Growing Marijuana Legally In The US
- How the federal government sees personal marijuana cultivation.
- Plus how each state decides and interprets its laws.
What Does Federal Law Say About Growing Marijuana?Outdated laws categorized marijuana the same as heroin and PCP, according to the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I drugs are those that the government deems most dangerous. The designation wasn’t the long-term plan, since that category is for drugs with a certain set of characteristics. They’re the ones that aren’t usually used for general medical treatment. And they’re also the ones that aren’t generally considered safe. Since there aren’t any drug trials with marijuana, it falls into such a “dangerous” category. While that seems unfair and ridiculous, it’s worth mentioning because this has cost people their freedom. Understanding the federal law provides some perspective when it comes to protecting your grow.
2018 UpdateAt the same time, an update in 2018 noted that the federal government was: “Reserving its right to pursue criminal charges against people who grow or consume cannabis.” What that means is any “violation” is up to interpretation, so you can roll the dice as far as who may be prosecuted and why. Since there are still state laws, for some of us it means we shouldn’t worry. And for others, it might mean that we shouldn’t advertise the fact that there’s a grow tent in our kitchen.
States That Allow You To Grow Marijuana Legally At HomeThe first step in ensuring that your cannabis grow is legal is to check your state law. Following your state’s local governance is the best way to avoid legal problems. You can only legally grow marijuana in a select few states—and each one has its own rules. Common regulations include the number of plants you can have per person. Plus how many can be flowering at the same time.
|District of Columbia||Legal|
|New Hampshire||Not Legal|
|New Jersey||Not Legal|
|New York||Not Legal|
|North Carolina||Not Legal|
|North Dakota||Not Legal|
|South Carolina||Not Legal|
|South Dakota||Not Legal|
|West Virginia||Not Legal|
Legal Marijuana Laws State By State
Here, I’ll give a rundown of each of the states that allow you to grow marijuana and what their rules are.
But every state or territory has its own legislation, so there’s a lot of variation on what’s approved and where.
In Alaska, anyone over the age of 21 can buy marijuana products at retail dispensaries. The state uses a patient ID card system, so you can apply for a medical marijuana card there.
As far as growing at home, there are some rules. You can grow up to six plants if you’re over 21. However, only three can be mature at a time.
But there’s also an option to get a commercial license in Alaska. If you get a commercial license, then then there’s no limit to the size of your grow.
Arizona only allows for medical marijuana use, which means you can get cannabis from a local dispensary. The law says you can only grow your own medicinal plants (or have a caregiver do it for you) if you live more than 25 miles from a dispensary.
It’s worth noting that the Arizona Department of Health Services doesn’t have the authority to inspect your home. As the state website says.
Arkansas allows growing plants for medicinal use only, but according to their guidelines, this means you can’t legally grow at home.
California allows recreational and medicinal cannabis use by anyone age 21 or older. You can grow up to 12 immature plants—no more than six flowering ones—and have up to eight ounces of dried cannabis in your possession.
Colorado has a medical program for cannabis use, but it’s also pretty lax as far as recreational use and growing. You can have up to six plants at home with no license. If you get a commercial grower’s license, then you can exceed those limits.
Delaware has a medical marijuana program, but you can’t legally grow your own plants under their regulations.
District of Columbia
Florida offers medical marijuana cards under the Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU). Unfortunately, even if you have a card, you can’t legally grow at home.
Hawaii permits marijuana for medicinal use and allows “registered patients and caregivers” to grow plants at home. The rules stipulate that you have to tag your plants with your 329 Card, Hawaii’s medicinal marijuana card.
There are other rules, too—such as only having a single grow site and no more than ten plants.
Medical cannabis cardholders in Illinois can grow their own plants—but only up to five. But an adult who is not a registered medical cannabis patient that cultivates less than 5 plants is guilty of a civil violation.
Surprisingly, Maine is pretty progressive. As of 2016, it approved marijuana for recreational use (following the adoption of medical cannabis in 1999). The state has both a medical program as well as guidelines for adult use.
In Maine, you can have up to three mature plants—plus 12 immature plants and as many seedlings as you want. Or, you can get a commercial license and exceed those limits.
If you live in Massachusetts, you can grow up to six plants at home. The state allows for both medicinal and “adult use.”
Michigan has medical and adult-use guidelines for marijuana on its website. Up to 12 plants per household are allowable under Michigan law.
Minnesota’s rules say that only registered patients and certified caregivers can use cannabis. From their website, it appears you can’t grow your own plants at all.
