Pubdate: Thu, 09 Jun 2016
Source: Reporter, The (Lansdale, PA)
Column: From the Ground Up
Copyright: 2016 The Reporter
Author: Pam Baxter


On May 17, Pennsylvania's Medical Marijuana Act (Act 16) went into 
effect, bringing me one step closer to the realization of a dream. I 
don't have a personal medical need for marijuana, nor am I looking 
forward to being able to legally smoke it; I've never been 
interested. No, as a "certifiable plant geek" my dream is to be able 
to try my hand at growing this intriguing, illicit plant with the 
distinctive leaves.

To me, it's paradoxical that marijuana is off-limits. Poison ivy is a 
threat to many people, responsible for countless collective hours of 
itching, oozing, blistered misery, trips to the doctor, steroid use, 
and days missed from work. Despite all this, it grows freely almost 
everywhere. You can have it on your property and no one will come arrest you.

In contrast, marijuana is responsible for making people feel good and 
easing symptoms of chemotherapy and a host of chronic conditions. 
(Yes, it is sometimes abused when enjoyed recreationally.) But can 
you grow this plant in your garden? Uh-uh.

When I heard that Act 16 had gone into effect I cheered. At last! 
People who can benefit from the medical benefits of marijuana in our 
state will finally be able to access it legally. And then I had a 
moment's fantasy: maybe I could become a grower!

A dose of reality came in an April 18 article in The Morning Call 
(Allentown, Pa.). The article pointed out that with Pennsylvania 
being the nation's sixth-largest potential market for medical 
marijuana, this won't be a cottage industry but big business. How 
big? Estimates are that you'd need a five to ten million dollar 
investment. That's just a tiny bit out of my range.

This is backed up by a report from Surna, a Colorado company that 
specializes in cutting-edge technology solutions for indoor growing. 
They say, "The fact of it is nowadays, if you don't have a million 
dollars, it is hard to compete in this industry anymore. Between the 
cost of space, purchasing reliable grow room equipment, and covering 
overhead costs, running a safe and compliant grow is costly! We have 
seen people with a half million dollars run out of money. As the 
cannabis industry grows, so does the competition and the investment 
needed to start." (

The company also points out that growing cannabis doesn't "scale." 
Which is to say that there is no benefit to growing larger 
quantities. "A little realized fact about cannabis grows is that they 
are not scalable in the way other businesses are. The same amount of 
resources are required per plant, no matter the size of your 
operation. In fact, the larger a grow operation, the more difficult 
it is to maintain - more power, more cooling, and more space."

Unfortunately, it looks like my dream of growing a marijuana plant or 
two in my garden is still a long way off. I console myself with the 
idea that I will eventually be able to visit a cannabis farm and see 
the plants "up close and personal" that way.

Apparently I'm not the only one who would like to grow the plant. A 
2015 nationwide Harris Poll survey commissioned by Green State 
Gardener found that "as many as an estimated 24.5 million Americans 
would like to try growing marijuana for personal use - if growing it 
were legal."

An article in the newsletter of the Virginia Nursery & Landscape 
Association suggests that if growing cannabis for personal use were 
legalized, it could attract millions of new gardeners. And once these 
folks get their hands in the dirt, who knows what would happen! Is it 
possible that cannabis, sometimes categorized as a "gateway drug," 
could end up being the gateway to gardening? Kind of a heady thought.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom