Homegrown Cannabis: An Exclusive Look

Connecticut now allows medical cannabis cardholders to grow their own plants

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Cannabis is now legal in our state and the new law allows, for the first time, people to grow their own at home.

People who have a medical cannabis card can do this as of October 1. Recreational users must wait until July 2023.

Figures from New Frontier Data, a cannabis business intelligence firm, indicate home growing is not one of the most preferred ways users choose to get their cannabis, at least currently.

And growing your own cannabis might be harder than you think.

Francis, a medical cannabis home grower, says he uses it for his aching back and neck. We concealed his identity because he’s a first responder in Connecticut and has concerns about his employer learning about it.

“It doesn't take all the pain away, but it helps me live my life”, Francis said.

Francis explained even though prescription drugs might give him more pain relief than cannabis, he says overall he prefers cannabis.

“It comes from the ground it wasn't synthetically manufactured you know to have all these known side effects.”

State law requires home growers to grow cannabis indoors only, and and it helps if growers have specific equipment and some knowledge of cultivation. The equipment involved can get pricey.

According to articles by Leafly, which describes itself as one of the world’s leading cannabis resources, a grow tent will cost you somewhere between $100 and $475. Grow lights: anywhere from $85, to over $1000. Plus, fans, timers, an exhaust system, organic nutrients, potting soil, and other equipment.

“It can go up depending on your on your setup, you know, and how intricate you want it and mine is up there,” Francis said.

Then there’s learning how to use all this equipment to grow your own medical cannabis.

Wepa! Farms is a hemp cultivator in our state. Hemp is a close relative of cannabis, with only trace amounts of THC, the compound that makes people feel high.

Wepa! Farms has a very active business now with CBD…another compound in hemp said to bring pain relief.

CEO Luis Vega said, “This is an emerging industry with a lot of opportunity.”

Vega added Wepa! Farms is looking to get licenses to sell medical and recreational cannabis, and, it is building out classroom space in its building for low-cost classes on home growing medical cannabis.

“We want to make sure that medical patients here in the state come and get professional knowledge from the people who are doing it. Being able to work in the agricultural hemp space means that we've grown thousands of these plants,” Vega added.

Wepa! Farms Director of Cultivation Luis Cotto went further…“I know it might seem intimidating, but it's, it's just gardening.”

Wepa! Farms Director of Cultivation Luis Cotto explains his cannabis home grow setup.

Francis has already taken a lot of time researching how to grow his own cannabis.

But as far as getting his cannabis tested to make sure it is safe and has the right mix of relief for him, Francis can’t go to a lab in Connecticut, because current state law doesn’t allow home growers to use them.

“I'm trying to put good medicine into my body not bad medicine into my body; mold counts, yeast in everything in there, there's lots of bad stuff that can get you”, Francis said.

At the UConn campus in Storrs, scientists are not testing medical cannabis or recreational cannabis, but they are testing hemp. “The tests that we do for hemp are the exact same tests that you would use and translate for the recreational or medicinal cannabis,” explained Center for Environmental Sciences and Engineering Lab Director Chris Perkins.

Perkins added the same impurities he and his team look for in hemp; mold, bacteria, and heavy metals, can also be in cannabis.
“This is something that you could be ingesting this is something that you could be consuming. …having quality testing available, whether it's hemp or cannabis is extremely important.”

There’s also questions about how home growing will be enforced, in terms of not exceeding the limit of six plants per person, a dozen plants per household.

Police officers have privately told NBC Connecticut Investigates that fines for this may not be enforced often. Officers will need to get evidence of an illegal grow to get a search warrant, then there are questions about storage and destruction of the plants.

When asked about this, Democratic House Majority Leader Jason Rojas, one of the architects of the cannabis legislation, agreed it was basically an honor system.

“It is a lot of self-regulation. Again, similar to people brewing beer in their basement, we have a very controlled marketplace for alcohol, yet we allow people to brew beer in their basement. And I’m not aware of any significant problems that have arisen because of people brewing beer at home.”

As for allowing home growers to test their cannabis in Connecticut labs, Rojas said it remains to be seen, adding it depends upon if there’s enough demand for it.

“In the short term as we roll it out, I think people who are growing at home best know about what's going into the soil that they're using.”

Bottom line, the landscape when it comes to cannabis in Connecticut is still hazy, with many regulations still being written.

That’s OK with first responder Francis.

“I believe the pros completely outweigh the cons.”

He says he’s just glad he’s allowed to grow cannabis so he can get some relief.

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