State by State Guide:Growing Marijuana Legally
Even though cannabis has become massive in the US, growing marijuana legally is complicated.
From federal rules, to state laws, here’s what you need to know:
- How your state decides and interprets its laws.
- How the federal government sees personal marijuana cultivation.
Growing Cannabis State By State
Your first step is to check your state law. Doing so is the best way to avoid problems.
In the US you can only legally grow marijuana in a select few states, for either medical or personal purposes.
And each one has its own very specific rules. Including the number of plants you can grow and estimated bud production.
|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|
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.
Disclaimer: This is not legal advise and it’s intended as introductory information. For correct information and procedures study your state laws and contact a lawyer.
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) only if you live more than 25 miles from a dispensary.
It’s worth noting that Arizona is the state with the harshest marijuana laws and punishments for violations.
For starters, all marijuana charges in Arizona are felonies.
California allows recreational and medicinal cannabis use by anyone age 21 or older. You can also “plant, harvest, dry, and process up to 6 cannabis plants in your private residence”.
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.
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.
Adults over 21 will be able to legally purchase cannabis for recreational use from licensed dispensaries. Licenses are being distributed as of writing this article.
Included in the new entrants to the cannabis market in Illinois are, home growers, cultivation centers, dispensing organizations, and more.
You can check the summary for these and many more details (they’re a lot).
Despite the good news, you cannot grow marijuana for recreational use.
Medical cannabis card holders 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.
Indiana has some of the harshest marijuana laws in the US. If someone gets detained with any amount of weed they’re looking at up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Personal cannabis cultivation, whether for recreational or medical use, is illegal in Indiana.
Growing cannabis in Louisiana can cost you up to $100,000 in fines and a minimum sentence of 5 years.
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 recreational 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).
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.
In Oklahoma growing medical marijuana is A-OK at home, you’ll first need to get your medical marijuana license. You need to get a doctor’s recommendation and submit an application to the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority.
The limit per person is 12 mature plants, and you can have up to 3 ounces on you, and 8 ounces in your home.
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.
South Dakota is a very anti-marijuana state when it comes to laws. Although they have recently initiated a medical marijuana initiative.
This means you can’t grow.
In South Dakota possession of 2 ounces or less is a misdemeanor charge with up to a year in jail. Almost all other charges in the state are felonies with far harsher punishments.
Don’t even think about edibles, they will charge you for the marijuana you have inside your body!
Since 1931 in Texas, anyone caught with high-THC marijuana faces potential jail and/or a fine.
Texans pride themselves on making more than 72,000 yearly arrests for marijuana back in 2012.
You can’t grow cannabis in Texas.
However, you can buy CBD products if they contain less than .3% of THC. But you may need a certificate for this.
Vermont became the first state in the nation to legalize cannabis in 2018. It’s allowed for adults to grow, possess, and consume.
In Vermont, those ages 21 and up can grow two mature plants (and four vegging).
Medical marijuana is currently legal, and dispensaries are open for those with a state-issued medical card.
Nearly two years after legalizing the possession of marijuana for all adults, the Vermont legislature yesterday passed a bill that will finally allow the state’s first licensed retail cannabis stores to open no later than May 1, 2022.
Virginia recently decriminalized possession of small amounts of weed. That means you get a $25 fine and a pat in the back.
Incredibly, this is an improvement. Virginia reported a record 29,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2018 and a study the prior year found 127 people were being held in jail solely on a marijuana charge.
Growing a cannabis plant remains a felony.
Washington has a recreational initiative and a medical program.
You can’t grow your own under the recreational law, but—you can grow medicinal plants if you’re a cardholder, or become a member of a cooperative and they’ll grow for you.
Growing marijuana in West Virginia is illegal and punished on the weight of the plants, as either possession or possession with the intent to distribute.
With the limit being 15 grams for possession to cross the threshold, means you can’t have a grow tent with flowering plants.
But what about a really small tabletop plant? 🤫
Cultivation of cannabis in Wisconsin is a felony with huge penalties. Starting at 3.5 years and $10,000 fine.
Wisconsin marijuana laws are among the harshest in the country.
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 to 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 card holders 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..
How To Grow Cannabis Legally
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.
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.
Eligibility And Location Requirements
A lot of states have medical programs, and you must 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 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
I advise you start with a small grow tent setup or set aside a hidden spot in your garden for your cannabis plants.
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 hidden 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 cops 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.
