Cannabis in Illinois: What to Know Now That Weed is Legal
Where can I smoke it? Where can I buy it? How much is allowed? Can I have it in my car? Will I still be drug tested at work? Consider this your Cannabis in Illinois 101.
By Phil Rogers and Courtney Copenhagen Published December 6, 2019 • Updated on January 13, 2020 at 11:21 am
By Phil Rogers and Courtney Copenhagen Published December 6, 2019 • Updated on January 13, 2020 at 11:21 am
Recreational cannabis is now legal in Illinois, and people are literally lining up to get a piece of the state’s pot pie.
That presents plenty of questions: Illinois residents want to know where to buy cannabis, how much and where they can consume it. Non-residents want to know if they can sample it too. Entrepreneurs want to know how to open a cannabis dispensary.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Things like law enforcement, workplace laws and social equity all pose additional inquiries.
Just 15 days to go before Illinois legalizes recreational marijuana, though Chicago is still debating who gets a share of the pie, no matter what happens, legal pot is going to mean big changes across the state. NBC 5’s Phil Rogers reports.
Do you have questions about cannabis in Illinois? NBC 5 Investigates spent the past four months diving into the politics, projected revenue, health risks and community impact of the state milestone to give you answers. Consider this your Cannabis in Illinois 101.
When does recreational cannabis become legal in Illinois?
Beginning Jan. 1, 2020, adults over the age of 21 will be able to legally purchase cannabis from licensed dispensaries. Sales start at 6 a.m. in some locations.
What identification do I need to buy cannabis in Illinois after Jan. 1?
Unlike the medical marijuana program, just a driver’s license will do, but it has to be unaltered, and if the dispensary doesn’t like it, they can turn it down.
How much cannabis can I have?
Illinois residents can have:
• 30 grams of cannabis flower (the leafy stuff)
• 5 grams of cannabis concentrate
• 500 milligrams of THC-infused products (edibles). A container of gummies, for example, contains 10 gummies at 10 mg each. So am entire container is 100 mg. The law allows you to purchase 5 of them.
Non-Illinois residents can possess half of these amounts.
Cannabis in Illinois: Where You Can Find a Dispensary
Experts Urge Caution With Cannabis Edibles
Where can I buy cannabis in Illinois?
Only at state licensed dispensaries. Initially, these will be companions to the existing medical marijuana facilities. By May 1, 2020, the state will award licenses for up to 75 new dispensaries. By December 21, 2021, the state will award licenses for 110 more.
For a list of locations, click here.
Where can I use cannabis in Illinois?
Indoors. You can partake in the privacy of your own home, for example. But you still can’t use it on the street, on the El or in a public place. If you do, you can be ticketed for public consumption. And you can be arrested if you have over the legal limit. It doesn’t matter if your marijuana is store-bought or obtained on the black market. Police tell us they’ll be looking at how much you have, not where you got it.
In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Interim Police Supt. Charlie Beck said residents should not be ticketed for smoking weed in their own backyard or on their balcony in the city once recreational cannabis becomes legal in Illinois.
Lightfoot and Beck issued a joint statement saying that while state law prohibits cannabis consumption in any “public place,” which is defined as “anywhere you can be observed by others in the public,” CPD believes someone using marijuana “in their own backyard or balcony poses no direct threat to public safety.”
Cannabis could mean big bucks for the state of Illinois, and many companies and individuals are looking to cash in. NBC 5’s Phil Rogers has more in our latest installment of “Cannabis in Illinois.”
Will dispensaries store my information when I give them my ID to purchase marijuana?
Dispensaries will be required to use electronic readers to scan and verify the validity of the consumer’s government-issued identification, which must prove the consumer is at least 21 years old. State law prohibits the information on the identification from being retained, used, shared, or disclosed.
So think of showing your ID at the door like you do when entering a bar. The location takes an image of your driver’s license for their own protection, to make sure they carded you.
Showing your ID at Point of Sale is to:
1. Confirm whether you are a resident or non-resident to determine how much you can purchase. You may be asked if you want to enter their database, which is for future promotional marketing. Like when you buy something at J. Crew and they ask for your email address.
Any fine print?
Plenty. (The bill is over 600 pages long!) But here are a few loose ends:
• Landlords and employers can still say no to marijuana use.
• Dispensaries will be limited on where they advertise, can’t have giveaways or drive-thrus and, at least for now, can’t deliver.
• You can’t have it on a school bus, on the grounds of a preschool or any other school, in a correctional facility, in any private residence licensed for day care, in any public place, or in proximity to anyone under 21.
• No use by law enforcement officers, corrections officers, school bus drivers or firefighters on duty.
• Dispensaries can be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
• Everything must be in childproof packaging.
In Colorado, 570 stores now sell legal pot statewide. NBC 5 Investigates’ Phil Rogers begins a deep dive into what Illinois can expect as a new recreational cannabis law goes into effect next year.
What if I want to open a cannabis dispensary?
Bring money. Your application fee will be $30,000. In addition, you’ll need to write the state a check for up to $100,000 for the cannabis business development fund. On top of that, you’ll have to pony up another $100,000 or maybe more for various social equity options, or establish an incubator program for those wanting to get into the business. And if you get another license, the fees increase.
What if I want to grow it?
Existing cultivators will have to file a $100,000 application fee. They also have to pay into the cannabis business fund, as much as $750,000. This fee is based on their sales between June 2018 and June 2019. They must also pay the same additional fees charged to dispensaries.
What if I want to grow just a little bit?
