If you use medicinal cannabis, it’s unique in that you can grow this plant yourself and create your own medicine. You can eliminate the price of purchasing cannabis or having to go to a dispensary. It’s really a beautiful closed loop, and it’s something that’s been happening for hundreds of years.
In the U.S., you know we’ve been seeking to legalize it. But many people break the law and take risks because they realize cannabis helps them medically. They’ve decided to grow their own in secret. We often hear about them in the newspaper, “Oh, this person got busted. They had a home grow” or whatever.
Some of these people are growing cannabis and they want to sell it, they’re more of a recreational retail situation. But I’m talking about using cannabis medically and growing your own – creating more agency and intimacy in your relationship with the plant. This is something that I worry will go away as dispensaries get bigger and have enormous grows that can easily create an assembly line model for cannabis. In states where people are not allowed to grow, people will never get the experience of that intimate agency – the closed loop of medicating and growing their own cannabis.
It has occurred to me that we just don’t have good systems in place. I live in Massachusetts, which allows people to cultivate, possess, trade, and even purchase cannabis. You just can’t sell it legally, right? But how do people get plants?
How do you actually figure out how to create your own closed loop? It’s an important issue for me because Connecticut has a medical marijuana law, so you can get a medical marijuana card and then go to a dispensary. It’s not covered by health insurance, but you can purchase cannabis. Yet, it’s a federal crime if you’re caught growing your own cannabis. That is a felony and you could do prison time.
I think this is unfair. It goes against my personal belief that you have a right to produce something that can help you. Cannabis is essentially an herb that can be easily grown at home to serve your medicinal needs. When people grow their own cannabis, they’re nurturing something that nurtures them. So your relationship to it is a lot deeper because there’s a lot more connection between what you need and what the plant needs.
Even at dispensaries, sometimes the strains are rotating and you can’t know what you’re getting. But when you grow at home you find strains that are good for you and can complete that closed medical loop of a consistent supply that you’re producing yourself.
Planting the Seed
People ask me, “How do you get plants? How do you get seeds? Where do you start?” It’s both simple and complex.
It’s simple because once you have a seed or a plant you can start growing. There are complexities in terms of producing the best type of plant and creating really beautiful, well-prepared medicine. That’s just trial and error, learning your system, and making a couple mistakes. You can eventually get to a point where you’re an expert.
But acquiring seeds is also in that gray area. If we go online and search “marijuana seeds” dozens of seed companies will pop up. These are legitimate companies that produce real marijuana seeds and they’re doing so in this weird legal zone. For one, they’re not in the United States. There are seed companies in Canada and the U.K. They say, “Don’t grow these plants, these seeds are for souvenirs only.”
Of course, they don’t want to get in trouble. But a seed contains no THC. A seed is not a marijuana plant. Technically, you can purchase a seed without breaking any laws. That’s essentially a hemp seed and there’s no way to prove that it is an illegal plant until it actually grows into something.
I tell my clients that if they’re willing to take the risk it’s not a very strong risk because the DEA and law enforcement are not going to people’s homes who’ve purchased a little tiny seed, right?
You can go online, find a seed company, enter your credit card number, and they will mail you seeds. Then it’s up to you to decide what you want to actually do with those seeds. You can study the strain, and I always recommend a CBD THC strain. You know if you’re working medicinally with cannabis you want to have a strain that has a wide spectrum of cannabinoids, so start there. The difficulty is you don’t know exactly what you’re going to get.
They will give you a seed and you hope it grows into something that you want. It’s unpredictable. You don’t know whether it’s even going to be a female plant that produces resin – the medicine. You don’t know if it’s going to have the right levels of CBD and THC that they say it’s going to have. But don’t get impatient, the whole point is to develop a relationship with the plant.
We’re used to going to the pharmacy, getting our pill, and taking it at home. You must put yourself into a farmer’s mindset because crops take a long time. It takes four months for that cannabis seed to get where it’s ready for harvesting. In that time, you can understand the plant better and think about what strains you might want in the future.
The easiest way to grow cannabis is to make sure that you have female plants, that you’re growing strains you can somewhat trust, and that they’re going to turn into either a THC strain or CBD strain. When you clone a plant, you cut off a branch of a female plant and start that in roots. When those roots are grown, you have an exact genetic replica of that female plant, so you know it’s that same strain.
Connecting with Communities
Getting plants is difficult but knowing the law will help you sleep better at night. Massachusetts law says adults over 21 can grow up to six cannabis plants, but you can’t purchase those plants. A lot of people are doing what they sort of refer to as “clone exchanges” or “plant exchanges.” If you have half a dozen plants and you want to try different strains then you can meet somebody and switch those strains. You can trade so there’s no money being exchanged, you’re not actually selling anything.
There are some groups online. I know it may seem, “I don’t know those people and I don’t know who I’m dealing with, how do I trust it?” You’ve got to talk to people and get to know them. Often, they are just passionate gardeners who really care about their strains and know what they do. They’re more than happy to create a dialogue about how you might acquire those plants. There is a substantial and great Facebook group called “Mass Growers.” You could also put a legal ad on Craigslist to acquire the legal limit. There might be someone who approaches you. Will you know exactly what the strain is? They might have evidence or documentation, but it’s difficult to know. But once you have plants then you’re able to trade with other people, develop a relationship with these strains, and find yourself in the closed medical loop of home growth where you’re not breaking any laws. You’re not spending too much money going to a dispensary and you’re learning what keeps plants alive and helps keep you alive without using harmful medications.
I encourage growers to release their strains and reveal them to the world. I have dozens of clients who want to experience that closed medical loop of home growing. So, if I can connect people so these relationships develop then we will essentially carry on the tradition of cannabis growing in this country – small home grows that help our community use cannabis appropriately. I love dispensaries, but the real tradition is that closed medical loop that provides agency and empowers the patient.