Legal Security Measures For Your Outdoor Grow
There’s also legal measures you need to take to protect your grow.
It depends on your state laws and local regulations what kind of security measures you should put in place.
If you have an 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.
Here are a few guidelines that can come in handy:
- 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.
- 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.
Growing With A Medical 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.
Caregivers: Growing Cannabis For Others
You can have a caregiver grow the plants for you in most states.
But that often involves another application and more fees. 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.
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).
Understanding Federal Laws
What Does Federal Law Say About Growing Cannabis?
Growing cannabis at home is illegal under the US federal law.
Despite the liberalization of state laws, outdated federal laws categorize marijuana the same as heroin and PCP, according to the Controlled Substances Act.
Schedule 1 drugs are those that the government deems most dangerous.
Anyone growing, marketing, or distributing marijuana is violating multiple federal laws.
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.
Reserving The Right To Pursue Criminal Charges
In January 2018, the Office of the Attorney General issued a Marijuana Enforcement memo.
A memo which allows federal prosecutors to decide how to prioritize enforcement of federal marijuana laws.
Even though these laws are generally applied only against people who manage large quantities of cannabis. This means that anything is up to interpretation.
They’re reserving the right to pursue criminal charges against growers and users. So you can roll the dice as far as who may be prosecuted and why.
On top of that, it does not recognize the difference between medical and recreational.
Any US citizen can be prosecuted.
Even if they grow their own medicine.
Even if they reside in a state where medical marijuana use is protected under state law.
Federal Law vs. State Laws
Fortunately, the federal government is not out to catch legal home growers and users.
There’s a ceasefire in the federal war on marijuana on a state level. As long as people follow state laws and don’t engage in interstate activities.
For some of us, this means we shouldn’t worry.
And for others, it might mean that we shouldn’t advertise the glowing tent in our kitchen.
Still, the conflict between federal and state laws has caused problems in lots of people’s lives.
You can run into problems with the CSA even if you’re not directly involved with the marijuana industry.
If you provide services to a business that operates under state marijuana laws, you may also be violating federal law and thus subject to prosecution.
So if you run a janitorial service and have a client that operates a dispensary, you may be profiting from illegal drug trafficking.
The CSA also makes it unlawful to “knowingly open, lease, rent, maintain, or use property for the manufacturing, storing, or distribution of controlled substances.”
So landlords that have tenants involved in state-permitted marijuana industry may risk federal asset forfeiture or other criminal fines.
Federal Punishments For Marijuana
Federal cannabis laws are very serious, and punishment for people found guilty is frequently very steep.
In several federal cases, judges have ruled that medical issues cannot be used as a defense, though defense attorneys usually raise the issue whenever possible during trial.
Penalties for violating the CSA are not just targeting growers and distributors.
Simple possession with no intent to distribute is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and a minimum fine of $1,000.
Individuals involved in marijuana businesses can receive up to five years in prison and fines up to $250,000 for individuals and $1 million.
More On Cannabis Legality In America
The Overall Situation For Legal Marijuana
The short answer is that states say all kinds of different things about 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
Some states offer full recreational or medical 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.
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.
How Many People Are In Prison On Marijuana Charges?
While getting detained for having weed in your pocket or you car seems unfair and ridiculous, it has cost people their freedom.
Police make over 600,000 arrests a year for cannabis law violation, many of which lead to prison sentences.
Furthermore, police continue on creating criminal records for residents in unprivileged communities.
Which will most likely result in longer sentences for any future offenses.
The number of unjust incarcerations for cannabis is 40,000. According to the Last Prisoner Project, a nonprofit coalition fighting for people in prison for cannabis offenses.
On the other hand, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics:
“More than 99% of federal drug offenders are sentenced for trafficking”.
Moreover, independent data by the U.S. Sentencing Commission shows that 92 people were sentenced for marijuana possession through the federal system in 2017.
The numbers are out to confuse us.
Apparently, the number of people unjustly in prison because of marijuana is lower than we thought.
But it seems to me nobody really wants to say exactly how many people are in prison on marijuana charges.
Now, even if the number isn’t as high as we think, “some” is still a lot of people.
More so considering marijuana it’s being sold legally across America.
Now I’d Like to Hear From You
Hopefully you found this new guide to growing legal marijuana in the US helpful.
Now I’d like to know about you:
Are you growing in your home yet?
Does your state allow for medical or personal cultivation?
Let me know by leaving a comment below right now.