More than once, I have been contacted by people while they visited a dispensary, wanting to buy products and requesting my advice. I have often been asked what commercial cannabis products I purchase or recommend.
To all these people, I must admit that I don’t buy anything. I know nothing about products on shelves. I used to, but not anymore. I don’t buy flowers, oil, edibles, tinctures, or body butters. I don’t even know what products are out there. My last vape pen was in 2015. My last dispensary visit was that same year. The last CBD tincture we purchased was the very excellent Jayden’s Juice in June 2015 and I got a Cheeba Chew for sleep a month or two later. Nothing since.
The reason I don’t know what’s out there is because I’m a home grower, and my wife and I make all our own. For our particular issues regarding chronic pain, it is not financially sustainable for us to buy the medicine we need. We have to grow our own. Other than bartering with other growers, I have only consumed cannabis from what I’ve grown since 2016. The same can be said for every member of my immediate family, and a few close friends who need medicinal cannabis, but can’t grow. As a grower, one of my goals was to develop a home dispensary, with everything in house. I have achieved this goal, with a closet full of buds, and a small refrigerator full of FECO from all the strains we’ve grown, along with tinctures and pills we’ve made from those cultivars. We also test everything we grow, so we know what we’re making.
To me, the essence of cannabis freedom is to grow at home. You’ll eventually save money, too. It costs money to grow, of course, but once your infrastructure is built, everything you grow will be for you to do with as you please.
And to do with as you please pretty much sums it up. When you grow your own, you are taking responsibility for your medicinal cannabis in a way that changes the entire paradigm. When you grow your own, you open up to others who grow their own, and in a moment, you and that person can become a collective. You know what each other has and doesn’t have. If need be, you help each other out.
You don’t compete, because you’re not trying to push your own product for profit. You become a community. Within that community, you’ll find backup for your medicinal cannabis. You start to develop trusted local sources. You openly share. You meet other growers who are also breeders. You earn their trust and they allow you to grow some of their seeds. You get to grow an amazing cultivar that almost no one else in the world will ever try. You learn what you like and start thinking about what you want to try and grow. Every so often, mixed in amongst those seeds your new friends gave you, will be something that slipped in by mistake, and you’ll get to grow that mistake, just like I did one time:
Literally no one else in the world had this strain when we did. It was such a gift and treat. We called her Blacklight.
Growing at home means you have control and privacy. If one of your plants tries to flower early, for example, no one will be watching over your shoulder while you learn how to turn a flowering plant back to vegetative growing. Or you also have the freedom to simply let that plant flower. It won’t be as large, but it will still be valid. My first year growing, the first plant that went to flower was allowed to finish early. It was a Harlequin, and we still have a bit of her in a tincture.
When you grow at home, you can grow the strains you want. In your own home dispensary, you will be able to stock shelves with the exact cultivars that make you and yours happy, or the most effective strains you’ve discovered against pain. Recently, I had my right hip replaced, and one of my goals was to switch from the opioids they gave me at the hospital to my own CBD medicine. The switch was made seamlessly on day five after surgery. From my own dispensary, I eliminated oxycodone with Ringo’s Gift, Sour Tsunami and ACDC. They were flawless as pain medicine and knowing I’d grown them myself was also validating.
You can focus your grow on one thing if that’s what interests you. Perhaps you have no interest in being stoned (like my wife) but have discovered that consistent intake of CBD has had a number of beneficial outcomes, like the elimination of motion sickness, or just a general sense of well-being in your brain, without any psychoactive effects.
Perhaps your need is for better sleep, and you rightly fear taking a consistent narcotic for help. Cannabis will solve the sleep issue safely. I know growers who only grow this type of plant because everyone they know needs it for sleep.
As a home grower, you also have the power to voluntarily help people with your medicinal cannabis. You’re going to eventually know people receiving chemotherapy for some form of cancer. You can help them with their nausea, appetite, and sleep. We have friends currently in remission who took a tincture from us and went through their entire chemo/radiation program without nausea and sleeping relatively well, given the overwhelming nature of the cancer medicine.
Growing in the privacy of your home, you can try growing things differently. For example, there’s a particular cultivar with a reputation for high amounts of CBG; especially if you harvest the plant two weeks before her slated harvest date.