You can’t, unless you are a medical patient, and then, you can only have five plants and they must be in an enclosed space. There is a provision for craft growers. Those are smaller cultivators of 5,000 square feet. If you want to try that, you’ll be asked to file a $5,000 application fee and a $40,000 license fee.
Tonight NBC 5 Investigates’ Phil Rogers begins a deep dive into what Illinois can expect as a new recreational cannabis law goes into effect next year.
What if I got arrested for possession years ago? I heard my record will get wiped clean.
That’s right, and this is huge. Local law enforcement and the Illinois State Police will automatically expunge arrests that didn’t lead to a conviction for amounts up to 30 grams. This will be tens of thousands of Illinois residents. Note: No automatic expungements if the cannabis offense was connected to a violent crime.
The governor will also grant pardons authorizing expungement for convictions for up to 30 grams. If you were convicted of larger amounts, up to 500 grams, you’ll have to file a motion to vacate your record.
I keep hearing about Social Equity. What’s that?
That’s the state’s promise to provide easier entry to the program for “those most adversely impacted by the enforcement of drug related laws in this state.” This is a key part of the new law. Those who qualify can seek fee waivers and obtain low interest loans and grants.
Applicants under the social equity program must have at least 51% ownership by one or more individuals who:
• Have lived in a Disproportionately Impacted Area in five of the last 10 years
• Have been arrested for, or convicted of, cannabis-related offenses deemed eligible for expungement
• Have a parent, child or spouse who qualifies for expungement
Note: If there are more than 10 full-time employees, more than half must meet those qualifications.
In addition, the new law provides for the Restore, Reinvest, and Renew (R3) program to address the impact of economic disinvestment, violence and “the historical overuse of the criminal justice system.”
Grants for R3 areas can be used to address economic development, violence prevention, youth development, and other programs.
I hear the state is going to make a fortune on legalized recreational cannabis.
The state thinks it will. Illinois has projected 700,000 users and expects $57 million in tax revenue and licensing in the first year. Lawmakers believe that number will jump to $140.5 million in the second year, and as much as $375.5 million by Year Five.
Will the purchase, possession, and/or consumption of cannabis affect an Illinois resident’s rights to own a firearm, or his or her FOID card status?
Illinois State Police say they “will not revoke Firearm’s Owner’s Identification Cards based solely on a person’s legal use of adult use cannabis.”
“Pursuant to both State and Federal law, a person who is addicted to or a habitual user of narcotics is not permitted to possess or use firearms,” the department said in a statement. “Accordingly, the ISP will revoke FOID cards where it is demonstrated that an individual is addicted to or is a habitual user of cannabis. The ISP would also revoke or deny the FOID cards of those who violate certain provisions of the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act.”
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Locomotion | TGA Subcool Seeds
When Subcool came out west he started on a quest for the best Trainwreck cutting he could find. He was not impressed with the Arcata cutting as it was to tall to slow and to bi-sexual for his taste. He had written off this legendary strain until he came across an amazing plant discovered by Smokescreen. Found inside a bag of dank, of the few seeds he found one female exhibited all of the traits of the famous Trainwreck without producing a single male stamen, even in late flowering. The complex coloring that shows up late in the plant’s life is a thing of beauty and the potency of this mother is epic. Extremely potent, smoking just a few bowls is an adventure in respiratory failure and flat lining your brain waves. TGA Subcool decided to combine this incredible female with the genetics of Jack the Ripper.
A 2019 Guide to Buying Cannabis Seeds in the United States
A highly detailed guide for the American grower. Including the legal state of buying cannabis seeds in the U.S. for medical or recreational use, federal laws, local laws in different states, how to choose the right strain, and where to buy it.
It’s finally time for you to become the ultimate cannabis connoisseur. After years spent consuming and enjoying marijuana grown by others, you’re ready to buy cannabis seeds and start growing your own.
Maybe you’ve got a bit of a green thumb, or maybe you just want to be in control of every aspect of your growing process to ensure the finest quality. Maybe you use cannabis medicinally and need to have a constant supply. Whatever the reason, if you want to buy cannabis seeds and grow your own in the United States, you’ve come to the right place.
A 2019 Guide to Buying Cannabis Seeds in United States
There are a lot of factors for you to consider before you decide what and where to buy. The location and growing conditions you’ll be working with, as well as the desired effect of the final product will determine which strains will be best for you to grow. You’ll also need to think about the current laws where you live, as well as your need for privacy when it comes to placing a transaction and having the product shipped to you.
In 2019, cannabis is fully legal in some states, only legal for medical purposes in other states, and still fully illegal in certain states. Marijuana is still banned by federal U.S. law, which makes the situation even more confusing for beginners. This confusing legal landscape is enough to stop some aspiring gardeners from buying and growing cannabis seeds in the United States, but it doesn’t need to stop you.
This article will cover the laws (as they currently exist at the time of publication) to bring you up to speed, as well as discuss a few places where you can find high-quality marijuana seeds for sale. We will also discuss the process of narrowing down your seed strain, as well as choosing the right online seed bank to buy from.
Where to Buy Cannabis Seeds in the U.S.
When it comes to buying cannabis seeds in the US, the conflict between federal and state laws have created a bit of a legal quagmire. According to federal law, it’s technically illegal to buy cannabis seeds in the U.S.A. (or any sort of cannabis product) anywhere in the country, but if it’s legal in your state, you’re highly unlikely to run into any problems. It’s important to understand what the laws are in your individual state pertaining to buying cannabis seeds and growing them for medical or recreational purposes.
