Marijuana Growing Guide

Updated on June 25, 2021.  Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer

marijuana growing guide

Many medical marijuana patients get their medicine from a dispensary, but what if you don’t have a dispensary nearby, or you can’t find the medicine you need? You might also rather just do things yourself. In some parts of the United States, you can grow your own medical marijuana to solve these issues.

Some people want to join the medical marijuana industry by growing plants for making medicine. Whether you start your own business or work for an existing one, you can take advantage of the United States’ cannabis boom. You can also help enhance the lives of patients looking for natural relief.

In this medicinal weed growing guide, you will learn:

  • About the marijuana growing industry
  • What you need to grow medical marijuana
  • How to grow medical marijuana
  • About marijuana growing laws in the United States
  • How to get a marijuana growing license
  • How to get a professional grower’s license
  • How to become a grower for a dispensary

Since cannabis laws vary from state to state, you should look at your state laws and regulations to understand what you can legally do. Make sure to support your learning here with our information on medical marijuana state laws.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Growing Your Own Marijuana

Growing medical cannabis isn’t quite as simple as putting a seed in a pot and getting marijuana. It takes time, effort and money. Plus, state and federal regulations could affect what you can and can’t do when you grow it. So, when thinking about growing your own medicine, ask yourself the following questions:

do i need license

  • Can I legally grow marijuana in my state? — Some states let patients grow their own plants, but not all.
  • Do I need a license to raise my own plants? — Depending on your state laws, you might have to get a medical marijuana card or a separate growing permit. Research your state’s medical marijuana regulations before growing.
  • Do I have enough money to grow my own medication? — Growing marijuana can cost a lot, especially the electricity bill it can create. Research how much you will need to spend on the amount of cannabis you will grow.
  • How do I want to grow my cannabis? — You can take multiple approaches to cultivating marijuana. We’ll talk more about this in the next section.
  • Do I have the time and energy to maintain my plants? — If you have a condition that makes mobility or executive function hard, you might have a difficult time taking care of your plants. And if you have a busy schedule, can you fit your cultivation time into it?

growing methods

The Pros and Cons of Growing Your Own Cannabis

Creating your own medical cannabis garden definitely has its perks, but you should keep the potential drawbacks in mind. Since medical marijuana is such a new frontier in the United States, aspiring growers have some accessibility and legal issues to face. If you don’t mind the possible issues, though, you can reap the immense benefits of growing your own medicine.

grow own medicine

Raising marijuana plants can be a highly rewarding experience. Some of the perks of having a cannabis garden include:

  • A sense of self-satisfaction — Don’t underestimate how empowering it feels to have control over your medical marijuana treatment. When you reap your cannabis crop, you also reap the benefits of knowing that you grew it yourself.
  • Faster access to your marijuana bud — As you can imagine, having your medicine right at home makes it quicker to get than going to a dispensary.
  • More strain choices than a dispensary — Thanks to the Internet, you can find seeds for just about any marijuana strain out there. While dispensaries have quality-tested bud, they also only have so many strains to offer.
  • The ability to smoke, vape or ingest your cannabis medicine — Growing cannabis plants gives you access to bud, which you can grind to smoke or vape or make into edibles like flour or tea. We don’t recommend making concentrates or oil — leave that to the pros.
  • Quality caretaking for your friend or loved one — Some states let designated caregivers grow marijuana plants for a medical marijuana patient. If you grow cannabis for the patient under your care, you can control the quality for them.
  • Control over your medication’s quality — If you use more advanced techniques and high-quality supplies, you can harvest fresh and effective medicine. Even people who opt for a cheaper approach get to have the freshest bud possible.

hard work

But, growing cannabis can have its difficulties as well. Some drawbacks to consider include:

