Medical marijuana patients with conditions that are tricky to treat may wonder: If I know a cannabis strain works for me, why can’t I grow it myself at home? Home cultivation of cannabis is a hotly debated topic across the country. Especially in states like Ohio, where medical marijuana can only be purchased from state dispensaries, home-growing could provide a much needed alternative for patients.
As more patients enter medical marijuana programs, so does the need for specialty cannabis cultivated for particular medicinal properties. Certain strains, cannabinoid combinations, and terpene profiles have shown to possess healing properties that might not be accessible in forms found in your local dispensary. Across the U.S. in states where looser laws allow it, home-growers have filled in the gaps to become an integral part of the cannabis supply chain.
It is not legal to grow marijuana plants at home in Ohio, but our neighbor to the north has some of the least restrictive laws governing home growing in the country. Michiganders can grow up to twelve plants in their home for personal use. A caregiver in Michigan can have up to five patients for which they can grow up to 12 plants. They can grow either indoors or outdoors in an enclosed locked facility.
Also in Michigan, home-growers are free to make concentrates or use the marijuana in any other way allowed by law. In addition to Michigan, some of the states that allow patients to grow their own cannabis are Missouri (with the applicable license), Washington, Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico. Some of these states have restrictive requirements to be eligible to grow marijuana at home. In Arizona and Nevada, for instance, patients can only grow their own cannabis if they live more than twenty-five miles from a dispensary.
Legalizing home growing in many states has been chiefly about giving more patients access to cannabis. Patients unable to drive to a dispensary or outside of the 25-mile radius of a dispensary still get the marijuana they need when the state allows home growing. Beyond access to high-quality medicine, proponents of home-growing believe that it will ultimately bring dispensary prices down as demand shifts.
Patients can experience numerous benefits by growing marijuana at home. Gardening can positively affect your mental health. Horticultural therapy is an established psychological treatment. By learning about strains, cross-breeding, and genetics, patients gain an appreciation for the cannabis plant. Additionally, marijuana can carry a hefty price tag since it isn’t typically covered by insurance. By making home growing legal, many people who could not afford medical marijuana otherwise could have access to a medicine that could have a significant positive impact.
One of the main drawbacks critics cite against legalizing home-growing marijuana is safety. Marijuana purchased from a state dispensary gets thoroughly tested for pesticides and mold. Home-growers that lack experience may make mistakes or use shortcuts that experienced cultivators wouldn’t, resulting in medicine that may not be safe to use. While marijuana growing is not particularly difficult, medical marijuana patients with compromised immune systems could potentially become sicker from accidentally growing and using moldy or chemically-treated marijuana.
The possibility of a patient growing their own unsafe cannabis weighs sharply against the benefit to a patient who didn’t have access to any cannabis at all. The most vocal activists against home grow, though, aren’t necessarily safety-focused. Legal cultivators fear a dip in profits by allowing patients to grow at home. Cultivators often employ lobbying groups to fight to strike down home-grow initiatives.
Erik Altieri, executive director of NORML, says it’s time for everyone to climb aboard the home-grow bus. “From our perspective, it’s really hard to see any real reason—other than individual and corporate greed—to be against home cultivation at this point.”
While many cultivators don’t support home growing as it would cause them to lose market share, several cultivators in Ohio have come out publicly to support those who want to grow their medicine at home. Galenas was one of those who publicly specified across their social media platforms that they support patients’ right to grow their own medicine at home. It may seem counterintuitive for a company to support what ultimately could be viewed as a competitor. But Head Cultivator Christine DeJesus explained that when patients can grow at home, it helps the industry as a whole and drives prices down.
Ohio advocates and legislators have put forth various home-grow initiatives through the years. The latest initiative, House Bill 210 was introduced in March 2021 by Ohio Rep. Terrence Upchurch (D-Cleveland), and Rep. Sedrick Denson (D-Cincinnati). The bill would:
Because it was not introduced as a bipartisan effort, this particular bill is not expected to move on for further consideration, according to State Rep. Juanita O. Brent (D-Cleveland), a fellow Democrat House member who has also sponsored medical marijuana reform legislation. Additional legislators from both parties would need to sign on as co-sponsors on the bill in order to schedule a hearing on the merits of the bill.
Current legislation is not expected to pass in Ohio, but many in the Ohio cannabis industry in largely support legalizing the right to grow cannabis plants at home.
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Gabrielle has been writing and editing professionally for the medical and wellness industries for more than 20 years. She currently writes articles about medical marijuana for Duber Medical and is the founder of the Ohio cannabis journalism non-profit, MedicateOH.