What You Need to Know Before You Grow Marijuana

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By Gabriel Bell | 11:06 am, October 11, 2016

It’s the dream: A smokable crop of green goodness you can call your very own, share with loved ones, and use to save dispensary/dealer costs. Hell, growing your own weed is even legal in multiple states.

While fun and rewarding in the best of ways, growing your own still comes with a lot of caveats and a lot of things you need to know before potting your first plant. There’s things to buy, knowledge to scoop up, and risks to weigh. Here’s what you need to know before planting a single seed.

Note that this about starting a mini farm in a garage, basement, greenhouse, or closet. Creating a large-scale growing operation—anything over 25 plants, really—is either so complicated on a state licensing level or so profoundly illegal and risky that it’s beyond a DIY project. That’s a business (legal or otherwise).

It’s Probably Illegal for You
While the majority of Americans live in a state with some form of legalized marijuana, only 14 of those 25 states allow you to grow provided you have a medical marijuana card (and only 2 million have them). Here’s a full list of where and how much you can grow for medicinal purposes. Even in Washington, Colorado, Oregon, where recreational weed use and possession is legal, only professional, licensed growers can plant and cultivate. If that’s a career you’re interested in, start your search here.

And the Penalties Are No Joke
Depending on what state you’re in and the inclinations of your local prosecutors, you can wind up paying a hefty fine or spending a good deal of your life in jail for getting caught.

And the Cops Are Actually Looking for Growers
Even in states where weed is medically or recreationally legal, the police are on the hunt for big and small-time growers. They use dogs, collected intelligence, analyses of electrical and water bills, planes, and helicopters using infrared cameras to find likely grow factories. Scary! If they catch you with a small quartet of plants, some cops will let you off with a severe warning. Others will try to wrap you up like a drug kingpin. It’s a crapshoot. The Feds are out there too!

But It’s Still Fairly Safe
Even with the federal government and local law enforcement on the prowl, the actual chances of them finding your eight plants in the basement are very, very low. Just keep your lips sealed, your friends quiet, and your garden well away from public view.

You’ll Need to Read, Read, Read
There’s a fine, intricate art to growing weed correctly. Before you take another step, grab at least two books on the subject, read them, take notes, and dog-ear pages. Ed Rosenthal’s Marijuana Grower’s Handbook: Your Complete Guide for Medical and Personal Marijuana Cultivation is among the most respected and popular ones out there and here’s a list of others.

It’s Never Just One Plant
Consider this, if you’re using seeds pulled from old weed, around 50% of the plants you pot could wind up being “male” and thus useless for harvesting. Add to that the fact that this is your first time out and even all of your “female” plants might not survive. Generally speaking, you should plan for six plants or above.

You’ll Need Space
Growing indoors not only results in the best product and keeps the plants safe from natural predators, but provides security for you. You’ll want a room, cabinet, or structure that is at least six feet tall with about 30 square feet of space, closed off from your main living quarters, ventilated to the outside, and capable of being shut off from all light. Also, if you live near your neighbors, you’ll want to do something about the smell in the later weeks of your grow. Large air ionizers are a solid solution. 

You’ll Need a Boatload of Accessories
On top of air ionizers for the smell, you’ll need grow lights, pots, soil, plant food, jars, a ventilation system, a thermometer, a dehumidifier, instructional books, and so on. Some techniques demand you to buy more. Others less. Either way, that’s a lot of money. You can save a few by buying simple broad-spectrum fluorescents instead of the expensive grow lights on the market (though you’ll have to DIY a hanging system) and just a couple of powerful house fans pointed in the right direction for ventilation. All of this is available online, at a hardware store, or at a dispensary.

Guaranteed Seeds Are Hard to Come By, but Available
As mentioned above, the few seeds found in your average baggie of pot aren’t always going to be alive or of the flowering female variety. Guaranteed viable, female seeds are usually available at legal dispensaries. Barring that, there are online seed banks, but they may not ship to your state. Here’s a list of the best of them.

Even After You’ve Bought Everything, You’ll Still Be Paying
Yes, the bill for all those lights and such is high, but the electric bill can be higher. Dependent on your technique, growing cycle, and equipment, you may find that you’re using a ton of energy to keep everything lit, at the right temperature, and at the right humidity. Get ready for it. Your water bill may also see a small bump. Even so, you’ll be saving even more money on the backend once you’ve harvested.

Patience and Diligence Are Key
Yeah, about that harvest… depending on the techniques and seeds you are using, that could be anywhere from 90 days after planting to five months. And it’s not just like you can drop a seed in a bucket and walk away. Cannabis may grow like a weed, but fine, high-quality bud takes constant adjustment, monitoring, and care. It’s not going to take up your day, but it will require attention and strict adherence to various guidelines. Even after you’ve harvested, you’ll have to dry and cure your crop.

All This Said, It’s Tons of Fun
Look, bottom line, despite all the serious risks, initial costs, and serious knowledge you have to have, watching your own crop grow, flourish, and turn into fine, fine smokable joy is a true pleasure unlike few things in life. The majority of growers had such a positive experience they did it again. Since you’ll already have the knowledge and equipment, you probably will too.