Read an Excerpt
Legal vs. Illegal Growing
This gardening guide assumes that you will be growing where it is legal to do so by state law. People can cultivate in fourteen of the seventeen states where it is legal to possess marijuana (at this writing): Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. Home cultivation is not allowed in Delaware, New Jersey, or the District of Columbia, and a special license is required in New Mexico. In Arizona, patients can only cultivate if they lived twenty-five miles or more from a dispensary when they applied for their card. The various state laws and regulations change frequently, so you should stay informed by consulting the website of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) at norml.org. Remember that the amount of marijuana that you may possess or cultivate differs from state to state, so please check your state and local ordinances.
It doesn’t matter to me whether you’re growing marijuana to get high or get cured, or both. It’s my job to guide you as a gardener and help you produce the best possible legal crop, given the constantly changing policies about growing and using marijuana, while taking into consideration the remarkable advances in marijuana cultivation since I first grew it forty years ago. Feminized seed, miniature and autoflowering varieties, superior cloning techniques, and other improvements in growing methods now greatly enhance the marijuana gardening experience. It is my hope that gardeners can seamlessly introduce marijuana into their existing gardens and simply enjoy it as another plant that is beneficial to humankind. And remember, chile plants were once simply tolerated weeds that eventually became valuable crops. The same thing is happening to marijuana, and it’s about time!
Here are a few questions to ask yourself before planning your medical marijuana garden. What are your motivations and goals? Are you sure you’re growing legally? Do you have a secure location for the garden? Are you going to brag about it to your friends or sell part of the harvest to them? Your motivations and goals must be balanced against the possible consequences of the project you’re about to undertake. First, there is a relatively high cost of setup for an indoor growing operation that needs lighting, ventilation, sometimes reflectors, and other equipment. Second is the risk factor. With some states liberalizing their laws about this common weed that was first just tolerated and now quite celebrated, there’s a tendency to be lured into a false sense of security. To you and your friends, who may have indulged for years, growing marijuana is commonplace and the feeling that “everyone does it” is pervasive.
Resist that attitude and remember that the majority of people in this country still believe that marijuana, like liquor during Prohibition, is evil and should be banned. Also remember that marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, despite the laws of certain enlightened states, and that flaunting what you are doing is not wise, especially if you are selling part of your crop rather than merely growing it for your own use as medical marijuana. If, for example, someone turns you in to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for, say, interstate trafficking, your house and all your property could be seized. And you also would have a new, severely downsized place of residence without a garden.
Growing marijuana can be challenging because it is such a valuable crop, even in small quantities. Thieves are unlikely to infiltrate your property to steal tomatoes, but with a single marijuana plant worth upward of a thousand dollars retail, the scenario changes radically. I recommend taking exactly the same precautions that you would take to grow marijuana illegally because, despite the fact that you may be growing legally, if you’re not careful, marijuana is as easy to steal from an unsecured location as my cacti collection was from my front patio. That happened because I forgot to lock the gate, and someone backed a truck into my driveway and stole all the large specimens that I had collected for years. Renegade landscapers, perhaps? This is why security is one of the first chapters in this book. So before you plant the first seed, ask yourself if it’s worth it to risk your time, money, and possibly your household security to grow a few highly valuable plants. If you think it is worth it, then it’s time to start planning. To help you with your planning, let’s begin by looking at the organization of this growing guide.
Because I’m tracking the successes and problems of a novice grower, I’ve organized this guide in a roughly chronological order that follows a typical growing season. The season is arranged in the following stages: fundamentals and planning (chapters 1–4), growing (chapters 5–7), harvesting and storage (chapter 8), problems (chapter 9), and cooking (chapter 10). If you have gardening experience you can easily skip the parts of the book that you’re familiar with and go directly to what’s new to you. You can also use the index to focus on the information that is most important to you. I’m going to begin with a description of a plant that some people call a lifesaver and others call a weed.