A s you may know, the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana across several states has enabled many consumers to become accustomed to purchasing cannabis from a dispensary. Even more intriguing though is the opportunity that legalization has created for adults and medical patients to cultivate cannabis in their own homes.
While the laws, limitations and regulations are different for each state, almost every state with some form of legalized marijuana does allow home cultivation to some extent. Even though it’s completely legal, some people do not take advantage of their right to grow cannabis due to the perception that it is too difficult, expensive or time-consuming.
Interesed in growing? Click here to purchase your own seeds and start growing today!
Don’t let the lack of ambition from others discourage you though. If done correctly, growing cannabis at home can be fun, simple and cost-effective! We believe everyone should have access to their own clean cannabis. That’s why we decided to bring you a comprehensive guide to growing marijuana, created specifically with beginner growers in mind.
With essential grow knowledge, you’ll learn the benefits and tips of different grow methods, how to maximize plant yields and grow times, the best harvesting, drying, curing methods and much more! Who’s ready to start their cannabis growing journey?
Part 1 – Understanding Marijuana Grow Mediums
Deep Water Culture Hydroponics
Before starting your cannabis grow, you must decide if you want an indoor growing system or an outdoor growing system. When it comes to indoor growing mediums, DWC, or deep water culture, is a type of hydroponic growing method where each plant’s roots are growing in a tub of water.
One of the main benefits of a DWC system is that it promotes faster growth. Unlike growing cannabis in soil, roots grown in DWC don’t need to expend energy to search for what the plant needs; nutrients are easily accessible by the roots.
Plants have an unlimited supply of oxygen because of added oxygen from the air stone in the reservoir. Since the plant is spending less energy finding what it needs to grow, it channels that energy to plant growth. In addition, with proper guidance and a quality set up, DWC takes less time to maintain than an average grow.
When implementing a DWC system, a bubbler bucket reservoir system is recommended.
A bubbler bucket reservoir is a simple system that suspends the plant’s roots in a highly oxygenated nutrient solution. The roots are submerged in the nutrient-water solution in the bucket and are then replenished, as needed.
The most important growing tip is to check on your cannabis plants daily. As with many processes, the easiest way to fix a problem is in the beginning stages! If something is wrong with your plant in a DWC system, your first step in remedying your plant should always be to change out the reservoir. It is common for root rot to occur when roots are consistently in water, therefore, it is imperative to establish a preventative routine of changing out the reservoir every seven days. Adding beneficial bacteria to the reservoir is also effective in avoiding and combating root rot.
When growing from seeds in DWC, use each reservoir port (or net cup) to vegetate, then pick the strongest looking females to continue growing.
Keeping air and water temperatures under control are also very important measures to take. Air temperature should be 75-85°F when the lights are on and will drop by 10 degrees when the lights are off. Water temperature should remain at a constant temperature at all times. Your empty portholes can be used to change out the reservoir water by using a pump, allowing you to easily inspect what’s going on inside.
A common mistake to avoid when growing with DWC is not checking the pH levels of the water. This is important for any grow! Dirty reservoirs or not using an aerator 24/7 are two additional crucial mistakes, as roots must have excessive oxygen so they don’t drown. While some people like to maintain a completely sterile reservoir with just nutrients and water and no traces of anything alive, there are some good sources of beneficial bacteria that can be added. Bad bacteria is obviously, bad, but we wanted to emphasize the possibility of bacteria that can benefit your grow. To avoid potentially harmful bacteria, be proactive about changing the reservoir water.
In addition, having too many plants in one reservoir can lead to problems such as white powdery mildew. Don’t cramp your plants, instead, we recommend growing one plant per reservoir to allow the roots to spread out and give the leaves and buds more space.
Setting up a water transfer pump for this task can speed up the process. For best results, learn how to flush your cannabis plants.
Flushing your plants by removing any nutrients and salts improves the quality and taste of your final product. By simply draining your bubbler bucket reservoir and adding plain (pH neutral) water for two-three days before harvest, the plant will use all its existing nutrients contained in the stems, leaves and buds.