  • The time and effort it takes to grow medical marijuana — If you’re willing to work hard to raise your own cannabis, the challenge of the task will feel completely worth it. But, not everyone has the ability or time to do it.
  • The cost — If you think that DIY-ing it costs less than buying medication from a dispensary, you might want to reconsider. No matter whether you use a pot and soil or hydroponics, you have to buy lighting equipment and pay for the extra electricity. That being said, the extra money does let you get high-quality
  • Navigating laws and regulations — Even in states where you can legally grow medical cannabis, it’s still illegal on a federal level, so some officials can find loopholes that make things tricky. But, if you have a good grasp on laws in your area, you can give it a shot as long as you’re aware.
  • Racial disparity in prosecution — Unfortunately, one of the issues with U.S. marijuana regulations is the increased likelihood for people of color to get prosecuted. If you aren’t white, you may worry about unequal punishment, even if your state allows cannabis cultivation. As social progress and marijuana attitudes improve, hopefully everyone will have safe access to cannabis growing.
  • The inability to make concentrates, oils and other manufactured medication — You must go to a dispensary to get some kinds of medication since some products take expertise to make.

professional products

As you can see, you have a lot to think about before you start growing medical marijuana. But, everything has its pros and cons, and you might find that the drawbacks are worth the benefits.

Methods of Growing Marijuana

Just like growing other plants, you can raise marijuana using a wide variety of methods. When thinking about how you will cultivate your cannabis, you must consider two factors — the growing medium and the grow light. In other words, you have to decide what you will grow your plants in and the light you will use to help them grow.

The medium that will work best for you and your crop will depend on your individual circumstances and gardening experience. There are five different mediums for raising cannabis:

  • Soil — You can opt for the simple route by using regular garden soil. It’s easy to find and usually costs less than other mediums. However, your soil might not have the best quality, resulting in lower yield or poor results.
  • Fiber — Fiber like coconut fiber doesn’t have the quality problems that soil has. Using fiber is almost as easy as using soil, yet it has higher yields and less mess. On the other hand, you might have a harder time finding it in a garden store, and it requires special fertilizer.
  • Hydroponics — Power growers can use hydroponics to get an even higher yield than growing in soil or fiber. Hydroponic growing involves circulating fertilized water around plants using special equipment. As you can imagine, hydroponic-growing equipment costs much more than more traditional methods.
  • Aeroponics — Aeroponics is another advanced form of cultivation that uses air instead of water. The plants stay in a mesh basket, where they get sprayed with water and fertilizer. While it has even better results than hydroponics, it still costs a lot and can be finicky.
  • Aquaponics — Aquaponics takes advantage of nature’s systems by letting fish and plants coexist in the same system. While the plants get nutrients from the fish, the fish benefit from naturally filtered water. Commercial growers tend to use this method since they can produce fish as well as plants.

marijuana hydroponics

If you decide to use soil or fiber, you should also get the right container. People who only want to grow a small plant can simply use a five-gallon bucket with holes drilled in the bottom or a big gardening pot. Make sure your container will let your medium drain any extra water.

Hydroponics, aeroponics and aquaculture involve specialized equipment that experienced gardeners and professional businesses might use. If you’re just starting out, you should really think about the cost and work involved in these methods. While they take more money and time, though, they also let you take advantage of a much higher quality.

marijuana light requirements

Once you pick a home for your cannabis, you have to choose the kind of lighting you will use. No matter how you grow your cannabis, you must give it plenty of light. In fact, marijuana should get about 18 hours of light per day! You have the choice of the following types of lights:

  • High-intensity discharge (HID) As the name implies, HID lights produce intense light that works incredibly well for gardening. Metal halide HID lights promote vegetative growth, while high-pressure sodium HID lights foster flowering and fruiting. You can combine both types to take advantage of both their benefits.
  • Fluorescent — Fluorescent lights work well for replicating sunlight, letting your marijuana grow bigger and replacing light lost during the winter. Daylight fluorescent lamps let your plants get plenty of light for a reasonable price. Meanwhile, bloom fluorescent lamps can provide side-light for indoor plants.
  • Light emitting diode (LED) — LED lights aren’t just for your tech gadgets — growers use them, too! While manufacturers still need to refine LED grow light technology, some cultivators use them to supplement their other lights. Adding LED lighting promotes flowering and fruiting.
  • Plasma — Plasma lights cost much more than other kinds of grow lighting, but you get better results in exchange. They work longer and more efficiently than other lights. Their enhanced spectrum improves flowering and fruiting.

