In many states where medical marijuana is legal, patients can choose to buy their medication at a dispensary or to grow their own indoors or outdoors. Note that not all states allow patients to grow medical marijuana and those that do may not have the option of growing it outdoors. Patients should always check their state and local laws before growing their own medication. For patients who are looking into whether indoor or outdoor medical marijuana growing is the better option, here are some things to consider.
Medical marijuana plants, like most other plants, recognize seasons and will flower at certain times of the year. The harvest of usable marijuana occurs after flowering. When plants are grown indoors, the climate can be adjusted to coax the plants into flowering at different times of the year. This cannot be done with medical marijuana grown outdoors so, with most plant breeds, outdoor harvest will be limited to once a year.
Medical marijuana plants can be difficult to grow outdoors as these plants prefer a long growing season with warm temperatures and predictable rainfall. In areas with cold nighttime temperatures that can stretch into early summer and unpredictably heavy spring and fall rains, plants may not do well outdoors in some years. Alternatively, in desert areas plants will need to be watered regularly and protected from the severe heat.
Most areas that allow outdoor medical marijuana cultivation require specific containment efforts, such as locked fences and doors. However this can sometimes be difficult to organize. Mature plants grown outdoors can reach heights of five feet or more and can be viewed by neighbors or others if not properly enclosed, which may be illegal in some areas. Indoors, this problem is avoided. The following containment guidelines are examples of requirements that may be enforced in your area. Be sure to first check your local regulations:
- Outdoor garden surrounded by a six foot fence
- Secure, roofed structure
- Outbuilding that is not a dwelling or greenhouse
- Enclosure with an audible alarm system
- Cost Variables for Growing Environments
Indoor medical marijuana cultivation requires significant investment. The items required to grow these plants indoors can add up. Common necessary items include:
- Watering systems
While outdoor medical marijuana can be costly to grow as well, particularly in areas requiring full enclosure, outdoor cultivation is almost always the less expensive option.
Alternatives in marijuana supply are medical marijuana collectives or cooperatives that grow marijuana in proportion to how many members they have.
In California, for example, according to SB420, limits are 6 mature or 12 immature per patient. However, individual counties can allow for higher amounts.
Because federal law states that cultivation of 100 plants or more is punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years.
Most counties have capped the limit of cooperative cultivation to 99 plants.
Medical marijuana patients do not all agree on whether indoor or outdoor cultivation yields better quality medication. Scientifically, any difference in quality is more likely to be from the type of plant and its quality of care than whether it was grown indoors or outdoors. However, this is one area of the debate where most patients will need to decide for themselves.
Other factors in medical marijuana cultivation will vary by individual. Indoor or outdoor cultivation may be solely determined by where the individual has the space to use. Depending on an individual’s condition, it may be easier or more difficult to care for plants in one environment versus another. Overall, the decision on where to cultivate medical marijuana remains a personal choice.