Growing Cannabis with Coco Coir
Coco coir is another great growing method, especially for beginners. It provides the ease of soil gardening with the rapid growth of hydroponics by using fibrous coconut husks instead of a potting mix. Compared to just soil growing, it absorbs moisture much easier, allowing plants to take up more nutrients and retain oxygen more efficiently because of its lighter texture. It also provides a forgiving buffer by reducing shock stress when human errors are made, such as adding too many nutrients, a common mistake.
Coco is much easier to flush than DWC because you aren’t changing an entire water reservoir. In fact, watering coco coir is very versatile. You can use a flood and drain hydroponic system, which is when the nutrient system temporarily floods from beneath the plant, controlled by a pump and timer, instead of dripping from above like most hydroponic systems. You can also use the most recognized top water to waste system, which is simply taking a water pail and watering your plant until water comes out of the bottom of the pot.
When growing cannabis with coco, good quality coco coir makes an immense difference, especially regarding root development. For beginner growers, a three-to-one coco to perlite mixture is recommended as it requires less watering frequency and holds moisture and nutrients better.
For more experienced growers, a one-to-one coco to perlite ratio is recommended as you are able to water more frequently, giving the plant more nutrient uptake and allowing more aggressive root growth.
With coco, water around the outside of the pot in early stages of growth to encourage roots to reach out and fill up the entire container.
Some common mistakes can occur when growing with coco if a grower allows the coco to get too dry, as the mixture dries quickly. Not checking the pH of the nutrient-water solution and not flushing on a consistent basis are also critical errors, as you are using more nutrients with coco and the excess residual nutrients can cause common nutrient deficiency symptoms.
It’s also very important to use Cal-Mag, or Calcium and Magnesium, in your coco growing medium. Calcium plays a direct role in a plant’s root development, nutrient uptake and protein synthesis. Magnesium is an essential part of chlorophyll production, helping your plants with photosynthesis, as well as aiding in the synthesis of sugars and proteins. Together, the correct amount of magnesium and calcium will help keep your cannabis plant healthy.
Outdoor soil growing is a common gardening technique that most people with house plants or vegetable gardens are familiar with. Using techniques such as top-fed watering, deep irrigation or wicks are all viable methods to water your plants. You can either use organic, composted soil, or store-bought soil with added liquid nutrients.
To make organic soil, you need a mixture of biolive, alfalfa meal, oyster shell for calcium, blood meal and bone meal, humic acid to keep the roots clean, and kelp. With store bought soil, use organic nutrients and start adding them about three weeks into the vegetative stage. With synthetic nutrients, you must flush them out regularly. Flood the soil with as much fresh water as it can withstand and leave it for a few minutes to allow the nutrients to be picked up, then flood it again to get the nutrients away from the plant.
Always remember, less is more with non-organic nutrients. If you are adding nutrients, a good rule-of-thumb is to add them about once a week.
A benefit to outdoor soil growing is that if you have a good base-soil built up, it’s not necessary to add nutrients throughout the plant’s life cycle. That means less work for you! It is also likely that the smell and flavor profiles of your buds will increase as well.
A common mistake when growing outdoors is overwatering. Wait to water your plants until the first three inches or so, or about knuckle depth, of soil is dry. You can gauge your soil by pulling the container it is in slightly outwards. Not checking the pH after mixing nutrients, or using nutrients too frequently are also common mistakes that you’ll want to avoid.
Don’t use miracle grow or other similar slow release soils. Your plants will not get the correct amount of nitrogen needed during vegetation and they will receive too much nitrogen during flowering.
Part 2: Learning Cannabis Grow and Plant Maintenance Techniques
Growers have recorded a plethora of marijuana growing techniques over the years to ensure you make the most of your crop. If you want to maximize yield and maximize the amount of light your cannabis plant receives, it is important to practice bending and securing parts of the plant, or removing parts of the plant altogether. While there are many different methods, it is important to note which ones will be the most sustainable for your growing medium.
Bending & Securing Your Cannabis Plants
Screen of Green (ScrOG)
One technique for bending and securing parts of marijuana plants is ScrOG, or Screen of Green. ScrOG is perfect for an indoor grower who is only growing a small number of plants. In places like Colorado, for example, this method is ideal as the legal growing limit is three flowering plants at a time.