Shop Growing Products

Choosing a Strain

Do you have your medium and light picked out? Great — now, all you have to do is pick the marijuana strain you want to grow. You can find seeds online or ask your local dispensary where you can legally get some in-person.

Like other plants, marijuana comes in different kinds of plants. Think of the seed packets for flowers and vegetables you find at the garden store. There aren’t just seeds for a plant like “tomatoes.” Instead, they come in varieties like “heirloom tomatoes.” It works similarly for marijuana, and each type has specialized health benefits.

marijuana varieties

Marijuana comes in two varieties — indica and sativa. Most strains out there today are hybrid strains, meaning that they come from breeding two other strains. Hybrid strains can have indica-indica parents, sativa-sativa parents or indica-sativa parents.

Patients use indica strains to relax and feel full-body benefits, and they use sativa strains for cerebral effects and mood enhancement. Hybrid strains bred from an indica strain and a sativa strain can combine the benefits of both. Talk with your doctor and budtender about what strain will work best for your medical issues.

The At-Home Growing Process

Now that you have all the supplies you need, you can start getting your green thumb on. Gather all your materials and get ready to plant and sprout your seeds. Once you have your cannabis planted, you can get to the main part of the growing process.

Once your pot is full of soil or fiber, you can plant your cannabis seed about one-half to one inch deep. Keep the soil moist and put the pot somewhere warm. Eventually, your plant will produce a small sprout, and then it will form recognizable marijuana leaves.

When you have the beginnings of a bonafide marijuana plant, you can focus on light. When your cannabis gets plenty of light every day, it will enter the vegetation state, where it will grow larger and stronger. Give your little green buddy about 18 hours of light every day.

While your marijuana grows, you should also regularly give it fertilizer. Use a product that suits cannabis plants’ needs. You might want to ask your seed provider or another marijuana professional about the best fertilizer to use.

Once your plant becomes as big as you want it to grow to, you can start to give it less light. Instead of 18 hours, give it 12 hours a day. The reduced light will trigger flowering and fruiting, letting buds form.

Experienced growers can try their hand at advanced methods like hydroponics, aeroponics or aquaculture. If you want to give it a shot, consult with gardening experts. For specific advice on marijuana, you can try contacting the business you bought your seeds from to find someone who knows their stuff.

Whichever approach you take, you can dry your bud for use. Cut the buds off the plant, and remove big leaves or stems. Hang your crops up to dry. Once the small stems snap but the large stems bend, you have the right level of dryness. Put your bud in a Mason jar and keep it in a dark place to let it cure.

What’s the Difference Between Medical and Recreational Growing?

Folks growing medical marijuana and people who grow recreationally have a few different things to consider, but they’re more similar than you think. A lot of the differences lie in regulations and availability.

Raising cannabis for medical and recreational purposes work the same way. You can use the methods mentioned in this guide to growing marijuana for any reason. No matter what you use your cannabis for, you want the same level of quality.

Medical marijuana and recreational marijuana plants are the same. When we call cannabis “medical” or “recreational,” we talk about why someone uses it, not its physical qualities. We mostly use those terms to refer to the regulations surrounding each kind of use.

However, depending on where you live, you may only have the ability to grow your plants for medical purposes. States that ban recreational use also prohibit growing marijuana recreationally. If you live somewhere that allows recreational marijuana, you might already have the authorization you need to grow your own plants. Be sure to follow any state laws and regulations, though, and know for sure what permission you need to cultivate your own plants.

Commercial growers may have to follow different standards for medical marijuana and recreational marijuana cultivation. Depending on what products and medicine are allowed in their state, they may have to grow their plants to ensure a quality end product. And, of course, growing regulations vary from state to state, whether they allow recreational marijuana or not.

The Cannabis Cultivation Industry: An Overview

Whether you want to grow your own medical marijuana or become a professional grower, you’re in good company. Check out these facts about the cannabis industry:

marijuana industry growth

Despite these statistics, marijuana remains illegal on a federal level, and the future status of the industry is uncertain. Industry professionals worry about the Donald Trump administration’s stance on cannabis, but they also have hope that the industry’s potential will give them a chance. His focus on business and economic progress could take priority over his conservative values.

