Buy It, or Grow Your Own? Weighing Arizona’s Post-Legalization Pot Options | Phoenix New Times

Buy It, or Grow Your Own? Weighing Arizona’s Post-Legalization Pot Options

As of Monday, you are free to grow pot in Arizona. But should you?
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Since Election Day, when Arizona voters approved Proposition 207 with a 60 percent majority, residents have been living in a sort of gray area regarding the legality of growing and possessing personal-use amounts of marijuana.

No more. As of Monday, November 30, Arizona’s 2020 election results have officially been certified, and the law is in effect. That means you can’t get busted for pot in Arizona anymore, provided you stay within the lanes painted by Prop 207.

Prop 207 comes with seventeen pages of newly minted laws governing legalized marijuana, among which is the lawful right of individuals 21 years or older to purchase up to one ounce at a licensed dispensary or cultivate “not more than six plants” at home for personal use. (If two or more adults live in your home, then twelve plants are allowed to be grown.)

Recreational dispensaries won’t be open for a while — April 2021, probably.

In the meantime, though, you can grow. Arizonans are fortunate that Prop 207 allows home cultivation. Washington and Illinois, which legalized marijuana in recent years, do not permit it. Nor does New Jersey, which also legalized marijuana in 2020.

“A number of us fought for that right and expunging [of prior convictions], even though it polled worse with Arizona registered voters,” says Steve White, the CEO of Harvest Health and Recreation and one of the architects of Prop 207. “A lot of people are passionate about growing their own.”

You can grow. But should you? Before rushing out to buy seeds and lights, here are some points you might first want to consider.

Pros and Cons

Got a brown thumb? Not enough time to learn a new skill set? There are perfectly good reasons to just buy the stuff instead. Those include:

Variety: Dispensaries will sell concentrates and edibles, which most home-growers won’t be able to produce on their own.

Budtenders: The friendly, well-trained budtenders currently found at medical marijuana facilities in the state will also take up residence at recreational shops. Their expert knowledge is particularly helpful as you navigate your preferences and tolerance.

Safety: As of November 1, Arizona requires all medical cannabis to be tested for mold, pesticides, and insecticides, helping further ensure a safe, quality product. This safeguard will apply to recreational pot, too, (though the testing protocols for medical vs. recreational remain fuzzy). Dispensary marijuana is the way to go for casual consumers wanting to safely sample different products.

On the other side of the ledger, there are, of course, good reasons to grow your own.

Less Wait: Under Prop 207, the state is allowed to accept initial recreational license applications between January 19 and March 8, 2021. It then has 60 days to issue licenses. Meaning you won’t be able to walk into a recreational shop and buy pot until sometime next winter or early spring. That’s a ways off. If you start growing soon, you could have your first crop ready by the end of February.

Quantity: Home cultivation permits larger quantities to be grown than the ounce you’re allowed to purchase at a dispensary. It also lets you choose which strains you want to grow.

Cost: The big one. Once you’re set up to grow, dispensary prices will begin to look pretty high by comparison. Dispensary prices will likely range from $210 to $325 an ounce, depending on whether you're buying standard “House” or upscale “Primo” bud, although you will be able to buy quantities as small as a single gram. As explained below, homegrown cannabis can end up costing as little as $20 ounce.

Know the Law

Prop 207 permits home cultivation “within a closet, room, greenhouse or other enclosed area on the grounds of the residence equipped with a lock or other security device that prevents access by minors.” A second main cultivation requirement is that it “takes place in an area where the marijuana plants are not visible from public view without the use of binoculars, aircraft or other optical aids.”

Jonathan Udell is a cannabis attorney with Scottsdale’s Rose Law Group, as well as the communications director for AZ NORML. He advises would-be growers to familiarize themselves with the full text of the law (which you can read here) and consult an attorney if they have questions. Udell also cautions that renters should examine their leases before investing in grow equipment.

“Common lease language such as ‘a drug-free area’ will often prevent growing in a rental,” he says.

Indoor vs. Outdoors

Indoor growing requires significant upfront investment; you’ll need a grow tent, grow light, ventilation fans, carbon odor filters, pots, nutrients, grow medium, and other necessary items. (We covered where you can find some of these items in a recent post.)

If you plan to grow outdoors, the grow light is swapped out for a greenhouse ($200 minimum), with a swamp cooler to control summer temperatures and a space heater for winter cold. Don’t forget the seeds; expect to pay $8 to $10 each for a single seed.

Indoor grows are the safest, most secure of the two options. Since you’ll likely be using a closet or a room in your home, you won’t need to worry about the part of the law that requires the plant to not be visible from public view. Outdoors, a greenhouse will likely be necessary on the public-visibility front. Udell says that “a greenhouse should not have clear windows where the plants might be visible to someone walking by.”

What about growing in your backyard, behind a seven-foot wall and locked gates? “Possibly,” Udell says, “but it would be getting close to [the edge of] what the new rules permit." Without any case law precedent on this kind of thing, the safest route is probably to keep outdoor grows in a locked greenhouse, unless you’re willing to assume the risk of arrest. (Depending on the strain, plants can grow as high as anywhere between three feet and ten feet, though the grower can easily reduce the height by pruning.)

Nebula Haze, who runs the indoor growing website, has been growing indoors for 10 years. She sums up the choice between indoor and outdoor grows as: “The sun is free and cheaper than paying for grow lights, but indoors gives more control, a better environment, and better bud.”

Other first-time-grower tips?

“The cheapest start-up will be an LED light and soil for $150,” Haze says. “But for consistent bud, $650 to $1,000 is a good entry price [for a full indoor grow set-up]. Once that is invested, subsequent crops only have the cost of consumable items like seeds, fertilizer, new soil, and electricity, which should range between $100 to $200 per grow and achievable for anybody." That adds up, roughly, to a cost per ounce of $20 or less.

The local cost of electricity is another big factor. “Beginners should expect a crop every three to five months, and three to four crops a year. Don’t forget the trim, which can be used for making edibles, hash and tinctures.” Also: “Figure one-half gram (of cured bud) for each watt of light.”

Grow light power is measured in watts. A 250-watt grow light should produce 125 grams or 4.4 ounces. Using the above first-time startup costs of $650 to $1000, the first grow should cost somewhere between $147 and $227 an ounce.

Haze recommends beginners try strains Northern Lights or White Widow “for their low odor and high THC content.” Also, “both autoflower and photoperiod plants are good choices. Autos grow quick, harvest in less than three months, and are easy — less things to worry about.” This applies to both indoor and greenhouse grows.

Once you’re set up, budget about ten minutes per day to tend the garden. Remember that, whatever your set-up, 12 plants will take longer to care for than two.

As for legal issues associated with buying seeds: “In ten years of growing, I have ordered thousands of seeds and have not heard of anyone having problems.”

Haze says the most important things to know are “environment, good genetics, and being kind to yourself.” She reminds frustrated beginners that your skills will get better. And she adds a warning: “No sell. No smell. No tell.” In other words: Do not sell your marijuana. Control the odor. And do not tell anyone you are growing.
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