Does Growing Cannabis Save Money?

Joe Evans
Joe Evans - Content Writer

Feb 21 2021 - 10 min read

It’s fair to say that cannabis is more accessible and widely accepted today than it ever has been before. The U.S. has an administration in the White House that has been clear about its intentions to widely decriminalize cannabis use and possession, international bodies like the U.N. have opened doors for medical cannabis on a worldwide scale, and it’s never been easier to quickly and easily see a certified cannabis doctor to get a card of your own! This ease of access to quality, well-grown cannabis from a local dispensary is a huge departure from the ways cannabis has been grown and distributed for nearly a century before.

Before the wave of legalization crashed down on the U.S. in the mid-2010s, the only way to reliably have access to cannabis was to find an often sketchy drug dealer who was either growing their own cannabis or purchased it wholesale from a mystery grower without the checks on their pesticide uses, growing methods, or purity standards we see with medical cannabis today.

This ease of access hasn’t stopped many, especially those in medically legal states that don’t allow medical patients to grow plants of their own at home, to clamor for the ability to grow their own cannabis. Many claims that being able to do so would save them money in the long run, but is that really true? Or is that just an outdated idea from a long-gone era of restrictive, punitive laws preventing quick and reliable access to quality cannabis?

We’re going to break down where exactly medical patients have the option to grow their own cannabis here in the U.S., the real costs associated with setting up a grow of your own either indoors or outdoors, and going in-depth on whether or not it’s less expensive to grow your own cannabis instead of just stopping by the dispensary.

The Overall Answer

According to the Oxford Treatment Center, the average cost of 1 ounce of medium-quality cannabis is $266 nationwide. For high-quality cannabis, the average cost is $326. The average is pulled up significantly by Washington, D.C., where an ounce of cannabis can cost almost $600!

States that have legalized recreational and/or medical cannabis generally have lower prices on average. Perhaps unsurprisingly, cannabis is cheaper in more mature markets with a long history of cannabis use, like Washington, Oregon, California and Oregon, where it’s possible to buy an ounce for around $200. However, this is not always the case, as states where wages aren’t as high may also have cheaper cannabis. Think Mississippi, which has an average price of $170 for medium-quality cannabis (although high-quality cannabis is twice the price in Mississippi).

Assuming that your grow room costs a conservative $1000 and that the average electricity rate in your state isn’t too far off the current mark (13.19 cents per kilowatt hour), then yes, growing your own cannabis is generally cheaper. You will likely cover the costs of your initial outlay within your first one or two grows, assuming you harvest about 4 – 8 ounces per grow.

However, it is also worth taking labor time into account. If you’re in a high-flying job (pun semi-intended) earning hundreds or thousands of dollars per hour and you’re living in the West Coast, then the time you take to grow your own may not seem worth it. For those of more modest means, growing their own can mean the difference between getting the meds they need and not getting them.

Some Tips to Grow Cannabis for Less

  • If you know growers already, tap them up for resources and know-how. Many growers are getting rid of perfectly good equipment when they upgrade themselves.
  • If your dispensary sells good quality clones, take advantage – this can save you plenty of time, labor and electricity, as you can go straight into the 12/12 light-dark cycle!
  • Second-hand electrical equipment can be a money-saver, but can end up being a false economy if it’s not in good shape. It’s better to start off small and with better quality equipment than it is with going large and having poor quality equipment.
  • Following on from above, don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you’re a beginner, start off with a small garden, then get bigger as needed and as your experience grows. For most, this is between 2 and 12 plants, with many being happy with 4 – 6 well-chosen plants.
  • Shop around for better electricity deals.
  • Electricity is cheaper at night, so turn on your grow lights in the evening. This is also less suspicious, as heat cameras and electricity companies are more likely to notice large electricity usage during the daytime.

How to grow cannabis plants and keep discreet.

Where Can You Legally Grow Your Own Cannabis?

Alabama– You can’t legally cultivate cannabis at home in Alabama.

Alaska– Alaska allows for at-home cultivation. Adults aged 21 and older can grow up to six marijuana plants. Used for either adult-use or medical purposes, growers must keep in mind that only three mature and flowering plants are permitted at any given time. Additionally, all plants must be grown out of public view and properly secured from unauthorized access.

Arizona– Arizona allows for at-home cultivation, but only if a registered patient lives more than 25 miles from their closest dispensary. State-approved patients can grow up to 12 plants, as long as they’re kept in a protected, surrounded area.

Arkansas– You can’t legally cultivate cannabis at home in Arkansas.

California– California allows for at-home cultivation. Adults aged 21 and over each can grow up to six plants for recreational use, with only six plants allowed per residence at a given time. Registered medical cannabis patients, however, are allowed to grow the amount of cannabis required for their medical treatment. However, individual counties are able to set further home cultivation restrictions. It is best to check with your local jurisdiction before starting a home grow.