As medical marijuana’s economic power grows, so does the health industry. While jobs in government, utilities and manufacturing decline, healthcare-related professions keep expanding. This trend not only implies that the healthcare industry helps medical marijuana sales, but that medical marijuana sales help the healthcare industry.

When you grow medical marijuana for business, you don’t just provide plants to the industry. You give businesses the resources to make many kinds of medicine for patients in need. They can sell the bud from your plants as-is, or they can make it into concentrates, edibles and more. Some of the newest kinds of medical marijuana products include:

  • Healthy edibles — While edibles have often come in the form of sweet treats like brownies and candy, businesses now offer healthier options, too.
  • Drink powders — Patients can mix their medicine into water to create a healthy and symptom-relieving beverage.
  • Cannabis juice — Some patients add juice that directly comes from the cannabis plant to their drinks.

healthy marijuana edibles

In addition to expanding their product selection, cannabis entrepreneurs currently focus on enhancing quality and safety. By increasing quality testing and banning certain chemicals, they create purer medication than ever. Whether due to new regulations or a commitment to quality, a growing facility might allow only specific kinds of cultivation methods.

As our country’s viewpoint of medical cannabis becomes more accepting, the industry will have even more room to develop. More and more states are legalizing medical and recreational marijuana, providing more business opportunities for budding entrepreneurs.

The Difference Between Professional and Personal Cultivation

Professional and personal cannabis growing differ in a few ways you should keep in mind. If you want to become a professional grower for dispensaries, you have a lot more to do than a personal grower.

Mainly, you should consider how many more regulations you must follow when you grow marijuana professionally. Both personal and professional growers have to follow many laws and policies, but professional growers cultivate plants that other people will use, so many states will impose even more regulations to ensure safety.

The most important regulation to follow is to get the proper authorization from the government. If you want to start your own marijuana business, you must get a license. On the other hand, personal growers may not need a license at all. We’ll talk more about businesses and licenses in just a bit.

Compared to personal growers, professional growers have to spend a lot more time and money if they want to start their own operation. Growing a few plants for yourself can cost a lot, let alone gardening on a larger scale! And raising more plants means dedicating more time to them.

If you want to work for someone else, you still have more factors to consider than a personal grower. Folks who want to join an existing business as a grower might have to go through certification to do their jobs. Additionally, you have to go through the job search process and complete any onboarding.

What It Takes to Be a Marijuana Farmer

Like any other skilled profession, marijuana cultivation takes the right skills, training and dedication. We talked earlier about the power of the marijuana industry. Even though many folks imagine cannabis cultivation as something that only “stoners” do in their basements, it can actually offer a fulfilling career path. And while becoming a professional grower takes a few unique measures, it can be similar to getting any other cultivation job.

marijuana farmers

A good cannabis entrepreneur has the proper experience to do their job well. Folks who want to start a business from scratch should have training and experience in ownership and management. It would also help if they understood at least the basics of growing medical marijuana commercially.

Depending on the business’ policies, employees may need extensive qualifications, too. People who want to work as a grower for an already existing operation should have experience and training in growing. If you already have extensive experience raising marijuana plants professionally, you might not need a degree to get hired, but if you have no prior experience, a degree in horticulture or botany could give you an advantage.

All About Marijuana Growing Licenses

A growing license is an official authorization from the government to cultivate marijuana. Just like how a driver’s license lets you legally drive, a growing license lets you legally grow cannabis. Folks who want to grow marijuana on a large scale must have a license to obey the law.

Whether you need a license to raise marijuana plants depends on what you intend to do with them. To grow cannabis professionally, you must have a growing license from the state. Patients usually just need a medical marijuana card as long as they plan to grow a number of plants below the legal limit. In some states, you can grow cannabis recreationally, meaning you have authorization as long as you’re a legal adult.

To get a license, you have to register for one through the proper government department. Some states require you to register through a specialized medical marijuana department. Others include marijuana-related regulations and licensing in their drug and alcohol department or health department. You might have to sign up in person, but some states may allow online registration.

commercial growers

You can usually get a commercial grower’s license in the following states:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Michigan
  • Oregon

cultivate as needed

The below states only add cultivators on an as-needed basis, so you may have to wait for your chance to sign up:

  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont

The following states don’t offer growing licenses at the time of writing:

  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Washington
  • Washington, D.C.