All that being said, there are a variety of places that have marijuana seeds for sale if you’re interested. In states where marijuana has been legalized, you can probably pick up marijuana seeds and even plants at local retailers. Many people find it’s more convenient to buy cannabis seeds online, and there are a number of excellent seed banks that make shopping discrete and convenient.
While there is an up-and-coming community of US-based seed banks, they tend to be smaller and not as well-known – yet. The more-established seed banks are ones that function in parts of the world where cannabis has been legal for longer.
The following are excellent choices for people interested in cultivating cannabis seeds in the United States. Bear in mind, what’s covered here is enough to get you started, but it’s really just scratching the surface on a much bigger subject. For more detailed information on which reputable seed banks ship to the US see our U.S. seed bank reviews section.
- Marijuana-Seeds.NL (MSNL) – This British seed bank is a well-known and high-quality seed breeder with a massive variety of cannabis strains. They have an excellent customer service team, offer worldwide stealth shipping, awesome promotions, and free cannabis seeds with every purchase. Payment options are credit cards, bank transfer, cash, money orders, and Bitcoin. Bitcoin and bank transfer orders automatically receives a 15% discount on top of any sales prices.
- Ministry of Cannabis – This Spanish seed bank is highly-recommended for seed buyers on a budget. Ministry of Cannabis may be inexpensive, but their seeds definitely aren’t cheap. They offer a great value for your money and ship worldwide with stealth packaging. Payment options are Bitcoin, Mastercard, Visa, bank transfer, moneygram (for orders of 100 Euros or more), or cash. Their customer service is responsive and friendly.
- Crop King Seeds – Based in Canada, Crop King doesn’t have wide variety like MSNL, but the products they do have are high quality. They have an impressive germination guarantee that gives new buyers peace of mind. They also have a friendly customer service team and worldwide stealth shipping. Payment options are Visa, Mastercard, Bitcoin, and Interac E-Transfers (Canadian customers only).
Federal Marijuana Laws in the USA
In 1970, the U.S. government classified cannabis as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act. This put marijuana in the same category as “hard drugs” such as heroin and cocaine and made it illegal to buy or grow cannabis seeds, use marijuana, or possess it in any form anywhere in the United States. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) classifies drugs according to factors such as their potential for abuse, pharmacological effects, the amount of scientific knowledge that exists about it, and its risk to public health. Many have questioned this classification over the years, but so far, the decision has not been repealed.
The Obama Years
When President Obama was in office, it was expected that the DEA would reclassify cannabis as a Schedule II drug. The Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States Act (CARERS) of 2015 was even tendered to this effect. This reclassification would have loosened many of the restrictions on cannabis in the United States – including laws that prevent much-needed research on its effects and medicinal uses. In 2016, DEA chief Chuck Rosenberg disappointed U.S. cannabis activists when he refused to reclassify the drug, stating that it has “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.”
Still, under the Obama Administration, the Justice Department operated under the guidance of former U.S. Attorney General James M. Cole, who in 2013 issued a memo directing federal prosecutors and law enforcement to focus on large-scale marijuana distribution by gangs and criminals rather than targeting recreational and medical cannabis operations that had been approved in various states.
The Trump Administration
When Donald Trump took office in 2017, his administration made it clear that any forward motion on cannabis legalization would be grinding to a halt. In 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole Memo, sending a warning shot across the bow of state-approved marijuana operations across the country.
A wave of change came in December 2018, when the president signed the farm bill rescheduling hemp, marijuana’s non-psychoactive cousin. This made cannabis with THC levels lower than 0.3% legal once again. This bill doesn’t legalize the buying of cannabis seeds for cultivation and for medical users, though.
While actual enforcement of federal drug laws against retail operations in states with approved marijuana operations hasn’t taken effect, the Trump administration’s stance on cannabis has alarmed advocates. The question now is, where does this leave people who would like to buy cannabis seeds and grow their own crops, as well as medical users or people who enjoy buying a bit of weed from their local dispensary?
That largely depends on which state you live in. Let’s discuss marijuana laws for growers, medical users, and recreational users at the state level next.
State Laws on Cultivating Cannabis Seeds
The state of California was the first to wade into the waters of cannabis legalization way back in 1996. That’s when they legalized medical cannabis, and many other states have followed suit, either by making it fully legal for anyone over 21 to buy, possess, and grow cannabis seeds or by passing limited laws to allow for medicinal use with approved conditions.
In some states, it’s legal to purchase weed from a licensed dispensary, but it’s not legal to grow your own. This can be quite confusing. So where are you legally allowed to do so? Here are the U.S. states where you can legally buy and possess cannabis seeds for recreational purposes, as well as grow your own plants:
In a household with two or more adults over the age of 21, up to 12 plants are allowed, though only 6 of them may be flowering at one time. For households with just one adult over 21, the limit is 6 plants with 3 flowering at a time. If you have a commercial license, there is no limit on the number of plants you can grow.
Individuals are allowed to purchase their own marijuana seeds and grow up to 6 plants at once. All plants must be kept under lock and key and cannot be visible to the public. Cities in California are allowed to prohibit their citizens from cultivating marijuana seeds outdoors, so be sure to check local laws before you plant in your backyard.
In this part of the United States, it’s legal to buy your own cannabis seeds and grow up to 6 marijuana plants, with 3 flowering at a time, and a limit of 12 plants per household.
Laws in Maine allow people to freely possess marijuana seeds and grow up to 6 plants. You may grow them indoors or outdoors, but the plants can’t be visible from public roads.
The state of Massachusetts allows people over the age of 21 to grow up to 6 plants in a single residence. In a residence of two or more adults, the state allows for the cultivation of up to 12 plants.
