Growing marijuana is a relatively labor- and resource-intensive project. That’s especially true of indoor growing efforts.
Along with the physical space needed to cultivate cannabis plants indoors, growers also need a lot of water and nutrients to keep the plants healthy.
Similarly, growers also use large amounts of electricity. Typically, they need power to run all the lights needed to encourage growth and flowering, and to maintain ventilation systems.
Many times, the process of using up all these resources—especially if it involves pulling power off of the public grid—raises red flags that can quickly put growers on law enforcement’s radar.
That’s exactly what happened with a 63-year-old illegal cannabis grower in Holiday, Florida. Law enforcement officers claimed the man was growing marijuana plants in a home and was illegally re-routing electricity to the site.
Arrested for Stealing Power, Growing Weed
As per local news source WTSP, Pasco County Deputies arrested a man identified as Pedro Julio Ruiz on August 30.
Initially, power company Duke Energy alerted cops to a property that saw a huge spike in energy usage. In fact, Duke Energy reportedly said that a power diversion was being used to send tons of power to the property.
All in all, Duke Energy said the property had diverted nearly $12,000 worth of stolen electricity.
When cops showed up at the home, they reportedly found a number of rooms that had been converted into grow rooms. In total, the home was being used to grow a total of 24 cannabis plants.
The grow operation was reportedly using multiple air conditioning units. Additionally, reports indicate that there were 24 ballasts and grow lights being used inside the home.
Ruiz does not live at the property. But he was reportedly linked to the property. And cops believe he was the one illegally growing weed and taking electricity.
Cops say they found property belonging to Ruiz in the home. This reportedly includes medication, legal paperwork, and a power bill, all of which had Ruiz’s name on them.
After making the arrest, authorities charged Ruiz with marijuana production and grand theft of utility services. Both charges are felonies. Ruiz is currently being held in the Land O Lakes jail on a $10,000 bond.
Facing Possible Legal Punishment
According to Newsweek, under Florida state law a person convicted of grand utility theft could face some hefty penalties. Specifically, they could receive up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine. Alternatively, they could also be fined up to three times the cost of the stolen utility.
In Florida, recreational cannabis is illegal. And getting caught with up to 20 grams of weed is a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to a year in prison, a fine of up to $1,000, and driver’s license suspension.
However, in early August, Democratic state Rep. Shevrin Jones introduced a bill to decriminalize marijuana possession. If Jones’ bill passes into law, possession of up to 20 grams of weed would no longer be a criminal offense. Instead, it would be a noncriminal violation punishable only by a fine of up to $500.