Homegrown Marijuana Legalized In New York

Young cannabis plant homegrown marijuana
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Homegrown marijuana can be legally grown by patients or their caregivers for medicinal purposes beginning Oct. 5 in New York

ALBANY — Patients who use medical cannabis in New York will be permitted to grow up to three mature and three immature plants at home beginning Oct. 5, though residents without medical certification will need to wait until after the state’s commercial marketplace is in place to begin growing legally.

The regulations allow a medical patient or caregiver of a patient to also possess up to five pounds of cultivated marijuana in addition to any plants. Mature plants are those which have buds forming; immature plants can be any height as long as they do not have buds visible.

It is illegal for a patient or caregiver to sell marijuana, seeds or plants to another person, but they are allowed to give up to three ounces of cannabis or 24 grams of concentrated cannabis to another certified patient or caregiver from their homegrown marijuana. Practitioners certified to prescribe marijuana can now do so for any reason they see fit, including insomnia and anxiety.

Members of the Cannabis Control Board approved the final homegrown marijuana rules on Tuesday. The agenda for the board’s first-ever session with a live audience, held in Manhattan, also included the finalization of hemp rules. Each set of regulations was proposed last fall and has been through two rounds of public comment periods.

“Certified patients and designated caregivers over the age of 21” will be able to grow cannabis plants in early October, said Nicole Quackenbush, the director of health and safety at the Office of Cannabis Management. She recommended that eager patients review the state’s home cultivation guide online, and “reach out to dispensaries prior to visiting” to make sure they have seeds or immature plants available for sale.

A number of companies with national distribution also sell marijuana seeds in New York, since they are considered hemp until cultivated.

The slow roll out of medical home cultivation rules has frustrated patients like Joel Hubert, who has to afford his medication “on a retirement check.”

Other New Yorkers have been growing at home regardless. Some didn’t realize regulators had missed the deadline in the law which required home grows to be made legal for patients a year ago; others were willing to risk repercussions once the drug was decriminalized and police have stopped targeting small-scale marijuana grows.

The state has 124,485 registered medical cannabis patients and 3,817 practitioners approved to certify them.

Jen Metzger, a member of the control board and a former state senator, said the change will “really improve the accessibility and affordability of cannabis for some patients.” But she cautioned first-time growers to consider investing in the most energy efficient equipment — not only for environmental reasons, but “because it can have a huge impact on your electricity bills.”

The home cultivation announcement was “a long, long time coming,” said Axel Bernabe, the Office of Cannabis Management’s senior policy director. But Bernabe noted that the new hemp regulations were also key, and the changes focused on making sure small farmers “have the least burdensome way of getting their products to market.”

The hemp updates, which incorporated public comments, also included several technical adjustments such as removing a requirement for shelf stability and increasing the total cannabinoid content limit from 75 to 100 milligrams.

“Also, recognizing that not all countries and not all states have the same standards that New York has, we are requiring folks that are making products or importing hemp from out-of-state to tell us where it’s coming from,” Bernabe said.

The meeting, which had 55 audience seats — all booked the day the meeting was announced — and over 600 viewers online, also saw the control board approve ownership transfers for two medical cannabis companies, sign off on 19 more conditional cultivators and 10 additional processors, and remind attendees that the deadline for the state’s first dispensary licenses is Sept. 26.