Individuals above the age of 21 or households with more than one adult are allowed to grow up to 12 plants in an area that’s completely enclosed and locked up.
Adults over the age of 21 are allowed up to 12 plants per household, with no more than 6 flowering at one time. All plants must be kept locked up and out of sight.
Adults over the age of 21 can legally buy cannabis seeds and grow up to 4 plants per household. You may also grow outdoors if you don’t live within 1,000 feet of a school and as long as the plants aren’t visible from the street.
Vermont permits residents to grow up to 6 plants – 2 mature and 4 immature plants – and keep all the marijuana produced by the plant, for adults above the age of 21.
The District of Columbia allows any individual over 21 to legally grow up to 6 plants, but only 3 can be mature at one time. In a residence with more than one adult above 21, up to 12 plants can be grown, with up to 6 maturing at one time.
Cannabis laws differ from state to state, in most states where recreational marijuana is legal, you can legally grow cannabis seeds.
Growing Cannabis for Medical Uses in the United States
In all of the states listed above, growing cannabis is legal for any purpose – recreational or medical. Several other states have legalized medical cannabis, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they allow patients to grow their own medicine. Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah, and West Virginia all have laws that allow the use of medical marijuana, but don’t allow patients to grow their own.
As of 2019, the following U.S. states allow medical patients to legally possess marijuana seeds and cultivate plants:
Medical users can grow cannabis seeds only if they live more than 25 miles from their nearest licensed dispensary. If you’re qualified to cultivate cannabis seeds, you may only do so in a locked facility.
Registered medical patients and their caregivers are allowed to cultivate cannabis seeds and grow up to 10 plants at once.
Qualified medical patients in this state are allowed to cultivate up to 18 cannabis plants, while only 6 can be mature / flowering at one time.
If you’re a registered medical marijuana patient in Montana, it’s legal for you to purchase cannabis seeds and grow up to 8 plants at a time, as long as only 4 are mature at once.
Patients with a medical marijuana card can apply for a personal production license to grow their medication at home, and grow up to 16 plants, although only 4 can be flowering at one time.
A qualified patient should have a state-issued medical marijuana license. The patient is then allowed to grow up to 12 marijuana plants, of which not more than 6 may be mature, flowering plants.
Medical marijuana patients and their caregivers are allowed to grow up to 24 plants, with up to 12 mature plants at a time.
Although Washington was the first US state to legalize recreational marijuana, growing is limited to medical purposes only. If you’re a licensed medical user, you can legally possess cannabis seeds and grow up to 4 plants, with a maximum of 15 plants per housing unit.
All of the above (both for recreational and medical growers) only apply to people and caregivers who are growing cannabis for their own private use. Commercial growing is another matter entirely; each state has its own licensing procedures, as well as different requirements for where a grow facility may be located and how it must be operated and maintained.
Which Marijuana Seeds Should US-Based Growers Buy?
There are many different aspects to be considered before deciding what type of cannabis seeds to buy and grow in the US, let’s break down the basics:
Types of Cannabis Seeds
The first thing you’ll need to figure out is what type of cannabis seed to buy. Cannabis seeds can be divided into three major categories — regular, feminized and autoflower.
Regular cannabis seeds are the most basic marijuana seed. They’re also the least popular type of cannabis seed for sale in the United States. Americans don’t tend to like them as much just because they’re a lot more work for not much more reward. These are the seeds that marijuana plants have been producing throughout history, since before humans began tinkering with them.
Regular seeds produce both male and female plants which makes things harder for growers. It’s important to be able to properly identify male and female plants and separate out the males before they pollinate the females, or else you won’t get great results.
While you won’t be able to tell whether a seed will produce a male or a female plant, you can assume that roughly half of your seeds will produce females. Most American growers simply grow a few extra plants to make up for the males they end up with. This works out ok because regular seeds are usually less expensive than feminized and autoflower seeds.
Regular seeds aren’t recommended for beginner growers. They require a lot more effort and expertise, and the finished product is only marginally better. Once you master the art of growing cannabis and want to make the best ever crop, sure, try your hand with regular seeds, but until then, feminized or autoflower will be just fine.
Feminized marijuana seeds eliminate the cannabis gender guessing game – each of these seeds has been bred to grow into a female plant and will do so 99.9% of the time. This removes the need to separate out males when growing, which is a huge time saver and eliminates one potential headache from your grow.
This type of seed is created by forcing cannabis into a state where male flowers grow on a female plant, allowing self-pollination. The seeds these plants produce are feminized since they contain no male genetics.
Feminized cannabis seeds are the most popular seed type in the US and generally the most recommended for Americans. They’re the easiest for novice growers to use and are favored by many seasoned growers throught the world as well. Feminized seeds are more expensive than regular seeds, but provide better value for the money since only female plants are produced.
Both regular and feminized marijuana seeds are also called photoperiod seeds outside the United States, to distinguish them from autoflower seeds which will be discussed next.
“Photoperiod” refers to the light cycle cannabis plants are exposed to while growing. Photoperiod seeds will enter their flowering phase when the day/night cycle gets to a specific point. Generally, switching to a 12 hours on/12 hours off photoperiod will trigger flowering in the majority of situations.
Photoperiod seeds are preferred by most growers because they can delay flowering by closely controlling the light cycle. Delaying flowering allows the plants to grow larger so that when flowering is finally triggered the plants are more productive and give a bigger, more potent yield.
While feminized seeds make it easy to grow bud-filled female plants, autoflower seeds make things even easier. Autoflowering seeds are perfect for those who aren’t gardening enthusiasts and simply want to grow some bud.