Colorado– Colorado allows for at-home cultivation. Recreational users can grow up to six plants, with three allowed to mature and flower at any time. Caregivers can grow additional plants, as they can be assigned to up to five patients. They are permitted to cultivate up to 36 plants. Medical patients are allowed to cultivate six plants as well, though they are also allowed to petition for, “greater amounts [when] medically necessary to address the patient’s debilitating medical condition.”

Connecticut– You can’t legally cultivate cannabis at home in Connecticut.

Delaware– You can’t legally cultivate cannabis at home in Delaware.

Florida– You can’t legally cultivate cannabis at home in Florida.

Georgia– You can’t legally cultivate cannabis at home in Georgia.

Hawaii– Hawaii allows for at-home cultivation. Before growing, medical patients must register as a cultivator with the state. Once approved, they can produce up to ten plants at a time.

Idaho– You can’t legally cultivate cannabis at home in Idaho.

Illinois– Illinois allows for at-home cultivation. Medical patients are permitted to grow their own cannabis, with up to five plants per household regardless of the number of patients living there.

Indiana– You can’t legally cultivate cannabis at home in Idaho.

Iowa–  You can’t legally cultivate cannabis at home in Iowa.

Kansas– You can’t legally cultivate cannabis at home in Kansas.

Kentucky– You can’t legally cultivate cannabis at home in Kentucky.

Louisiana– You can’t legally cultivate cannabis at home in Louisiana.

Maine– Maine allows for at-home cultivation. Adults aged 21 and over can grow their own plants, each home can contain up to six mature and twelve immature plants. The state differentiates between medical and adult-use home grows, but the limits for cultivation are the same.

Maryland– You can’t legally cultivate cannabis at home in Maryland.

Massachusetts– Massachusetts allows for at-home cultivation. Both medical patients and recreational users aged 21 and over can grow up to six plants. If two adults live in one home, they can collectively produce twelve plants.

Michigan– Michigan allows for at-home cannabis cultivation. Recreational users are permitted to grow up to 12 plants at home. Medical patients can be permitted to cultivate if they are unable to access a medical dispensary due to financial hardship, physical incapability, or lives too far to access a dispensary reasonably. There is no set number of plants a medical patient can cultivate, but the grow is limited to “an amount needed to harvest a 60-day supply,” totaling ten ounces. Caregivers can provide support for up to five patients. They can grow for their patients once the caregiver registers with the state and they can grow up to 60 plants if taking care of five patients.

Minnesota– You can’t legally cultivate cannabis at home in Minnesota.

Mississippi– You can’t legally cultivate cannabis at home in Mississippi.

Missouri– Missouri allows for at-home cannabis cultivation. Medical cannabis patients can grow up to six plants in an enclosed and secured space at their homes. Home cultivators must pay an additional licensing fee to be approved.

Montana– Montana allows for at-home cannabis cultivation. Home growing is permitted to medical patients, who can grow up to four mature plants or 12 seedlings at any time. Two adults living together can grow up to eight mature plants and eight seedlings.

Nebraska– You can’t legally cultivate cannabis at home in Nebraska.

Nevada– Nevada allows for at-home cannabis cultivation. Adult-use growing is allowed if a person lives 25 miles or more away from the closest dispensary with a max of six plants per person or 12 in one household. A property owner or landlord can prohibit growing on their site, while the state requires all activities to occur in an enclosed, secure space. Medical cannabis patients CAN’T home cultivation if a dispensary opens in their county of residence. They are expected from this rule and can cultivate at home only if:

  • A dispensary is more than 25 miles from their residence
  • The cardholder is unable reasonably to travel to a medical marijuana dispensary
  • A strain or amount needed is not provided by a dispensary in their county
  • Or was already cultivating at home before July 1, 2013.

New Hampshire– New Hampshire allows for at-home cannabis cultivation. Medical patients and caregivers can grow up to three mature plants, as well as three immature plants and 12 seedlings. All plants must be stored in a secure location undetectable from the street or public view.

New Jersey– You can’t legally cultivate cannabis at home in New Jersey.

New Mexico– New Mexico allows for at-home cannabis cultivation. Medical patients and their caregivers have been allowed to cultivate up to 16 plants, with four allowed to be mature.

New York- You can’t legally cultivate cannabis at home in New York.

North Carolina–  You can’t legally cultivate cannabis at home in North Carolina.

North Dakota-  You can’t legally cultivate cannabis at home in North Dakota.

Ohio– You can’t legally cultivate cannabis at home in Ohio.

Oklahoma– Oklahoma allows for at-home cannabis cultivation. Medical patients can grow up to six mature plants and six seedlings.

Oregon– Oregon allows for at-home cannabis cultivation. Adults 21 and over have been allowed to grow up to four plants at home for their own personal use. Medical caregivers can grow up to eight plants but are capped at six adult plants at any time.

Pennsylvania– You can’t legally cultivate cannabis at home in Pennsylvania.

Rhode Island– Rhode Island allows for at-home cannabis cultivation. Qualified medical patients or caregivers are permitted to grow up to 12 plants and 12 seedlings on their property inside their home.