You can choose to harvest a sleepy time plant a few days after her perfect harvest date in order to capture more CBN, to make it even sleepier.
You can decide to remove plants that are not growing as you expected, and you can also choose to keep a plant with mold issues and learn how to salvage as much of that plant as possible. My child, Bee, and I did that once with a Granddaddy Purple. It was an ordeal, but it taught us everything we needed to know about treating and rescuing potentially moldy flowers, and doing ongoing, proactive work on a tightly clumped together plant like Granddaddy Purple. Without that experience, we’d have lost out on some great medicine in future plants. PS–Unless you love mold, don’t ever grow Granddaddy Purple outdoors.
If only growing a couple of plants outdoors, you might decide to forgo BT as a method to fight moth worms. Some growers morally object to killing in such numbers. With a larger crop, however, to not spray in a zone where these worms exist, you run the risk of losing your entire crop to mold caused by worm scat.
Because you are not growing to sell, you can experiment with how you grow your plants. If living in a drought zone, you will have to experiment with using less water. A good strategy for any experiment is to only perform it on a plant or two, not the entire crop until you are satisfied with the process.
If you’re an indoor grower, you’ll probably find yourself growing year-round, at least in some years. Outdoor growing requires more planning, as you just get one shot a year. But you have all the time you need to source the seeds or clones you want to grow.
Growing at home means you can try all seed types. Regular seeds, auto flowers, feminized, they are all available and you should explore which works best for where and how you grow.
You can experiment with all manners of training and topping. See which method you prefer. If you are indoors and can control your temperature and humidity, you might top, because you’ll increase the number of flowers. Outside, topping might cause crowding, so you might choose to train your plants. You can actually train your plants to remain below the line of sight if security is a concern. Cannabis plants are remarkably pliable during training.
Home Growers can focus on improving how they grow, and not be concerned with how much they grow. A word of caution, however, to outdoor growers: Do not be surprised if these plants eventually grow beyond the structural limits you have for yourself. Once your soil is properly prepared, these plants can take off and grow like crazy.
This one heavily trained Rainbow Kush yielded 2.76 pounds from a raised bed.
Growing at home is the best kind of addictive fun. As cannabis legend Ed Rosenthal likes to point out, ingesting cannabis is not addictive, but growing it is. I agree 100%. I have personally found that growing at home is an aid for many things. First, over time, you become a better grower of everything, not just cannabis. Cannabis sharpens every gardening tool in your belt. It is also my opinion that gardening will make you become more mindful in general. It is a nurturing art. You are helping young things grow. These plants are alive and respond to what you do. There are few rushes I’ve known like my evolution as a gardener. To create great growing mediums is a long game issue, so I have gained patience as a person with every grow.
Speaking of fun, we collect kief from every plant we trim and we created a shelf for tins filled with kief and a veritable pu pu platter to display them for potential guests.
During the pandemic, the garden has been my refuge. During this rise of ugliness that has taken over our politics and people, my garden is where I escape from the negative and fill my heart with the hope of growing. Another thing–gardens attract people of like mind. In no time, you will become friends with other gardeners, and not necessarily all of them cannabis farmers. Growers of all kinds have issues in common, across political lines, too. We may not agree at all politically, but as growers, we are much more likely to work together toward solutions. As some in my part of the world say, “If you’ve got an aphid problem, I’ve got an aphid problem, too.”
Growing at home means you have the meds you want, when you want them. It means you can construct whatever program works best for you. During the pandemic, when Karen and I were in deep isolation, I found micro doses of Harlequin helped me ward off depression and gave me that little burst of sativa energy to write the Isolation Grow Blog, day after day, that entire growing season.
Growing at home is a constant reward to yourself, your family and your friends. I love to take a friend into the dispensary, and show them what there is to choose from … and everything they take home is free.
I have nothing against the commercial cannabis industry, and people who grow for profit. There’s room for everyone in the cannabis community. But I’ll always be hanging out with the Home Growers, the people who grow because we love to grow, and feel so free, we give it away.
Jeffrey Hickey is the author of the 2020 Isolation Grow Blog, and one of the co-creators and faculty members of the Home Grow program at Oaksterdam University.