Missouri has a medicinal marijuana program, so if you have a card, you can have up to six flowering plants. But, there’s a $100 fee to be able to grow your plants by state laws. If you have a partner with a card—or a caregiver—there are expansions on these limits (basically double).
Montana also has a medical program, and they require the permission of the property owner (if you’re a renter) to grow your own plants. As a registered cardholder, you can grow up to four mature plants, four seedlings, and have some “usable” cannabis on hand, too.
Another state with a medical program, Nevada allows you to grow six plants if you’re over age 21. But in 2016, they also passed recreational marijuana laws. This is a state where you can grow your own cannabis if you live more than 25 miles from a dispensary.
New Jersey has a medical marijuana program, but currently, you’re not allowed to grow at home.
Ohio has a medical marijuana program and a cultivators’ program. For now, though, cardholder can’t grow their own plants. If you want to become a cultivator, you have to apply for special licensing consideration—which costs thousands of dollars.
Oregon allows any adult 21 or up to grow their own marijuana. The household limit is four plants, but—no matter how many people live in the home.
Pennsylvania has a medical program, but you can’t grow your own plants—yet, anyway.
Washington has a recreational initiative and a medical program. You can’t grow your own under the recreational law, but—you can only have medicinal use plants if you’re a cardholder. The possession amounts are up to 15 plants for personal use, with your physician’s authorization. Otherwise, it’s six plants for personal use.
Other US Areas And Territories
Other US areas and territories have separate rules. Here are a few of them—in case you live in one or plan to travel there in the hopes of starting a grow.
- In Guam, a medical card allows you to grow plants at home—up to six (only three mature). The same applies to adults over age 21, with a 2019 update to legislation.
- The Northern Mariana Islands has full legalization as of 2018, with adults being able to grow 18 plants. Medical users could have a total of 36 plants in a single house.
- Puerto Rico allows medical marijuana use, as of 2015. No word on grow limits on their official website, however.
- The U.S. Virgin Islands allows medicinal marijuana use, with medical cardholders allowed up to 12 plants at home. As of the end of 2019, legislation was in process to amend the medical marijuana act to include recreational cannabis, too..
The Overall Situation For Legal Marijuana In The US
The short answer is that states say all kinds of different things about growing marijuana.
What’s legal in some states is illegal in others. Tons of people have moved across the country to get safe access to having their own grows. And some in life saving situations because of medicines made from marijuana—and laws are changing all the time.
Keeping up with in-progress legislation is a smart thing to do if you’re growing at home. Check your state website for updates often.
You can even write to your state representatives if you feel passionate about what’s happening at the decision-making level.
Otherwise, your only option to avoid legal troubles and ensure you’re growing marijuana legally is to follow the law currently on the books.
Marijuana Use Programs
Many states have programs for medical marijuana, along with an permit for the whole thing.
Other states offer full recreational use of marijuana. With or without stipulations on how and when you can use weed products.
Some states have both medical programs and permissions for recreational use. Of the 50 states, 33 have specific programs that publicly approve the use of medical marijuana, explains the NCSL. Places like the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands also have programs.
Some states (like South Dakota and Nebraska) are rolling out trial programs, which means the average resident there can’t use marijuana legally. Hopefully, that will change soon, but for now, following the rules is your best bet for staying out of trouble.
State programs are usually medical cardholder offerings. What’s interesting is that states with both a medical and recreational component don’t usually put that information in the same place.
So you could wind up pursuing a medical certification, only to find out you never needed one in the first place. Hence, this comprehensive guide to growing marijuana legally, no matter where you live in the US.
Growing Legally With A Medical Marijuana License
To grow marijuana legally you will need a medical license in many states. With the license, you can use dispensaries to get your, or you can grow your own (state law permitting).
Qualifying Medical Conditions For A Medical Marijuana License
While it used to be that you had to prove a severe debilitating condition to get a medical card, today it’s more permissive. Most states have a long list of qualifying conditions, covering health problems like:
- Chronic pain
- Muscle spasms
- Severe nausea
Tons of other conditions may apply, too. Depending on both your state and your medical provider.
Costs For Medical Marijuana Licenses
Unfortunately, it seems like every state charges a fee for medical marijuana cards. Some are steeper in price than others, so you could even spend $100 getting a card to grow six plants.
Plus, if you have to buy the state-required tags for your plants, that’s another expense to factor in. Your state might even be one that charges more fees on top of the card and plant tags—several states charge you for permission to grow at home.
Some discount programs are available, such as offerings for veterans, but those aren’t an option in every state. There’s also the possibility that your application could result in a denial—meaning you have to pay again to reapply.