ScrOG is designed to optimize the energy from a light by creating an even canopy space where bottom growth of the plant is forced upward to form a flat canopy. By spreading out the canopy and growing the plant horizontally until a few weeks into the flowering stage, more main cola budding sites will take place. The canopy of one plant can be grown as large as a four-foot canopy.
New to growing cannabis? Don’t worry, our beginner’s guide to growing marijuana will help you through the process. From seed to harvest, we have you covered with tips, tricks and step-by-step procedures.
Which States Allow You to Grow Your Own Recreational or Medical Cannabis?
As more states have approved medical and recreational cannabis in recent years, you might think the number of states that allow home growing of cannabis would increase somewhat proportionately. However, that’s not the case. Nearly the same number of states allow home growing today as three years ago.
Today, there are only 16 states that have not legalized medical and/or adult-use cannabis. Among the 34 states and Washington, D.C., that have legalized medical and/or adult-use cannabis, more than half of them (18 states, including Washington, D.C.) allow some form of at-home cannabis growing.
With a variety of legalization initiatives on multiple state ballots in November, it’s safe to assume the market will continue to grow, and in time, more states may allow some type of at-home cultivation for individuals. Until that time comes, let’s take a look at what each state allows in terms of home grown marijuana.
States that Allow Home Growing
Each state’s rules are a bit different related to personal cannabis growing. Significantly, some states that have approved adult-use cannabis make no distinction between recreational and medical growing while others allow medical marijuana patients to grow more than recreational users and others only allow medical growing by individual residents.
Medical or Recreational Home Growing Allowed
States that have approved home growing of recreational or medical cannabis include:
- New Mexico
- Rhode Island
- Washington, D.C.
It’s interesting to note that the only state that allows legal recreational cannabis but does not allow home growing is Illinois.
Medical Cannabis Approved but No Home Growing Allowed
Among states that have approved medical cannabis but not adult-use cannabis (with and without operational programs), the following do not allow home growing for medical patients:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Dakota
- West Virginia
No Medical, No Recreational, No Home Growing Allowed
Finally, states where cannabis is not legal in any form and thus, neither is home growing, include:
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
State Home Growing Rules for Recreational and Medical Cannabis
At the time of this article’s writing, home growing rules across the United States focus on the number and maturity of cannabis plants in order to regulate how much cannabis individuals can cultivate at their residences. Following is a brief overview of home growing rules for all 17 states plus the District of Columbia that allow it.
For the most up-to-date home growing regulations by state, visit NORML’s State Laws page, Marijuana Policy Project’s State Policy page, or NCIA’s State-by-State Policies page.
Alaska – Medical and Recreational Growing Allowed
Adults age 21 and over may grow up to six cannabis plants for recreational or adult use, but they can only have up to three mature (flowering) plants at one time. When multiple adults age 21 and older live in a residence, the maximum number of plants allowed at that residence is 12 and no more than six of them can be mature.
Arizona – Medical Growing Allowed
Patients (and caregivers) who live more than 25 miles from a licensed dispensary may grow up to 12 cannabis plants.
California – Medical and Recreational Growing Allowed
In California, adults age 21 and older may grow up to six plants for personal use, and no more than six plants are allowed in a residence at one time. Medical cannabis patients have no growing maximums. Instead, they’re allowed to grow the amount they need to treat their medical conditions within a 100 square foot area. However, local jurisdictions can set their own caps.
Colorado – Medical and Recreational Growing Allowed
Adults age 21 and over may grow up to six cannabis plants for recreational or medicinal use, but no more than three of those plants can be mature at any one time. Medical marijuana patients may request to grow more. Furthermore, caregivers with more than one patient (they can have up to five) are allowed to grow up to 36 plants.
Hawaii – Medical Growing Allowed
Medical marijuana patients and caregivers in Hawaii may grow up to 10 cannabis plants at one time for their own use, but they’re required to register as a cultivator with the state before growing.
Maine – Medical and Recreational Growing Allowed
In Maine, adults who are age 21 or older can grow up to six mature cannabis plants for recreational or medicinal use. A single residence can have a maximum of six mature plants and 12 immature plants.
