Home cultivation has emerged as a clear sticking point in cannabis reform across many states.
While it faces pushback, including from several cannabis brands, home grow is making incremental progress in medical and adult use markets, and ushering in a variety of parameters to meet state needs.
The issue has made more progress than other key advocate issues, such as social equity. Yet, industry professionals say more could be done to improve access and curb industry greed.
Those supporting home grow believe that it is a way to provide affordable cannabis to low income individuals, as well as to those customers who live in legal states, but have little access to products.
Various Forms Of Home Grow Laws Passed
Of the five most recent states to pass cannabis reform, Arizona, Montana and South Dakota included some form of home grow parameters in their respective bills. They join a list of states to pass similar measures.
As of September 2020, 17 states and Washington, D.C. had passed some form of home growing laws, be they for medical or adult use.
Comparatively, most states have so far failed to pass social equity laws, with just a handful being considered adequate parameters.
Groups like the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) say laws with "reasonable safeguards" have not been challenged by any states so far. The MPP suggests secure grow sites away from the public and cultivation caps as adequate parameters.
Like many cannabis laws, states have implemented various regulatory frameworks for home cultivation.
For example, in adult use markets, people over 21 can grow up to four plants in Oregon, while Washington State allows six and Vermont just two.
Medical markets vary as well.
Rhode Island patients and caregivers can grow as many as 12 plants and 12 seedling at a private indoor setting. New Hampshire allows up to three plants and 12 seedlings. In New Mexico, the cap is at 16.
Meanwhile, New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey are some of the states to ban home cultivation for medical patients.
The U.S. is not the only country dealing with home cultivation concerns. Quebec has been embroiled in ongoing legal battles over home cultivation despite federal law approving up to four plants per household.
Some regulators agree that since cannabis is not one-size-fits-all, it warrants several points of consideration when discussing home grow for each state.
Shaleen Title, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, says it is important to consider patients’ medical needs when determining plant counts and square footage limits.
"It should be up to the patient and the doctor," Title says, citing "strong" grow laws in Massachusetts where there is a public awareness program on home grow limitations and safety measures around cultivation and extraction.
Individuals in Massachusetts can grow up to six plants or 12 per household with two or more adults.
Portland Civic Life Leader Dasheeda Dawson, a member of the Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition along with Title, supports home cultivation to address the needs of patients.
At minimum, patients should have the ability to grow their medicine, particularly if they find a strain ideal for their treatment, she explains.
"If someone finds what works for them in another state but it's not readily grown in their home state, they should be able to grow what works for them," Dawson says, citing how home grow could be crucial during the ongoing pandemic when patients may be unable to access their dispensary.
Dawson also likens cannabis to vegetables, believing government oversight should not be involved in personal use other than establishing grow limits.
"Fear Of Fueling Unregulated Market"
Much of the blame for home grow omissions from state frameworks boils down to corporate interests.
Dawson says fear-based legislation and lobbying from multi-state operators (MSOs) have convinced legislators that home growing reduces tax revenue and the market’s overall success.
“Though unfounded in any substantial evidence, there is still a lot of fear about how home grow can fuel the unregulated market,” Dawson says.
The Civic Life head added that this perspective fails to recognize the perpetuation and growth of the legacy market despite decades of drug prohibition.
People are going to grow regardless of whether the law permits it or not, she adds.
The most notable example of corporate cannabis getting involved in home grow legislation came out of New York in 2019.
The New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association (NYMCIA) sent Governor Andrew Cuomo a 29-page memo detailing its opposition to home cultivation, citing its potential to undermine laws, the market, public health and other areas.
The letter was made publicly available via Marijuana Moment.
One month later, Cuomo would propose legislation, which included a prohibition on home growing.
Not all of the major cannabis players oppose home growing.
In March 2019, 4Front Ventures Corp. (OTCQX: FFNTF) president Kris Krane wrote about the millions the few New York licenses sunk into a venture in a market that has largely struggled to legalize cannabis in the first place.
While empathizing with a desire to protect companies' stakes in the market, Krane chalked the opposition up to corporate greed and a desire to boost bottom lines.
Krane would go on to mention the potential damage opposing home grow could do for businesses.
He noted a risk of alienating their consumer base while possibly aligning with prohibitionist groups who are otherwise opposed to one another.
Krane mentioned that businesses should consider home growing the same as home brewing. Instead of being the enemy to legal sales, these home practitioners are often active buyers as well.
In January 2020, the NYMCIA voiced its support for Governor Cuomo's most recent efforts to legalize cannabis. It made no mention of home cultivation but did echo support for increasing access, lowering patient costs and removing entry barriers for patients.
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