Regular and feminized seeds require the grower to toy around with the lighting in order to stimulate the flowering process, but autoflower seeds don’t need such care. Instead, they automatically begin to flower when they reach a certain age. Usually around 6-9 weeks, though this depends on the strain.
For novice growers, autoflowering seeds can be easier to grow because they remove the need to worry about tweaking the day/night cycle to get flowering started. They’re also great for any growers interested in a shorter growing cycle.
However, as a rule, autoflower seeds aren’t quite as potent as their photoperiod siblings. As a result, they tend to be less popular than feminized seeds – but still more popular than regular seeds.
Most of the autoflower seed strains also come feminized, but there are few regular autoflower strains on the market. Autoflower-feminized seed strains usually cost more or less the same as their feminized version, while regular-autoflower seed strains usually cost more or less the same as their regular version.
Feminized cannabis seeds are the most popular among American seed buyers as they offer large and potent plants with less effort.
Another big consideration in figuring out what type of cannabis seeds to purchase is where you’ll be growing your plants. While most cannabis seed strains can be grown either indoors or outdoors, some will do better in one or the other environment.
With all the legal restrictions on where you can grow cannabis in the USA, growing outdoors may not be an option. People typically opt to grow indoors to ensure privacy and the safety of their plants.
Indoor growers face challenges not shared by those cultivating outside, but there are significant advantages as well.
Generally, indoor plants don’t face pest and disease problems as much as outdoor plants do, so growers can choose seeds from strains that aren’t quite as hardy.
Indoor spaces support a much wider variety of seeds. With precise environmental controls, even challenging strains can be grown with relative ease. You can simulate any sort of growing environment that suits your current strain. In general, available space is most often the limiting factor.
While outdoor cultivation unquestionably increases potential crop sizes and dramatically reduces costs – it is also significantly more difficult than growing indoors as you’re at the mercy of the weather, daily temperature fluctuations, pests and many other factors that are impossible to control. You will have to make sure the seeds you buy are resistant to the extremes Mother Nature can throw at you.
Growing outdoors limits the strains you’ll be able to grow unless you’re a highly-seasoned grower. A large percentage of the strains available today have either been bred to grow best indoors or are so specific in their growing requirements that only growers in a narrow range of locations will have success cultivating them.
As a result, outdoor growers usually do best choosing the seeds of a simple landrace variety. Landrace strains haven’t been modified by humans. They exist as they have for hundreds of thousands of years. These varieties grow well outdoors because that’s where they’ve always grown, and natural selection has favored genetics optimized for the harsh conditions.
This topic will be covered in more detail in the next section.
Over the millennia, natural selection and human breeding have created an abundance of diversity in marijuana plants. It’s possible to select seeds for plants optimized for a range of specific characteristics. With the explosion of marijuana strains in recent years, it’s now feasible to find strains matched to nearly any specific profile. Here are a few of the characteristics that are variable between strains:
Plant Shape and Height
There’s a huge amount of variability in the size and shape of cannabis plants. Some strains tend to grow tall and thin. Some can even reach ten feet or more! Other varieties are short and compact. It all depends on the plant’s genetics.
Indoor growers have more control over height and shape due to the controlled environment. The use of plant training techniques can further adapt the natural genetic predisposition of a given plant to fit a smaller space. Outdoor growers have less latitude in this area. But in both cases, it’s usually best to choose a strain that naturally matches your desired plant height and shape so that less effort is required to get your desired result.
Bud Density and Stick Length
When your plants enter their flowering phase, buds will begin to appear around the perimeter of the plant. Depending on the genetics of the strain you’re growing, these buds may be naturally dense and compact or light and airy.
As with height and shape, much can be done during cultivation to influence how your plants’ buds form, but plants that produce light-airy buds are never going to produce the dense, thick buds of your dreams. Cultivars that produce dense buds can end up sparser if mistakes are made while growing.
Stick length refers to the vertical height of a given grouping of buds. Longer stick lengths support more buds per plant. However, strains with short sticks and dense buds can produce a greater yield than plants with long sticks but weak and airy buds. In terms of total yield, many growers prefer strains that support dense buds on long sticks (for obvious reasons.)
This refers to the total amount of bud that can be harvested from any given plant. High yields would seem the most important factor when choosing marijuana seeds since high yields mean more final product, but other factors can be more important. It’s sometimes worth accepting a lower yield in order to optimize other characteristics. It just depends on your priorities.
Smell and Taste
Depending on the individual genetics of a given plant, the mix of scent compounds can differ widely, creating distinct and variable odors.
Some strains will have the characteristic “skunky” smell and taste that many people associate with marijuana, but you can also find plants with sweet, fruity, floral, herbal, earthy, piney and peppery scents, in many combinations – the variable and combinatorial nature of cannabis scents are what allows for strains that smell and taste like sugar cookies, cream soda, and diesel fuel.
Obviously, the smell and taste of a strain aren’t the most important factors, but they can be a pleasant surprise or a dealbreaker on otherwise great strains!
Another thing to consider about this factor is that cannabis plants can smell quite strongly. This can be problematic if you’re growing indoors in a connected, multi-family dwelling such as an apartment or a townhouse that shares a wall with your neighbors. To avoid complaints, make sure you install proper ventilation and buy cannabis seeds that will produce relatively low-odor plants. This is an important step because attitudes toward marijuana growing in the US can be a bit old-fashioned still.
