Determining the Weight of Marijuana in Defending
Marijuana Possession and Cultivation Cases
While a lot of the information contained in this article deals with Texas
law which can vary from state to state, this article is intended to assist
criminal defense attorneys everywhere in establishing the actual weight
of the marijuana to be used as evidence against someone who has been arrested.
It is important for a criminal defense attorney defending these cases to
have a basic knowledge of how the plant is harvested and weighed. Of the states that still consider marijuana illegal most of them judge
the severity of the offense by the amount of marijuana possessed, cultivated,
or delivered. And most of these states limit that to what is considered
a "usable amount." I know of no state that makes any distinctions
as to quality.
The penalty is the same for possessing the same amount of marijuana by
weight regardless of whether it's premium grade Medical, or some bunk-assed
Reggie. In terms of strength of whole plant cannabis in it's natural
form the quality is really irrelevant. They go simply by the weight. Concentrates
and extracts are a whole other story in many jurisdictions including Texas.
However, this article is intended to deal strictly with whole plant cannabis.
Marijuana for Dummies:
Where and how is marijuana grown?
Almost everywhere. The plant is basically a weed. Like any plant the level
and quality of care it receives as it is grown directly affects the yield,
strength and quality.
- You have outdoor grows where a lot of the conditions are controlled by nature.
- And you have indoor grows where temperature, air, and lighting can be carefully
Indoor grows are preferred by most commercial growers, especially in climates
less favorable to outdoor grows. Indoor grows are also more secure and private.
When you hear the term hydroponic (or "Hydro") that refers to
a plant that has been grown with a special water root system. For a time
hydroponic was thought to be always superior. However, some rather talented
dirt-farmers have proven that to not necessarily be the case.
The plants start their lives by either being sprouted from seed; or started
from a cutting which is commonly called a "clone." Cloning is
probably the most preferred method by growers with strains they have spent
years developing. However they will still start plants from seed, particularly
if they are looking for a new strain.
Some strains are preferred over others by growers because the plant will
produce a higher yield. As it grows the plant develops a fibrous stalk
with stems growing out to each of the leafs. Once the plant is mature
in indoor grows the lighting is manipulated to trick the plant into believing
the growing season is nearing an end. This will cause the plant to flower.
These flowers or "buds" as they are most commonly called contain
the highest concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol or "THC,"
the active component thought to produce a high for the user.
Determining the Weight and what is "Usable:"
Once the plant is mature and in flower it is harvested. The flowers or
"buds" are trimmed from the plant. For the hobbyist grower with
a small back room grow they will probably perform these tasks themselves.
For larger commercial grow operations they will usually bring in people
called "trimmers" that trim the waste leaves from the buds.
These buds are of course the most desirable portion of the plant for use.
What's remaining of the plant is the root ball, the fibrous stalks,
the stems, and the remaining leaves which are typically called "trim."
In law enforcement assaults against grows of course this care is not taken.
The plants are chopped down or pulled up and taken to some facility to
be dried and then all of it is bagged up and sent to the lab, allegedly.
And weighed by somebody that knows what they're doing, allegedly.
What portion of these plants the state will consider a "usable amount"
will depend largely upon the chemist or technician that processes these
plants to be weighed.
While interviewing your client immediately following a raid it is very
important to ask them some questions about what they had and be watchful
for large disparities between their estimates and what the lab report
ultimately says. Most of them if they are experienced growers can give
you a very close estimate in what they believed the flower and leaves
What is considered "usable" depends. All would agree the root
ball, stalks, and stems are useless for any medical or recreational purposes.
For the most part the grower wants the buds. Often the trim which contains
much lower amounts of THC is salvaged for further processing to capture
those more minute amounts. In Texas these extracts or concentrates are
at least arguably considered to be a felony however many believe the statute
to be unconstitutionally vague. Be watchful for unexpectedly high lab
weight results and prepared to motion the court to have the evidence examined
by your own expert. If the state's expert was stupid enough to weigh
dirt clods and stems what does that say about the qualification to even
determine this plant is marijuana?
The laboratory to test your evidence in Tarrant County varies depending
upon the arresting police agency. Some of the smaller agencies use the
Texas Department of Public Safety's laboratories. Others use a couple
of private labs in the area. Fort Worth police has their own lab.