Massachusetts – Medical and Recreational Growing Allowed
Adults in Massachusetts who are age 21 or older can grow up to six cannabis plants for medical or recreational use. There is a cap of 12 plants per residence regardless of how many adults live there.
Michigan – Medical and Recreational Growing Allowed
Individuals who are age 21 or over in Michigan can grow up to 12 plants at their residences. Caregivers who are registered with the state can care for up to five patients and grow a maximum of 60 plants (12 per patient).
Missouri – Medical Growing Allowed
Medical cannabis patients in Missouri who pay the required licensing fee may grow up to six cannabis plants at home.
Montana – Medical Growing Allowed
Adult residents of Montana may grow up to four mature cannabis plants or 12 seedlings at their residence at one time for medicinal use. If two approved medical marijuana patients live at the same residence, they may grow a total of eight mature plants and eight seedlings. However, patients must report the locations of their home grows to the Montana Department of Public Health.
Nevada – Medical and Recreational Growing Allowed
Adults who live 25 miles or more from a licensed Nevada dispensary may grow up to six plants per person indoors or 12 per household for recreational use if the property owner allows it. Medical marijuana patients may only grow cannabis at home if the closest dispensary is more than 25 miles from their home, the patient can’t travel to a dispensary, the strain or amount needed to treat the patient isn’t available at a dispensary in their county, or the patient was already growing at home before July 1, 2013.
New Mexico – Medical Growing Allowed
Medical marijuana patients and caregivers in New Mexico may grow up to 16 cannabis plants, and four of those plants may be mature.
Oklahoma – Medical Growing Allowed
Medical cannabis patients in Oklahoma may grow up to six mature cannabis plants and six seedlings at their residences.
Oregon – Medical and Recreational Growing Allowed
Adults age 21 and older may grow up to four cannabis plants for personal use. Caregivers may grow up to eight plants but only six of those plants can be mature at any given time.
Rhode Island – Medical Growing Allowed
Both medical cannabis patients and caregivers in Rhode Island are allowed to grow a maximum of 12 plants and seedlings indoors at their residences.
Vermont – Medical and Recreational Growing Allowed
In Vermont, residents may grow a maximum of nine cannabis plants at any one time, but no more than two plants can be mature.
Washington – Medical Growing Allowed
Only medical marijuana patients are allowed to grow cannabis at their residences in Washington. The maximum number of plants an individual patient can grow is six plants, but the number can increase to up to 15 plants if the patient’s doctor recommends it.
Washington, D.C. – Recreational Growing Allowed
Adults living in the District of Columbia who are 21 years of age or older may grow up to six cannabis plants at a time for recreational use. A maximum of three of those plants can be mature and three can be seedlings. If multiple adults live at a residence, no more than 12 plants are allowed. Personal growing of medical cannabis is not allowed in Washington, D.C.
Key Takeaways about Where People Can Legally Grow Their Own Cannabis in the United States
In an article I wrote for the Cannabiz Media blog in February 2017 that discussed where you can grow you own marijuana, I noted that there were only 16 states where people could grow their own medical marijuana and only eight states where people could grow their own cannabis for adult-use.
Fast forward to November 2020 – closing in on three years later – and the numbers haven’t changed significantly. Today, you can grow cannabis in 18 states (including Washington, D.C.) for recreational and/or medical use (up from 16 in 2017), but still you can only grow it in eight states if you’re not a medical cannabis patient.
With new cannabis laws pending and going into effect in the coming months and years, could more states start allowing some form of home growing for patients or adult-use consumers? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.
Susan Gunelius, Director of Email Marketing Strategy for Cannabiz Media , is also President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc. , a marketing communications company offering, copywriting, content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, and strategic branding services. She spent the first half of her nearly 30-year career directing marketing programs for AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more as well as small businesses around the world. She has been working with clients in the cannabis industry since 2015. Susan has written 11 marketing-related books, including the highly popular Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing for Business, Content Marketing for Dummies , 30-Minute Social Media Marketing , Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps , and she is a popular marketing and branding keynote speaker. She is also a Certified Career Coach and Founder and Editor in Chief of Women on Business , an award-winning blog for business women. Susan holds a B.S. in marketing and an M.B.A in management and strategy.