Home grows are the grassroots of the cannabis reform movement. Therefore with legalization, many advocates and patients believe it’s essential for individuals to have a right to cultivate their own plants, especially in a regulated market. High Times dives into the pervasiveness of companies that oppose home grows and how it may be harmful to the community as a whole.
Luke Zimmerman Esq., a cannabis attorney and Oaksterdam University instructor, said home growing grants each person access to a unique relationship with cannabis. He added, “If everyone has a right to grow a limited amount of cannabis, it will be the final nail in the coffin for shifting the outdated paradigm of cannabis being a gateway drug.”
Not widespread but still concerning, cannabis companies have on occasion gone on the record to oppose home cultivation laws in specific states. Conversations among some in the cannabis community reveal a degree of suspicion, believing that more leading names may not support home growth either. However, these beliefs are largely formed on intuition rather than hard evidence.
Arguably the most prominent on the record opposition to home grow came from New York. In December 2019, Politico reported that in the lead up to then-Governor Andrew Cuomo’s legalization plans being revealed, the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association (NYMCIA) had written to him in hopes of keeping home cultivation out of the Empire State. At the time, the group members included Acreage NY, Columbia Care, Etain, MedMen, PharmaCann, The Botanist and Vireo Health.
In a chapter title “The Fallacy of Home Grow,” the letter cited that despite high medical costs and freedom of choice via home grow, the group opposed the measure, citing risks to public health and the ongoing unlicensed market.
In 2021, New York passed its adult-use bill with home growing allowed.
In 2020, Make It Legal Florida’s legalization petition included provisions that would prohibit Floridians from cultivating their plants. Make It Legal Florida’s primary backers were Parallel and MedMen, pumping $8.2 million into the campaign beginning in August 2019. MedMen was one of the companies involved in the letter to New York leadership as well. As of this article’s submission, MedMen has not replied to High Times‘ request for comment.
In April 2021, the Florida Supreme Court struck down the petition over language it deemed misleading.
Advocates and Companies Call for Home Grows
Advocates cite several reasons why they support home cultivation. Depending on the advocate, the primary reason often is one or a mix of:
- Plant history
- Economic inequality/High legal costs
- Freedom of choice
- Distance to legal sources
- Unjust laws
Elana Frankel is a self-employed media professional and is the author of Women and Weed. Frankel said citizens should have the right to choose if they want their cannabis from the dispensary, a pharmacy or their backyard. She likens cannabis growing to buying produce. She grows her own at home and still buys at the store.
“Home cultivation is just a form of cannabis activism, rebellion of prohibition injustice,” said Frankel, calling it “political gardening.”
Scheril Murray Powell, Esq. is a Florida-based attorney specializing in cannabis, agriculture and dietary supplements. Murray, who sits on various cannabis boards in the U.S. and Jamaica, said home cultivation should be legal for several critical reasons. She cited the indigenous history of the plant and the fact that it has been used across the world long before regulations took effect. She added that plant prohibition is not based on science, calling the rules arbitrary. Lastly, she said the individual needs of patients make home cultivation needed.
“Individuals have different plant chemistry needs for their chronic conditions, and individuals have different plant chemistry needs for their endocannabinoid system,” stated Murray. She also believes that home cultivation empowers and leads people to make better choices about what they put into their bodies.
While there is concern that major cannabis players, be it on the record or otherwise, oppose home grow, the industry is far from unified in its opposition.
In 2019, Kris Krane, then-president of multi-state operator (MSO) 4Front, stated he empathized with companies trying to make money. Still, he added that the opposition eventually boils down to companies looking to make the most revenue possible.
Marianne Cursetjee is CEO of Oregon’s Alibi Cannabis. The investor and advisor said companies out West tend to support home cultivation. She told High Times that Oregon’s strong DIY culture includes home cannabis cultivation. So much so that cannabis fits into the general aesthetic in her Portland community.
“I was at a backyard dinner party last night in Portland, and the neighbor had a very nice looking cannabis plant that he was tending,” Cursetjee reported. She added, “Not everyone has the time, interest, or capacity to grow plants, but having that as an option is very important.”
Proponents of cannabis community ethos may believe that big brands opposing home grow will face the consequences in the form of lost revenue or a damaged reputation.
That, however, doesn’t appear to be the case so far. Some brands, like MedMen, have struggled at times, including recent stock declines of over six percent during Q4 2021. Still, the company reported a 55 percent year-over-year increase, earning $42 million during the last quarter. Others, like Cresco Labs, are considered a leading player in the U.S. marketplace. Cresco will announce its next quarterly report on November 11, 2021.
Zimmerman believes a negative hit could come, “but that will likely only be from informed consumers who have taken the time to understand the issue.” He believes companies should embrace home growing so customers can understand the value of store-bought pot.
“I have grown for the past five seasons, and while I have learned a lot about the plant, what I am reminded of each year is that skills to cultivate quality cannabis take years to develop, especially if you are trying to cultivate for scale,” Zimmerman stated.
While revenue doesn’t seem to be affected by home grow opinions, reputation among loyal consumers is still a concern to some operators. Dan Gower, the owner of Buddy Gardner Advertising, advises his cannabis clients to support home growing—with most onboard to distribute helpful information for home growers.
“I remind all of my clients that this information is available anyway, so there is little benefit to being on the wrong side of history because of a futile effort to protect their own profits,” said Gower.
In conversations for other articles, analysts and operators have told this reporter that they feel the market dominance from MSOs could wane with federal legalization. When that period arrives, there is some belief that major brands could fall to more popular brands and regional leaders. While purely conjecture, that may be the only way brands face the financial consequences for opposing home grow or other foundational cannabis advocate ethos. Because, for now, their opposition is proving to have little to no impact on their brand or bottom line.