Home grown cannabisAs cannabis reform has spread across the United States, it has given birth to a marketplace increasingly driven by business interests. This is the fourth installment in our series looking at how the changing landscape of cannabis policy affects a key group of often-overlooked stakeholders: medical marijuana patients who choose to cultivate their own supply of medicine. Go here for the home grown laws in Washington and Oregon, here for the home grown laws in California and Alaska, here for the home grown laws in Michigan and Illinois, and here for the laws in New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Though there are undeniably many benefits to the expansion and professionalization of the commercial cannabis industry, it is also important to account for these small-scale medical marijuana producers that started it all.

This week we look at the laws governing home cultivation of cannabis in Hawaii, Nevada, and New Mexico. These three states’ home grow laws each largely track medical marijuana laws nationally, but demonstrate the inexact legislative science of allowing patients an adequate yet reasonable supply of medical marijuana.

Hawaii. Hawaii first implemented medical marijuana legislation in 2000 and has made reforms a number of times since. Its current patient cultivation laws mirror those of many other medical marijuana states. Qualifying patients may possess an “adequate supply” of marijuana, which is defined as an amount not to exceed four ounces of usable marijuana. Patients and designated caregivers may possess no more than seven cannabis plants at one time. Patients and their designated caregivers can cultivate only at the patient’s residence, at the caregiver’s residence, or at another site owned or controlled by the patient or caregiver. Each cannabis patient can maintain only one grow site and must register the site with state authorities.

Nevada. Nevada first approved medical marijuana in 2001 by voter initiative, removing criminal penalties for users of medical marijuana who have “written documentation” recommending marijuana to alleviate an approved condition. Patients who cultivate cannabis for their own consumption, or their designated caregiver, may possess up to twelve plants. From those twelve cannabis plants, patients are allowed to possess as much as two and a half ounces of cannabis in a two-week period. Patients are allowed to cultivate their own marijuana only if they live more than twenty five miles from the nearest medical marijuana dispensary.

Keep in mind that Nevada has seen movement towards significant additional cannabis reform that voters could approve as soon as November of this year, so these laws may change substantially in the near future.

New Mexico. New Mexico legislators voted to approve medical marijuana in 2007. New Mexico’s laws are fairly patient-friendly, allowing possession of up to six ounces of usable marijuana and four mature plants. In addition, patients may possess twelve seedlings. New Mexico law defines usable marijuana as dried marijuana leaves or flowers, excluding seeds and stalks. Patients may only cultivate marijuana at their own residence or property. Additionally, cannabis patients must apply for a Personal Production License from the New Mexico Department of Health.

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    When I complained about the cost of cannabis at the dispensaries in New Mexico, I was told to grow my own. I’ve done my research. It’s not as easy or inexpensive as it sounds.

    If you rent, you must have the landlord’s written approval to grow. Cannabis production cannot be visible from the street or other public areas. You must provide security for the grow and access to the grow area and storage is limited to the applicant only (lack of appropriate security is a reason for denial of license).

    And the restrictions for caregivers make that option out of reach for many patients also. From the caregiver’s application:

    1.) A qualified patient shall only reimburse their primary caregiver for the cost of travel, supplies or utilities associated with the possession of medical cannabis by the primary caregiver for the qualified patient. 2.) No other cost associated with the possession of medical use cannabis by the primary caregiver for the qualified patient, including the cost of labor, shall be reimbursed or paid. 3.) All medical cannabis possessed by a primary caregiver for a qualified patient is the property of the qualified patient. 4.) The primary caregiver of a qualified patient who holds a personal production license may assist the qualified patient to produce medical cannabis only at the designated licensed location, identified on the qualified patient’s personal production license. 5.) The primary caregiver may not independently produce medical cannabis.

    In other words, what is supposed to be a cheaper option — to grow your own — has not worked out that way. Plus, many home growers in New Mexico must supplement their supply with expensive and mostly low-quality products from the dispensaries. If you live in a state without a program and are looking to move, don’t move to New Mexico. This program sucks.

    • If you are going to grow your own, why would you go through a caregiver?