I go to the window. I stare, wistfully and imploringly, at a few spindly and scraggly cannabis plants struggling for survival. These are the survivors, grasping and gasping for energy from the limited winter sun (waxing or waning, at this time of year, it’s hard to tell the difference).
I lean in to the healthiest and hardiest and inhale. Terpenes bearing hints of pine, tar, skunk and oil tumble into my nose. The small smile on my face wavers as I straighten back up and ponder the rest. I wonder what I did wrong to allow these plants to succumb to spider mites and whatever else it is that results in random cannabis plant death. I reflect with regret on the yellow leaves I did not prune, on the hot days I forgot to water. I ask what I can do better today, and wonder if, by mid-December, it’s not already too late for my 2017 marijuana harvest.
Mark my words: I am no green thumb. Nor am I a freedom fighter, defying convention and the law to make a political statement in a window box. I put 12 cannabis plants in my front window, overlooking my well-trafficked street in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, because I can.
In California, cultivating some amount of medical marijuana has been my legal right for about two decades.
However, cultivating cannabis is a right subject to limitations, as well as some interpretation — and, in some cases, outright discouragement from the authorities.
Nonetheless, it is a right cannabis advocates should feel empowered to exercise, especially when the law is on your side. Still, doing so will requires some examination, into the personal as well as the political.
You must consider the details of your living situation. I am fortunate not to live in government-funded housing or in a condominium complex with rules against cannabis plants. I am lucky as well to have an accommodating lease. My landlord doesn’t appear to have noticed that I grow cannabis plants, and he probably wouldn’t care if he did — and were he to challenge me, I have both California medical marijuana law and adult use legalization to fall back upon.
Not everyone is in such an accommodating scenario. Look around the country: Most of the newest states to get medical cannabis do not enjoy home-grow rights like I do on the West Coast. (Notably and inexplicably, home grow is not a right enjoyed by Washingtonians, unless they have a medical-marijuana recommendation).
Those of us in states with medical laws that do not allow for home grow, including Florida, New York State, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, must remind their local lawmaker why this is a half-measure that must be changed. With illegal grows, the risk of crime and fire increases.
Plus, given that plenty of people grow cannabis regardless of legality, encouraging citizens to cultivate a few plants of their own discourages the black market. And in a troubling development, some areas in so-called “free-for-all” states like California are doing what they can to abrogate the rights of citizens to cultivate at home. Some cities and counties in the country’s best climate for growing cannabis are banning outdoor plots. Others are demanding citizens who want to grow in their own homes register with the police department — because who among us doesn’t want to inform the cops we’re doing things, in the privacy of our own homes, that they hate? Other cities are requiring home growers to pay for costly and unnecessary commercial agriculture water hookups.
Even those of us living in a “free to grow” zone may not necessarily be aware that they have such rights — or perhaps are still unwilling or too wary to exercise those rights. That’s normal. We are the products of generations that feared and shunned the cannabis plant. Even those people that love marijuana in all of its forms often chose to distance themselves from the plant, because too close an association has meant bad things. Breaking free of such political stigmas is a powerful act. The liberation can be intoxicating — but there can be a risk, too. These are concerns you must carefully weigh yourself.
When my partner saw my garden and raised the specter of eviction, I puffed up my chest and expounded upon Prop. 64’s six-plants-per-person rule. When she kindly pointed out I had 12 plants, which is more than six, and she was not going to be associated with any home-garden scenario she hadn’t signed off on, I had to gently remind her that Article 33 of the city health code allows a medical-marijuana patient (which I am) several dozen plants. Therefore, I was, in fact, short of my allotment.
If you want to start growing at your own home, these are the conversations you must be prepared to have, and I recommend that you do have them before you bring your six plants home. Only then will you be able to discover, firsthand, how much you know about policy is inversely related to how much you know about horticulture.
TELL US, do you grow six plants legally at home?