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Cultivating Cannabis Amid Complicated Laws

We’re allowed to cultivate cannabis in Massachusetts. All over the country now, state laws are evolving, and people can legally cultivate marijuana. But what happens when patients have marijuana plants growing in their home? They may start to explore and experiment with how different forms of cannabis might help them.

The cannabis plant is full of dozens of different chemical compounds that interact with our endocannabinoid system, the natural system in our body that receives cannabinoids. Each cannabinoid has different effects. You can take the raw leaf from the cannabis plant and juice it. You can create a liquid that is less psychoactive. Anecdotal evidence suggests that people who take raw cannabis get a wider spectrum of benefits. They’re getting more options in terms of symptom relief using the raw plant.

There have been cases where people are cultivating the raw plant in large quantities because they like to juice it. They’re going over their legal limit because that’s what they individually need. I have a colleague who goes through about two pounds of raw cannabis leaf and product from the plant every week. If you’re law enforcement, you think that’s clearly someone running a drug factory, someone who is clearly going to sell that cannabis. But if you are part of the medical marijuana patient community, you may realize it’s actually very common for people to have a much larger quantity of cannabis for personal use.

In Connecticut, it’s illegal to cultivate marijuana and raw leaf is not available at dispensaries. Raw leaf is not a very marketable product. It doesn’t get you high, and probably less than 5% of dispensary customers utilize this product. I’ve been working on cases in Connecticut where people get caught cultivating. That is a felony there.

This can result in federal jail time for a person who benefits from raw cannabis. I believe that law enforcement needs better training about recognizing the difference between what constitutes a personal use cultivation site in someone’s residence and an actual drug factory that’s producing market-value cannabis. There are a lot of cannabis patients who do not want to get high or stoned, and consuming raw cannabis from their personal grow is not a legal option for them in many states. It’s important for law enforcement to recognize that you are altering the course of this person’s life by grouping them into the category of a drug dealer.

Tools of the Trade of Cannabis

When we talk about the various cannabis products and paraphernalia that people use, the use of grinders is a main thing I see in drug cases. You put dried cannabis flower iCultivating Cannabis Amid Complicated Lawsnto this tool and grind it into loose cannabis that may be rolled into a joint, for example. Police consider grinders to be something that drug dealers use to fill and sell joints. However, most personal users grind their cannabis and there’s not a lot of market value in broken up cannabis. Very rarely is a drug dealer going to be grinding their own cannabis. As an expert witness, I would say a grinder is more evidence of personal use than any kind of intent to sell.

Another product police consider is a scale. I often see a kitchen scale as evidence that the defendant is weighing their cannabis and therefore selling weighed amounts. But because the black market for cannabis has been around for years, people don’t want to get ripped off. Meanwhile, some people weigh their cannabis because they want to take a proper dose. They may take a gram a day for example. They may take seven grams of cannabis out of a larger amount of cannabis that they weigh and put into a jar. Then they seal the excess cannabis so it doesn’t go bad (by drying out and losing its potency.) A scale is another personal use item that’s very common in the cannabis world, but one that law enforcement often automatically assumes is related to an intent to sell.

That’s important as we learn about evolving cannabis use, that a lot of people can possess marijuana and tools for personal use without any kind of intent to sell or nefarious illegal activity.

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