As cannabis reform has spread across the United States, it has given birth to a marketplace increasingly driven by business interests. This is the second 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 part one, on the home grown laws in Washington and Oregon. 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 California and Alaska. As the first and second states to legalize medical marijuana, respectively – and, in the case of Alaska, the third state to legalize recreational cannabis – these states’ laws illustrate both new and old approaches to home cultivation.
California. As the first state in the union to legalize medical marijuana in 1996 with the passage of Proposition 215, California has long been at the forefront of the medical marijuana movement. Today, qualified patients in California are permitted to cultivate and possess up to six mature cannabis plants and twelve immature cannabis plants at their residence. Qualified patients are generally only permitted to possess eight ounces of dried marijuana per patient without a doctor’s recommendation that this quantity is less than necessary to meet the patient’s needs. Patients should be sure to remember, however, that a doctor’s recommendation does not grant patients permission to possess a greater number of mature plants. Additionally, in order to avoid having to comply with new regulations passed in 2015, patients should limit their cultivation to one hundred square feet and not sell, give, donate, or transfer marijuana to a third party.
Alaska. Alaska was also an early mover on medical marijuana, becoming only the second state to permit its use in 1998. Unlike most medical marijuana states, however, home cultivation is not just an option for patients in Alaska. To the contrary, it is right now the only way to obtain medical marijuana legally as there are currently no marijuana dispensaries in Alaska. Qualified patients in the state can cultivate and possess up to three mature and six immature plants for their personal supply of medicine. Alaska’s medical marijuana program permits patients only a relatively small amount of usable marijuana, allowing possession of no more than one ounce. But, that is soon to change as patients begin benefit from Alaska’s more lenient recreational Cannabis program. Under the new law (still being implemented) all adults over 21 will be allowed to possess three mature and six immature plants – and the statute places no limit on the amount of harvested cannabis one can have from these plants. Alaska will also soon begin licensing recreational cannabis dispensaries, further increasing options for patients seeking a reliable supply of medicine.
As in Washington and Oregon, the laws regulating medical marijuana and recreational cannabis are certain to change in the coming years. California will vote on recreational cannabis this November. Alaska is still in the process of rolling out its recreational cannabis program. Patients should keep an eye on these changes. And, of course, patients should always be aware of local rules to ensure they are in full compliance with the the law.
Next we will be looking at the laws on home growing in the Midwest states of Illinois and Michigan.