South Carolina– You can’t legally cultivate cannabis at home in South Carolina.

South Dakota– You can’t legally cultivate cannabis at home in South Dakota.

Tennessee– You can’t legally cultivate cannabis at home in Tennessee.

Texas– You can’t legally cultivate cannabis at home in Texas.

Utah– You can’t legally cultivate cannabis at home in Utah.

Vermont– Vermont allows for at-home cannabis cultivation. Adult residents are allowed to grow up to two mature plants at a time, with a max total of nine at any one time.

Virginia– You can’t legally cultivate cannabis at home in Virginia.

Washington– Washington allows for at-home cannabis cultivation. Medical patients are allowed to grow up to six plants at home, but they could grow more if they appeal to the state. If the appeal is successful, a person can grow up to 15 plants at a time. Adult-use recreational cultivation is still illegal.

Washington D.C.- Washington D.C. allows for at-home cannabis cultivation. Recreational users aged 21 years or older are allowed to cultivate and possess up to six plants at a time, with three being mature and three being seedlings. Home cultivation for medical purposes is not allowed in the nation’s capital.

West Virginia– You can’t legally cultivate cannabis at home in West Virginia.

Wisconsin– You can’t legally cultivate cannabis at home in Wisconsin.

Wyoming– You can’t legally cultivate cannabis at home in Wyoming.

But Is It Actually Cheaper?

So now that we know where you can legally grow at home and how much you can grow at a time, let’s dig a little deeper into that claim that growing your own cannabis is cost-effective.

The first thing you’ll need to consider when it comes to the costs of growing at home compared to buying from the dispensary is the initial money you’ll need to spend to get your grow room up and running.

Just for starters, you’ll need high-quality soil and fertilizer to grow the plants in, you’ll need to invest in some type of irrigation system, maybe some grow boxes or planters, some basic gardening equipment like shovels and clippers for trimming your plants as they grow, and, finally, the actually viable cannabis seeds themselves.

While it’s certainly possible to try to cut costs here to go for the cheapest possible options, we all know that the cheapest options available aren’t always the highest quality. Low-quality soil, fertilizer, and cannabis seeds will lead to low-quality plants, which leaves you with a bunch of low-quality cannabis that might not be good enough to treat your various medical ailments. Coco coir is a good alternative to soil for beginners, but you will need to feed it nutrients yourself.

Another factor to consider is if you’re going to do an indoor or outdoor grow. If you live in a medically legal state that allows for at home cultivation and has a year-round climate conducive to growing cannabis, like California, you can cut your costs slightly by doing an outdoor grow. You’ll still need to fertilize and prep the soil before planting, as well as committing to the right natural pesticides to keep pests and mold off of your crops, but you won’t need to buy big, hefty grow lights or greenhouse set-ups that home growers like in Massachusetts would need to grow cannabis year-round. If you’re growing indoors you should expect a higher electric bill than normal due to LED lamps and irrigation systems you’ll need to use

If you’re looking at all of the costs together, a mid-to-high-end indoor grow setup will cost you somewhere in the range of $1400 to $2400 to put together, and a high-quality outdoor grow can cost less, but you may have to put in more labor hours and be willing to put up with lower yields if your environment isn’t ideal for cannabis.. Of course, you can always scour Amazon and other online markets to try to find deals to reduce those initial costs, but the numbers above are just an average of what you should be expecting to spend before you can even harvest an ounce of cannabis.

You can buy some things second-hand, but we recommend buying some things first-hand (e.g. generators or solar panels if that’s the energy source you are using). You can buy a startup set for under $500, especially if you intend on keeping a small-scale, self-contained set up for just a few plants. However, if you want better equipment for indoor grows, you are looking at a price tag of $1000 + all combined.

As long as you’re willing to put the time and money into building a proper set-up and producing high-quality plants, however, you will be able to save a bit of money in the long run. The average ounce of dispensary-produced cannabis, due to the local and state taxes baked into the price taxes, is usually somewhere around $200. That breaks down to about $6 – $7 per gram. An ounce of homegrown cannabis, on the other hand, costs the grower between $84-$90 per ounce, or about $3 per gram. Especially in times when money is tight for many due to unemployment and the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, those few bucks of savings could go a long way.

Prices per ounce will vary, of course, with older, most established markets like on the West Coast offering greater variety and lower costs than in newer markets  like Massachusetts, Michigan, or Illinois that, due to climate, have a less consistent and inexpensive supply of quality cannabis . So,home growers will need to take a close look at their bank accounts and the prices they’re seeking at the dispensary before making a decision about whether they’ll spend the money to try a home grow of their own. In general, though, we here at Leafwell are supportive of anyone who wants to start growing their own cannabis – there’s little that’s more empowering than taking your health into your own hands.

 

Written by
Joe Evans
Joe Evans - Content Writer

Joe Evans is a journalist, writer, editor and contributor for Leafwell. He has, to date, more than 5,000 articles published online under his byline on topics like cannabis, local and National news, politics, automotive news, sports, pop culture and even a cult.

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