Flowering time is the amount of time it takes a plant to fully complete its flowering stage and become ready to harvest. In general, flowering times sit between six and twelve weeks. Certain strains push through their flowering cycle faster than others, particularly autoflowering varieties. But keep in mind that short flowering times usually produce smaller plants which are also less potent.
Ease of Growing
Some strains of marijuana are more forgiving than others. Those that allow for mistakes are much easier to grow and are more appropriate for novice growers. Most of the online seed banks have a dedicated category for beginners, while others just mark some of their strains as “easy to grow.” If this if your first grow, start there.
At the other end of the spectrum are strains that require exacting conditions in order to grow well. Any errors made while cultivating these can often lead to crop failures. These should only be attempted by experienced growers capable of consistently producing the needed conditions.
There are thousands of different marijuana strains available for sale today, each exhibiting different characteristics. It’s hard to believe that all of these strains, with all their different characteristics and genetics, fall into just three categories – Indica, Sativa, or hybrid.
Indica strains are known for their short, squat growing pattern. They typically grow less than 5 feet tall and have dense, bushy leaves. The branches grow close together and the leaves are wide. Indica strains usually take around 7 to 10 weeks to fully mature. Indica flowers can smell quite pungent and skunky, so keep that in mind if odor is a concern in your grow area.
Once harvested, ingesting indica will give you a relaxed, “body” high. Many people enjoy pure indica strains for their calming effects. Take care with strong indicas or large amounts, though, as too much can create “couch lock” that will have you stuck to the sofa all night. Indicas work particularly well as a sleep aid. They’re also useful as a pain reliever, a muscle relaxer, and an anxiety reducer. Many medical strains are indicas, or at least indica-dominant hybrids.
Sativa strains almost always grow taller than indicas. This usually means around 6 feet high, but sativas can grow as tall as 20 feet tall if you grow them outdoors. The branches on these plants grow rather loosely and the leaves are long and narrow. Sativas take anywhere from 9 to 12 weeks of grow time before they’re ready to harvest, and the flowers can smell sweet, floral, and somewhat fruity.
Unlike the indica’s relaxing “body” high, sativas provide a cannabis boost that’s frequently described as more of a psychoactive “head” high. People enjoy it for the energy, motivation, and creativity it gives them. People often use sativa strains as an appetite stimulant, to control their ADHD, or to treat depression.
Most of today’s strains are hybrids, meaning they possess some combination of sativa and indica genetics. Sativa-dominant strains generally exhibit more sativa-like characteristics, while indica-dominant strains more strongly reflect indica characteristics.
There are over 100 different cannabinoids, which are the active compounds found in marijuana. The way that each of these is expressed in a given hybrid will determine the different effects users will experience as well as the plant characteristics. This explains how such a wide variety of hybrid strains can be created from only two starting species. While browsing hybrid strains make sure to look at their levels of indica and sativa genetics and try to relate that to its described effects to get a better picture of what this strain has to offer.
Each strain comes with different combinations of cannabinoids, which are the active ingredients in marijuana. You’ve probably heard a lot about THC and CBD, but there are many others as well.
Cannabinoids such as THC, CBD, CBN, CBG and others plug into the cannabinoid receptors throughout our bodies, simulating natural body chemicals. This makes cannabinoids helpful in easing symptoms and treating various illnesses.
Keep in mind that strain potency (percentage of THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids in the final product) is determined by its genetics, but also by the growing environment (mainly by the amount of sun/light it gets).
Veteran marijuana users will probably have a good idea of the level of potency they like already. For many people, “as much as possible” is the usual answer, but if you’re just starting out, you may want to start with a somewhat less potent strain. It’s definitely something to consider when you’re planning which strains to grow.
When it comes to the flavor and scent of a given strain, everything is determined by terpenes. Terpenes are volatile aromatic compounds produced by the same glands in the plant that produce THC and CBD. Varieties with different levels of certain terpenes will yield very different flavors and scent characteristics. This explains why some strains smell like berries, while others are more reminiscent of fruit, earth, or even diesel!
While THC has been demonstrated to stimulate appetite and reduce pain and nausea, which is useful for certain medical conditions, CBD is more commonly thought of as the medicinal cannabinoid. If you’re looking to purchase seeds for medicinal use, it’s common to look for hybrid species that produce high levels of CBD, with a low THC content to minimize psychoactive effects. Many medicinal marijuana users in the US want the medical benefits of the plant without the associated high.
However, for those who want a bit of THC with their CBD, there are strains that have an even ratio of the two. Hybrids like that are a smart purchase since their 1:1 CBD-to-THC ratio will dull out the intoxicating psychoactive effects of THC. A 2:1 CBD-to-THC ratio will cancel the euphoric effects of THC completely.
When buying cannabis seeds online, the seeds are generally sold in packs of varying amounts. Not all seed banks sell the same pack sizes, but the most common sizes are 1, 2, 3, 5, 10 and 20 seeds. Larger seed packs usually provide higher bulk discounts, resulting in a lower cost per seed.
Not to be confused with Regular seeds, regular packs are seed packs that include a single type of seed. If you’re looking to purchase a specific strain, you’ll probably end up purchasing it in a regular pack.
If you are not sure what you are after or just want to diversify a grow, value/mix packs are a great way to go. Mixed packs generally let you pick a specific category of seeds like feminized or CBD-heavy strains instead of a specific strain. Most of the seed banks will specify the exact combination of seeds you will get. Mixed packs are usually priced lower per seed, and they’re a great way to try out a variety of different strains at once.
