Undeniably, the right to grow your own cannabis has become a well-known and hotly debated topic surrounding full legalization of the plant. As reform spreads across the country, the concept rings a much more acceptable tone than it did years ago. What is home grow and why is it important?

1.)          Terminology.  First, what is “home grow”? Please see “The Language of Home Growing in Ohio.” Aside from “home,” the terms used to define location often include “primary residence,” “household,” or “registered cultivation sites” – some laws require registration of these plots with the state. Other terminology associates it with an individual or “person,” as in “personal cultivation.” This verbiage juxtaposes home growing against what it is not, “commercial or corporate cultivation.” Thus, the “home grow” can be defined as the cultivation of cannabis in limited quantities and small spaces for personal use without monetary gain.

2.)          It’s a plant.  A product of mother nature, like any other plant among the estimated 369,000 on earth. It is not considered an “invasive species,” aka “an alien species whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health" Legally banning natural plants unlikely to cause harm in a biodiverse world represents another ludicrous product of the War on Drugs.

3.)          In its natural form, cannabis is safe.  So said DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis Young in his 1988 legal opinion (p. 58): “Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medical care." No one in has ever died from a cannabis overdose.

4.)          The home brewing of beer and vinting of wine is legal in all 50 states.  Excessive use of alcohol contributes to more than 95,000 deaths per year. Still, all 50 states permit homebrewing beer and wine making within the domicile.

5.)          Common to Ohio.  Once upon a time, every Ohio cannabis focused ballot issue and every legislative bill contained a provision to permit personal cultivation. From 2005 to 2013, all five introduced bills were virtually the same - patients could possess up to 12 mature plants and their caregivers could do the same. After that, all medical marijuana bills lacked the clause. Still, in 2022, personal cultivation language can be found in the adult use measures, including the initiated statute, under consideration by the legislature.

6.)          Common in other states.  Twenty-two states have provisions in their cannabis laws for personal cultivation. These include medical only and medical/recreational states. Numbers vary widely, particularly if caregivers are involved. For example, Michigan’s personal plant maximum equals 12. However, patients can have up to five caregivers, each of whom may grow 12 plants on their behalf, raising the potential number of plants per registered patient to 60. More commonly, home grow plant numbers fall in the range of six mature and 2-4 immature.

7.)          Reasonable restrictions need apply.  As with home brewing and vinting, home growing is restricted to a residence or other personal space such as a “secured closet, room, greenhouse, or other enclosed area” that is “not visible … from a public space.” Who cares if neighbors brew beer, make wine or grow lettuce so long as they don’t truck copious quantities off their property into a commercial market? When cannabis, or really any other product enters that transactional space, it should be regulated and perhaps taxed. 

8.)          A boutique in the making.  While home grown product cannot be sold, dozens of ancillary specialized businesses can sprout up in support of it: potting soil, nutrients, lights, containers, fans and more, all putting funds into the economy.

9.)          Don’t fear competition.  Some involved in the commercial space view personally grown cannabis as a competitor that undercuts sales. Maybe not. Almost all markets can be affected by individual activity. Vinting one’s own wine or brewing beer do subtract dollars from retail sales. However, even though some people can brew great beer, far more want to easily purchase a purity tested beverage with ingredients and quantity pasted on an appealing package. Also, consider Michigan, which has a robust, long standing home grow law. In 2021, medical and adult use cannabis sales in the state equaled almost $1.8 billion and brought in $115 million in sales taxes. The impact of home grow on the Michigan market was miniscule. 

10.)      Affordability and accessibility.  Purchased cannabis like all commodities comes with a price tag that many cannot afford, particularly patients due to the lack of insurance coverage. Further, some in need could reside in “cannabis deserts,” remote areas of the state, miles from a dispensary. Growing a limited quantity gives a sick person access to medicine that they might not otherwise have, in relatively consistent strain compositions not offered by dispensaries.

11.)      Growing plants is therapeutic.  From seed to soil to water to harvest, gardening can have a positive effect on physical and mental health. This includes growing cannabis in the context of horticultural therapy, an established psychological treatment, defined as “the purposeful use of plants and gardens to improve health and wellbeing.” As noted on the Horticultural Therapy Alliance website, “Research studies have concluded that gardening can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, decrease feelings of fear, anger and sadness, and improve self-confidence,” particularly important in these times of COVID-19. 

12.)      The home is a “castle.”  This age-old idiom, grounded in English Common Law, holds that, as the “ruler” of one’s space [castle], a person can do as they please within it. No one dare enter without permission! Thus, four harmless cannabis plants grown non-commercially in the home for personal use and in compliance with state law should preclude intrusion by police or prosecutors. 

13.)      Rising crime.  Doesn’t happen. “To be sure, medical marijuana laws were not found to have a crime exacerbating effect … On the contrary, our findings indicated that MML [medical marijuana legalization] precedes a reduction in homicide and assault,” read the  conclusions of a detailed crime analysis. Recall as well that most home growing sites must be located in secured, enclosed areas hidden from public view.

14.)      It’s about Freedom!  There’s a lot of talk about freedom these days. Freedom of speech.   Freedom of choice.   Freedom of association.  Why don’t these freedoms apply to cannabis? If Americans are guaranteed freedom and liberty, growing six harmless plants should be permissible.

15.)      Another injustice.  How is it morally right for law enforcement to burst into someone’s castle for something that, on a grander scale, makes millions for a 50,000 square foot Level 1 cultivator just down the road? It isn’t. Why should the state spend its time and money on something that generates zero monetary gain? It shouldn’t. Why should growing  a plant result in a criminal record?

There you have it! From banning a harmless plant, to unparalleled safety to comparable policies to more dangerous substances to affordability, therapy, injustice, freedom and, hey, get out of my castle, all of these factors illustrate why the personal cultivation of cannabis in Ohio – aka Home Grow –  is a concept whose time has come to enact.

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Mary Jane Borden is a best-selling author, talented artist, and award winning cannabis activist from Westerville, Ohio. During her 40-year career in drug policy, she co-founded seven cannabis-oriented groups, co-authored four proposed constitutional amendments, lobbied for six medical marijuana bills, penned 87+ Columbus Free Press articles and has given hundreds of media interviews. Her artwork can be viewed at CannabinArt.com and she can be reached at maryjaneborden@ gmail.com.