To David R. Clifford of Auburn, it just makes sense: If marijuana becomes legal for adult recreational use in New York, he says, consumers should be able to grow their own.
â€śI can grow my own tomatoes or herbs,” he said. â€śIf Iâ€™m a beer drinker, I can grow my own hops and make some home brew. So why not let me grow my own cannabis?â€ť
It may not happen. While New York lawmakers are considering legalizing marijuana for recreational use, the proposal offered by Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this year does not allow growing at home for non-medical use. Recreational users would have to buy their weed from a state-licensed retail outlet.
Cuomoâ€™s plan does call for a limited amount of home-grown cannabis plants, but only for those who have a diagnosis allowing them to use marijuana for medical purposes. The stateâ€™s three-year-old medical marijuana program has until now not allowed home-grown cannabis.
Versions of the legalization plans introduced in both the Assembly and Senate do appear to authorize up to six plants to be cultivated for private use. Those bills make no reference to limiting it for medical use.
Home-grown weed is just one of many details still to be worked out on New Yorkâ€™s path to legal recreational marijuana. Cuomo is hoping to have a law approved by April 1, in time for the upcoming state budget. Some lawmakers, including Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, think that timetable may be too fast.
At the heart of the recreational marijuana proposals are provisions allowing those over 21 to possess limited amounts of weed for personal use. The plans also deal with setting up retail outlets, authorizing taxes and addressing social issues, such as sealing the criminal records of those convicted of past marijuana offense.
The issue of allowing home-grown cannabis is close to the hearts of many of those who have championed legal marijuana over the years. Most of the states that have allowed recreational allow some amount of home cultivation, while a few, like Washington state and New Jersey, do not.
Clifford, a salesman for a Buffalo-based company that specializes in CBD oil derived from cannabis, advocated for home growing last October during a marijuana legalization “listening sessionâ€ť held by Cuomoâ€™s office in DeWitt.
â€śI want to grown my own,â€ť Clifford told the hearing, one of several held across the state as Cuomo was preparing his legalization plan. â€śI can do it better that anybody.â€ť
The benefits to growing your own, Clifford said in a recent interview, include lower cost and more control.
He says he can grow his own for 10 percent of the cost to buy it. â€śAnd I know where itâ€™s been grown, whatâ€™s in the soil, whatâ€™s going into it,” he said. “If itâ€™s from my garden I know itâ€™s good.â€ť
Clifford also thinks small-scale is better.
â€śKeep the corporations out of it,â€ť he said. â€śLook how the breweries have bloomed, the fact theyâ€™re small and local and people know where the beer is from. That works best.â€ť
The major companies that have a stake in the stateâ€™s current medical marijuana program, not surprisingly, are opposed to allowing home-grown weed. The New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association, whose members are the companies licensed to produce and sell medical marijuana, sent a memo to Cuomo urging him to reject home-grown.
The memo suggested home-grown would â€śmake it impossible for the state to eliminate the black market,â€ť â€śmake it impossible for law enforcement to distinguish between legal and illegal products,â€ť â€śundermine the stateâ€™s … goal of ensuring that cannabis sold in New York State is grown without noxious pesticides or other contaminants,” and â€śundermine the stateâ€™s public health interest in ensuring that cannabis sold in New York State is tested, packaged, and and labeled correctly.â€ť The group also warned that home growing would “cost the state tax revenue.”
NYMCIA member companies include Columbia Care, Etain, The Botanist and Acreage NY, Vireo Health and MedMen (which has acquired a former member, PharmaCann). These companies presumably would be among those vying to produce and supply cannabis for recreational use in New York.
The web site Politico, followed by a site called Marijuana Moment, highlighted the opposition, noting that it could be a matter of the cannabis providers protecting their turf by trying to influence the governor.
â€śFrom our perspective, itâ€™s really hard to see any real reason â€” other than individual and corporate greed â€” to be against home cultivation at this point,â€ť Erik Altieri, executive director of NORML, told Marijuana Moment.
Tyrone Stevens, a spokesman for Cuomo, said the governor based his proposal on the series of hearings held across the state last year.
â€śGovernor Cuomo launched 17 listening sessions in communities from Binghamton to Brooklyn to hear directly from everyday New Yorkers about how to create a fair and equitable adult-use cannabis program,” Stevens wrote in an email. “Throughout this process, weâ€™ve engaged a wide range of stakeholders, including medical professionals, law enforcement, treatment providers, and more to account for the various needs of this state and to ensure our proposal is comprehensive. Thatâ€™s what governing is all about, and weâ€™re continuing this important work with the legislature to get an adult-use cannabis program passed as part of this yearâ€™s budget.â€ť
Going forward, the issue of home-grown will be one to follow as the marijuana leglaization debate continues.
â€śFor the folks who have been long-time proponents of legalization, home-grown is a real central issue,â€ť said Josh Weinstein, co-founder of CannaGather, which bills itself as New Yorkâ€™s â€ślargest cannabis industry community,â€ť
â€śIt makes sense for there to be an abundance of caution around home-grow,â€ť Weinstein said, â€śbut the benefit still seem to outweigh the cons. Whether it makes it into the final legislation is unclear.â€ť