Wholesale / Bulk Discount
When purchasing specific cannabis strains, the lowest cost per seed is had by buying wholesale, in bulk. This means purchasing quite a few seeds to qualify for bulk pricing (usually above 100 seeds), but per seed, the overall cost goes down the more you purchase. Needless to say, this isn’t an option for everyone. If you’re only going to be growing 6 to 12 plants at a time, buying 100 or more seeds at once is overkill.
Which Cannabis Seeds Will Grow Well in Your State?
Though most people will grow their seeds indoors, either because of their preferences or because of local laws, some may still want to grow outdoors. That can be tricky if you’re not careful. You’ll need to make sure that the seeds you want to plant are well suited to the climate conditions in your area, and plant them at the right time. If you can get all that right, you’ll be rewarded with big, potent yields.
Local climatic conditions can vary widely from place to place. Growing seasons can be longer or shorter, temperatures can be cooler or warmer, and rainfall levels can be drastically different. It’s important to buy cannabis seeds well-suited to your local environmental conditions if you’re going to be growing them outdoors.
Don’t start booking your flight to Italy – there are plenty of places in the United States that have a warm, dry climate similar to that of the Mediterranean region. Oregon, California, and some parts of Washington are perfect examples of this climate.
The warm and dry climate of these areas is the perfect environment for growing marijuana outdoors, so if you happen to live in one of those areas, you should definitely take advantage of it! Warm, dry locations have the ideal conditions for outdoor cultivation and allow growers to buy seeds across almost the entire cannabis spectrum.
Hot and Humid
Much of the Southeastern United States falls into the hot and humid category. This would include Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, North Carolina, and even Hawaii. Sativa strains are well suited to these areas since they’ve historically grown naturally close to the equator in similar conditions.
Just be careful of when you’re planting seeds in these regions – sativa strains can have relatively long flowering times, and you want them to be fully mature and harvested before the cold weather of fall hits.
Warmer, moister latitudes have longer growing seasons and can support a much wider variety of strains. However, humidity brings with it a host of possible diseases. You’ll want to buy seeds from strains resistant to bud rot. You also want to avoid strains that can’t handle extremely moist soils.
Cold and Dry
Indica strains, which have historically grown in high and dry mountain regions, are a great choice for cold and dry climates throughout the United States. Colorado, Alaska, Montana, and even some high-altitude parts of Arizona may fit the bill. The short, dense plants can tolerate much colder climates than their sativa cousins, and they have a much shorter flowering period so that they can complete their entire life cycle before the cold weather comes. Fast flowering varieties are well-suited to short growing seasons.
Be careful not to overwater these strains – they really prefer it dry!
Using a greenhouse is a compromise that’s halfway between indoor and outdoor growing. They let you cheat a little bit if you want to grow a strain that’s not particularly well suited for the local climate.
With a greenhouse, the plants are completely outside of the living space, but you can still control the temperature and light cycle somewhat. Depending on local laws, greenhouses may or may not be an acceptable place to grow marijuana, so make sure to check into that before getting all set up!
Laws Regarding Possessing and Using Cannabis in the United States
To be clear, it’s currently illegal at the federal level to grow marijuana seeds or to possess cannabis in any form – seed or otherwise. This is why international seed banks have become skilled at packaging their cannabis seeds in a manner that prevents them from being confiscated by customs and never getting delivered to their customers in the US.
Cannabis laws differ from state to state, as discussed above. In most states where recreational marijuana is legal, you can legally grow cannabis seeds, though not always. Washington state is one exception.
States with medical laws vary wildly – in some, patients are limited to purchasing their cannabis from licensed dispensaries, while in others, people are allowed to grow their own medication.
What about the possession of cannabis in states that allow recreational use? Generally speaking, if you’re allowed to possess cannabis flower, you’re allowed to purchase and possess marijuana seeds, as well. (You just can’t grow those seeds in Washington state.) Here are the guidelines regarding possession in states where recreational use is legal:
In Alaska, you are allowed to possess up to 1 ounce (28 grams) of marijuana flower.
Similar to Alaska, the possession limit here is 1 ounce or 28 grams.
Again, 1 ounce or 28 grams is allowed per adult in Colorado.
This is a much more generous state; in Maine, you can possess up to 2.5 ounces (71 grams).
Illinois recently legalized recreational marijuana use after the successful pilot of its medical marijuana program. Under the new law, Illinois residents age 21 and over may possess up to 30 grams of flower, 5 grams of cannabis concentrate, or 500 milligrams of THC (as found in edibles, lotions, and other THC-infused products.) Adult visitors to the state may possess up to 15 grams of marijuana.
You can legally possess up to 1 ounce (28 grams) of usable marijuana on you and up to 10 ounces (283 grams) securely locked away at home.
In Michigan, you can possess up to 2.5 ounces (71 grams) as well as up to 10 ounces (283 grams) securely locked away at home.
Here, you can possess up to 1 ounce (28 grams), but you can’t smoke weed in public places or in a moving vehicle, even if you’re not the driver.
You can legally possess up to 1 ounce (28 grams) of cannabis in public and up to 8 ounces (227 grams) of marijuana at home.
In Vermont, like in most of the other listed states, you are legally allowed to possess up to 1 ounce (28 grams) of marijuana.
The limit is 1 ounce (28 grams) in Washington state, also.
In the District of Columbia, you’re legally allowed to possess up to 2 ounces (57 grams).
In a world where cannabis laws can change in the blink of an eye, it can be tough to keep track of where it’s legal to buy cannabis seeds, grow your own crops, or possess weed for medical or recreational purposes.
