Police Use Google Earth to Locate Marijuana Grower’s Crop


An Oregon man was registered to grow medicinal marijuana for five people, which would have permitted him to have approximately 30 mature plants. The man decided to plant and to harvest a few extra plants, and he decided to brag to other people about his large marijuana growing operation. The police are generally permitted to use a helicopter to fly over open areas as part of drug and other  criminal investigations. The United States Supreme Court adopted what is called the “open field” doctrine many years ago that allows for such operations and does not require probable cause or a search warrant. I have heard many helicopters over the years flying over the fields in Happy Valley looking for marijuana grow operations.

In this instance, the police didn’t even have to bother gassing up a helicopter. Instead, they popped online and were able to observe an aerial view of the man’s property through Google Earth. The photo showed a much larger marijuana grow operation. The police raided the property and located 94 marijuana plants.

Growing Marijuana in Pennsylvania is a Felony Charge

In many situations, the distinction between possession for personal use and possession with the intent to sell or distribute drugs makes a huge difference. Generally, a person that possessed marijuana with the intent to personally use it can be charged with a misdemeanor offense. However, if the person possessed the marijuana with the intent to deliver it, then the charge is a felony offense. When it comes to growing marijuana, it does not matter whether the person grew the weed to personal use or with the intent to sell it. In Pennsylvania, growing marijuana is considered “manufacturing,” a felony charge. The maximum sentence for a Pennsylvania charge of Manufacturing Marijuana, in violation of 35 P.S. § 780-113(a)(30), is 5 years incarceration and a $15,000.00 fine. More importantly, if this marijuana growing case had happened in Pennsylvania, he would face a “drug trafficking” mandatory minimum sentence because of the number of marijuana plants involved. If convicted of growing 94 plants, the man would face a mandatory drug sentence of 5 years in jail and a fine of $5,000. While marijuana may have been legalized in some states, it remains illegal in Pennsylvania, and a conviction of growing marijuana even for personal use can result in very severe criminal penalties.