If you have to have a medical marijuana patient or caregiver license to grow, you should register with your state accordingly. Some states make it simple to sign up, while others involve more steps. To learn how to register where you live, check out our registration guides for each state.

Patients and caretakers can grow their own medical cannabis in the following states:

  • Alaska (recreational growing permitted)
  • Arizona (patient or caregiver)
  • California (recreational growing permitted)
  • Colorado (recreational growing permitted)
  • Hawaii (patient or caregiver)
  • Maine (patient or caregiver)
  • Massachusetts (recreational growing permitted)
  • Michigan (patient or caregiver)
  • Montana (patient or caregiver)
  • Nevada (recreational growing permitted)
  • New Mexico (patient only)
  • North Dakota (if 40+ miles away from nearest dispensary)
  • Oregon (recreational growing permitted)
  • Rhode Island (patient or caregiver)
  • Vermont (patient or caregiver)
  • Washington (patient or caregiver)
  • Washington, D.C. (recreational growing permitted)

no personal growing

In the below states, nobody can grow marijuana for personal use:

  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania

In the future, each state’s availability of cultivation licenses may change. States may change regulations for at-home growing, too. For the latest updates on state cultivation laws, keep an eye on our blog.

Growing Regulations in the United States

Just like with other medical marijuana-related laws, every state has different policies on growing cannabis plants. If your state lets you grow marijuana, check below for exact limits:

  • Alaska: Adults over 21 years old can own, grow and transport up to six total plants, including up to three mature plants.
  • Arizona: Patients and caregivers can grow up to twelve plants if they live over 25 miles away from the closest dispensary.
  • California: 21+ adults can grow their own But, they can only have six plants per residency.
  • Colorado: Adult residents can raise up to six total plants, including three mature ones. A residency can’t have more than twelve plants total.
  • Hawaii: A patient and their caregiver can cultivate up to seven plants total and no more than four ounces of usable medicine.
  • Maine: 21+ adults can have up to six mature plants and up to 12 immature plants. They can possess an unlimited number of seedlings.
  • Massachusetts: Adults over 21 can grow up to six mature plants.
  • Montana: Patients and caregivers can have up to four mature plants and 12 seedlings.
  • Nevada: 21+ adults can grow up to six mature plants and twelve plants total if they live over 25 miles away from a cannabis retailer. Patients can also have up to a total of 12 plants if they live far from a dispensary, but plant maturity doesn’t matter.
  • New Mexico: Patients and caregivers can cultivate up to four mature plants and 12 seedlings.
  • North Dakota: Patients who live over 40 miles away from a dispensary can have up to eight plants.
  • Oregon: Adults 21+ can have up to four plants per residence. A patient or caregiver can have six.
  • Rhode Island: Patients and caregivers can possess up to 12 mature plants.
  • Vermont: Caregivers and patients can cultivate up to two mature plants and seven immature plants.
  • Washington: Patients can grow up to six plants and own up to eight ounces of usable medicine coming from the plants. If a patient needs more medicinal cannabis, a doctor can authorize up to 15 plants and 16 ounces.
  • Washington, D.C.: Anyone 21 or older can grow up to three mature plants and six plants total.

Many states require you to keep your plants out of public view or a certain distance away from schools. Closely read your state’s growing policies before you decide where to keep your cannabis plants.

Relevant Resources From

Here at, we aim to give you a comprehensive resource for medical marijuana doctors and patients. That means we cover numerous topics like legislation, recipes, marijuana science, news, products and more. We’ve dug up some pages from our website that you can use to further expand your knowledge on growing medical cannabis:

Start Your Medical Marijuana Journey

Some folks reading this guide need to start from step one. Are you not yet a patient and want to become one? Or, maybe you need to find a local dispensary where you can get medicine and advice. We’ve got you covered on both fronts.

Our physician listings can help you find the perfect cannabis-trained medical professional to get you certified as a patient. The dispensary database on our site includes locations in both remote and populated areas.