Looking Forward: Possible Changes in U.S. Cannabis Laws
In a world where cannabis laws can change in the blink of an eye, it can be tough to keep track of where it’s legal to buy cannabis seeds, grow your own crops, or possess weed for medical or recreational purposes. Up until recently, all eyes were on the United States to see if the federal government would make progress towards full legalization. When that didn’t happen, advocates hoped for at least a reclassification of marijuana as a less-serious substance; which would allow researchers to receive federal funding to study it and learn more about its medical uses and side effects. While the current administration has made no more movement towards cracking down on state-sanctioned cannabis operations, cannabis still remains illegal on the federal level.
Individual states are another story. At the state level, laws move so quickly that it’s hard to know where cannabis may become legal next. In 2019, all eyes are on the following states to see if they’ll pave the way for people to freely possess and use cannabis, as well as grow marijuana seeds:
Minnesota had already legalized medical marijuana in 2014 and is now looking to legalize cannabis completely. Their incoming Democrat governor, Tim Waltz, is no newbie when it comes to cannabis legalization. He authored the first-ever standalone cannabis legalization bill to pass a congressional committee. The election of a pro-legalization Democrat governor, who has influenced marijuana issues in the U.S. House, is a move in the right direction not only for recreational cannabis legalization but for ending cannabis prohibition in the state entirely.
New Jersey may soon join the slate of northeastern states with legalized recreational marijuana. The state legislature isn’t fully in favor of the idea, however, and voters are nearly evenly divided on the issue. 44 percent of New Jersey residents are against it, while 49 percent would like to see cannabis legalized in the state. The Democratic governor, Phil Murphy, campaigned on a platform of cannabis legalization. It remains to be seen whether the state will move forward or remain in a debate over the issue.
With so many states around them opting for cannabis legalization, New York is feeling the pressure to follow suit. Its governor, Andrew Cuomo, opposed the idea just a year ago, but has now been won over. Still, the state’s law enforcement isn’t fully on board. But with so many New York residents being able to easily travel to places like Massachusetts and purchase legal marijuana, it’s obvious that the state will see an influx of flower, edibles, and cannabis seeds – whether they want it or not.
While some states put the possibility of legalizing marijuana on the ballot for voters to decide, in Connecticut, state lawmakers are discussing doing it themselves. The reasoning? Legal pot creates a huge stream of tax revenue. Dan Malloy, the governor of Connecticut, is reportedly drawing up potential budgets that include cannabis sales as a source of state funding. Connecticut may be the second state after Vermont to achieve legal marijuana through a purely legislative process.
With several states in New England such as Vermont and Massachusetts legalizing marijuana, the pressure is building on New Hampshire to legalize it as well. 2019 may be the year that they finally consider cannabis reform. Their governor, Chris Sununu, is opposed to full-scale marijuana legalization, but marijuana activists are hopeful that his decision would be overruled by the state’s Democratic-controlled legislature.
After years of objecting to cannabis legalization policy reforms, Rhode Island’s Democratic governor, Gina Raimondo, is beginning to come around. With neighboring Massachusetts permitting the purchase and cultivation of cannabis, she believes it’s impractical to say the state isn’t going to legalize and regulate cannabis. Besides, the Republican house is giving their full support to cannabis legalization.
Other states may join this “what if?” lineup in time, but these are the most likely to see big changes in terms of allowing people to freely buy cannabis seeds, grow their own plants, and legally purchase marijuana. It’s impossible to know what the specifics of each state’s laws will be until they’re passed.
If you function according to federal law, it’s technically illegal to buy cannabis seeds in the U.S.A., but if it’s legal in your state, you’re highly unlikely to run into any problems.
Whether you wish to grow weed in the US for recreational or medical purposes, starting this endeavor isn’t as easy as simply choosing a random strain from any shop and making a purchase. Before buying cannabis seeds online, it’s important to know which kinds will best suit your grow space, climate, and needs. You also need to be well-educated on the cannabis laws in your area, especially as laws seem to be changing almost by the day!
The current state of cannabis laws in the U.S. can definitely be confusing to anyone traveling or visiting the country from overseas. To sum things up: all cannabis – from marijuana seeds to flower – is illegal at the federal level. However, federal enforcement does not currently focus on state-approved cannabis businesses or individuals possessing small amounts.
At the state level, it’s important to research and know what the laws are before buying cannabis seeds, possessing, or using marijuana in any state in the US. Some states allow recreational cannabis use and most of those (minus Washington state) will allow you to cultivate your own cannabis seeds. Other states allow medical marijuana use, but only a few of those allow people to grow cannabis seeds – even for medicinal use. In the rest of the United States, cannabis is completely illegal (with the exception of CBD oil and low-THC cannabis oil, which has been approved in some states). In these places, state authorities may arrest and charge you for possession and growing of marijuana seeds.
The legal and political situation regarding cannabis is quickly changing, however, just because it’s illegal to grow marijuana seeds or use medical cannabis in a state today doesn’t mean that changes aren’t on the horizon a few months from now. Check back here often for the latest news on cannabis legalization.
In places throughout the United States that permit growing, there’s still a lot left to learn. Beginner growers need to know what type of cannabis seeds to buy, which strains will grow well under different conditions, which reputable seed banks deliver to the US, and what to expect from the seeds they grow. Now that you’ve read this guide, you should be well prepared for your first grow!
Author: Jason Oliver
Jason is our master grower. He has been growing cannabis for almost 10 years and working in a commercial cannabis cultivation business as an external consultant for more than three years. Helping us with getting all the facts right, Jason shares his insights via in-depth grower’s and buyer’s guides which are advanced but yet easy to read and understand.
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