety Factors

Police will always note any health and safety concerns they have with a production site. They look to see if there is mould, fire hazards, if hydro has been bypassed, the quality of the electric work, etc. The more serious the concerns the more likely these will be considered aggravating features in both the trial and at sentencing. Courts will certainly impose harsher sentences if the production site posed a danger to the neighbouring residences or visitors to the property.

Other Considerations

It is common for grow operations to face hydro-bypass or utilities fraud charges in addition to production charges. If convicted, the penalty will be added to the production charges. Other common additional charges include:

  • Trafficking
  • Importing/Exporting
  • Conspiracy
  • Connections to organized crime


Cannabis legalization in Ontario is set for October 17, 2018. With legalization are coming strict new drug laws under the Cannabis Act, including stricter mandatory minimum penalties for grow-ops. While marijuana production for personal use will soon be legal, large-scale production will be more heavily enforced.

Here are the new mandatory minimums for marijuana production under the Cannabis Act:

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For the most recent changes, reference our Cannabis Act Revisions article.


A drug cultivation conviction will land you behind bars and limit your future opportunities. If you or a loved one are charged with a drug offence you need one of the more experienced and trusted criminal lawyers in Toronto.

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