Filling out the paperwork properly—and reading any fine print—is a good way to avoid a rejection (and higher costs).
Caregivers: Growing Cannabis For Others
You can have a caregiver grow the plants for you in most places. But that often involves another application, more fees, and even stricter guidelines on plant counts and other aspects of the small-scale operation.
At the same time, some states expand your plant count if you and a caregiver both need cannabis. So, instead of having six plants at home, you could have 12—if the other half belongs to someone you care for.
If you’re a parent or caregiver for someone with a medical card for cannabis, you can take over the responsibility of growing the plants. Each state has special stipulations for caregiving scenarios, of course.
You might need to submit another application, pay an additional fee, or get a doctor’s note. But in the end, it’s typically possible to grow plants for both yourself (if you’re a patient) and another person (as a caregiver). A few states even let you grow plants for up to three people.
Other states have a household maximum for growing plants. Household limits usually apply to recreational grows rather than medical supplies, however. You also need to make sure you track your plants’ growth so you don’t exceed the limits for maturity.
Most Common Rules For Growing At Home
The most common rules for growing cannabis at home legally include limits on how many plants you can have. What stage of maturity they’re in. How far you are from dispensaries (for medical use states). And household and per-person limits.
Location and Eligibility Requirements
A lot of states have medical programs, so you have to be accepted into their program before you can consider growing legally. Requirements vary for medical marijuana programs, but you might need a doctor’s note to get your card.
Some states still ban medical marijuana users from cultivating their own cannabis, though. In some places, it’s a no-go, no matter how far you are from a dispensary. In other states, you can grow a few plants at home if you live more than 25 miles or so from the nearest cannabis vendor.
Plant Count Limits
In general, most states have limits on how many plants you can have. Growing marijuana legally means sticking to those guidelines.
The amounts range from three to 12, and most states will require some of the plants to be immature. They often limit possession of mature plants—unless you have a commercial grower’s license.
Plant Tracking (and Fees)
Still other states have specific growing requirements. Such as tagging your plants with your registration number for the medical program. Sometimes, fees are applicable to the tags—again, it varies by state.
Watch Out For Noisy Neighbors
You can start small—like with a small indoor grow tent—or set aside a plot in your garden for your cannabis plants.
But keep in mind that your state—and even city—might not like visible cannabis plants hanging over your fence. In most places, people try to keep their grows hush-hush anyway. After all, security is a top concern (more on that in a minute).
Your neighbors may not like the smell, either. That could cause more problems for you than the feds knocking on your door. In terms of staying friendly with your neighbors and flying under the radar, it’s ideal if you:
- Grow your plants out of view of the street.
- Grow indoors, or inside a tent, whenever possible—keeping odors to a minimum.
- If you need to be extra careful keep in mind grow cabinets for stealth growing.
- Don’t grow more plants than the law allows—you’re asking for trouble otherwise.
- Keep your permits in order, if applicable.
- Don’t advertise your grow—or have lots of visitors coming to check it out.
There’s so much more to growing cannabis at home, but these pointers are a good place to start when navigating the legislation you have to operate under.
Security Measures For Your Outdoor Marijuana Grow
There are legal measures you need take to protect your grow. It depends on your state laws and local regulations what kind of security measures should you put in place.
If you have a intricate growing setup, it’s worth checking into the laws in your area to ensure you’re not drawing more attention to yourself.
Growing marijuana legally in the US doesn’t mean advertising your grow, after all. It just means you keep the number of plants to a minimum.
- Be careful who you trust.
- Suitable fencing to prevent people from walking in.
- Nestling your cannabis plants near other garden-variety greenery.
- Plant near ‘smellier’ plants when possible—this can help cover up cannabis odors.
- Trim plants short—that way, they don’t overgrow their enclosures (especially mature plants).
For commercial growers—and many home growers, too—the equipment and processes have to follow state guidelines. Some measures can include things like:
- Motion-sensing video cameras outside your growing spot.
- Setting up alerts for your camera system—so you know immediately if someone enters a secure area.
- Make your cameras visible—that alone can be a deterrent.
- Old-fashioned locks on your gates or entrances to growing areas.
Final Thoughts On Growing Marijuana Legally
While following the law is a priority, there’s a lot to know about growing marijuana legally in the US.
From specific rules and regulations by state to the underlying threat of federal prosecution. Hopefully I’ve covered the details well enough for you. If not, you can always check the linked sources and mentions throughout the text.
Many states are putting pressure on their legislators to legalize growing marijuana country-wide.
Until then, follow your state’s laws as best you can to preserve your homegrown plants—and keep enjoying the benefits of growing cannabis at home.