As 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, and here for the home grown laws in Michigan and Illinois. 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 three states along the east coast: New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
New York. New York State approved its medical marijuana program in 2014 to mixed reviews. Though advocates had long pushed for New York to adopt a medical marijuana program, what they got fell far short of what most had wanted. The bill places heavy restrictions on marijuana cultivation and strictly limits qualifying conditions for medical marijuana patient registration. Perhaps most strikingly, the bill passed by the assembly did not permit marijuana to be smoked – only tinctures and oils were authorized. It may not come as a shock, then, to learn that New York also does not allow medical marijuana patients to grow their own cannabis for medicine. There is hope for medical marijuana patients, however, as the state has signaled its intention to expand the medical marijuana program as soon as the end of September. Home cultivation may be a bridge too far at this point, but patients in the Empire State can hopefully look forward to expanded access soon.
Rhode Island. Rhode Island first voted on medical marijuana in 2005, but it took a veto override to defeat the governor’s opposition. Today, Rhode Island’s home cultivation laws look similar to many of the states we have already covered. State law permits patients to possess up to twelve mature cannabis plants. Once the mature plants are harvested, Rhode Island allows patients to possess no more than two and a half ounces of usable marijuana. The law does not specify a limit to the number of immature plants a patient may possess at once.
Vermont. Vermont’s medical marijuana laws also track other states’ rules for home medical marijuana cultivation. Vermont’s legislature first passed its medical marijuana act in 2004, with amendments following in 2007 and 2011. The current law allows patients and their caregivers to possess up to two mature cannabis plants at a time along, with seven immature plants. From these plants, patients may possess up to two ounces of usable marijuana at a time. Not quite as generous as Rhode Island, but as New York aptly demonstrates, it could be much worse.
Perhaps we are biased, but when it comes to cannabis reform generally – and home grown medical marijuana specifically – the west coast is king. Nonetheless, these east coast states (or at least two out of three of them) are helping push the region in the right direction and there is hope for further progress to come.
Next we will turn our sights Southwest and look at homegrown laws in Nevada and New Mexico, as well as Hawaii.