We're not interested in taking one side or other in the whole pot-legalization thing. Maybe you're passionate about legalization, maybe you're not. Maybe you use the stuff, maybe you don't. We're not here to make assumptions.
But unless you're rich (and you're not -- we will make that assumption), you've surely thought about what an easy life it must be for people who are able to legally grow the stuff, right? After all, nothing pays like drugs -- you'd be like Scarface, without the part where he gets shot at the end. Or maybe you'd keep it small, and just be a laid-back dude hanging with the stoners. In some states, all you need is a license to grow medicinal marijuana and you're set.
Or, maybe not. Before you renew that subscription to High Times and quit your day job, there are some things you need to take into consideration ...
#5. Even Where It's Legal, the Regulations Will Make Your Life Hell
Say you're an aspiring pot grower living in one of the states where medicinal marijuana is legal. First you have to stop and realize what "legal" means. In California, arguably the most lenient of the "legalized" states, they've seen a string of raids on medicinal marijuana dispensaries, even after Obama and the DEA said they wouldn't prosecute legal growers in states that allow it if the number of plants does not exceed 99.
President Obama, seen here demonstrating the largest legally acceptable blunt size.
Confused? Well, there are all sorts of loopholes that can give the DEA an excuse to come down on a grower. For instance, you are not legally allowed to grow or distribute anywhere within 1,000 feet of a school, or more specifically, anywhere where children may gather regularly. That could technically mean a church, a local park, a zoo, a movie theater or even neighbors' houses, if they have children.
And even if you steer clear of all of their rules, there are hundreds of other little conditions to consider, like the number of "mature" plants you are allowed to have (and what qualifies as "mature") and how much "manicured" product you're allowed to carry at any given time. Having it in your home is fine, but legally you can't drive very easily with it in the most lenient states.
"Alright, we'll overlook the pot, but we've got to ticket you for not buckling it up."
But even if the DEA doesn't come knocking, many homeowners' associations have their own stringent regulations that forbid residents from setting up pot farms in the suburbs. Basically, growing weed for a living is like willingly adding your name to the sex offender registry: Your neighbors no longer trust you, and the authorities forbid you from coming into contact with children.
And then there are all of the regulations surrounding the disposal of damn near everything in a grow operation. We'll get into the logistics of growing in a moment, but let's just say there are all sorts of heavily regulated chemicals involved, and waste that is even more heavily regulated. Like synthetic fertilizers. The word "synthetic" is the big operator here, because a lot of them are toxic. Dump that out improperly, or in the wrong area, and a person could be charged with purposefully contaminating the groundwater, which qualifies as terrorism. Is growing weed for a living worth having a Toby Keith song written about you? Think it over.
Don't worry, though -- contaminating plain old river water is perfectly legal.
That doesn't just mean your waste water, either: Your medium (whatever it is you grow your plants in, be it dirt or rock wool) is also contaminated with toxins. Legally, you're supposed to dispose of all of this much like you would toxic waste.
Then, if you navigate that legal minefield, there's still the particular social stigma that goes along with being a marijuana professional. In short, people who think drugs are immoral and outlawed for good reason don't suddenly start thinking more of drug dealers and users just because weed is technically legal. You think you can just keep it from them? You're not going to be leaving home on any daily routine, and your neighbors are going to be asking questions. Expect things like:
"What do you do?"
"So you're basically a wussier version of the guy from Breaking Bad?"
"Do you live alone?"
"Are you planning to murder anyone with a hammer?"
Now ask yourself: How much excuse do you think they will need to call the police on you the moment they think you've stepped out of line?
If you're so dedicated to the task of growing medicinal marijuana that you're willing to deal with all that, then you'll need to buckle down and raise a whole bunch of cash. That's because ...
#4. Getting Started Costs More Than a Used Car
Let's say you find a handful of marijuana seeds in the cushions of your couch. Toss in some dirt and light and you should be on a direct path to indoor weed farming glory, right? Just put the dirt and the seeds into a pot, set it on the windowsill like a spider plant and wait for the magic to happen. Hell, it's like growing money!
Better, even. Smoking cash just gives you a terrible lung inflection.
Well, not quite. We'll address the lights first. We're not talking about buying a four-pack of 100-watt GE bulbs and calling it good. We're talking very specialized, highly powered, eye-burning-bright lights. Unsurprisingly, they retail for a wallet-burning $300 each. Any at-home weed operation will need at least six of these lights if the goal is to make any sort of cash at all.
That's $1,800 spent, and you aren't even high yet.
And then we have the dirt. As in, you really can't use it. Growing pot at home isn't like growing tomato plants on your balcony -- growing in dirt brings all sorts of uninvited guests to the smoke party, like spider mites and other bugs that will damage the plants, and maybe even your health. So if you're serious about growing weed indoors, you need equipment ($850 for each unit, and it usually takes four of these systems to generate enough crop to turn a profit, so we're talking about more than $3,400). That's right, aspiring pot kingpin -- you're more than five grand in the hole before you've grown a single plant.
And we're not done. All of that shit runs on electricity -- an at-home weed farmer faces electric bills that run as much as $1,500 per month. If you aren't lucky enough to have a private well, water bills can scale to similar heights. Then you factor in other random necessities like timers, extension cords, pest control, carbon filters and countless other bells and whistles that keep a grow operation growing. An enterprising young pot farmer will need to come up with nearly $13,000 in investment money just to get started.
Dropping a few seeds in your neighbors salad garden just won't cut it.
OK, so you max out all of your credit cards and come up with the 13 grand. That's all right -- the sweet, sweet weed money is about to come rolling in! Actually, most grow operations don't even turn a profit for three months at least, so every joint sold is going to be paying down start-up debt for a long, long time.
"Here's a quarter pound. Can you put half in my IRA?"
And the money is just part of the cost. Next you have to deal with the fact that ...
#3. It's a Shitload of Hard Work
Have you ever tried to create an environment identical to the outdoors? One meant to sustain not just life, but exceptional life? You know, playing God? It's absolutely as difficult as it sounds, and it's absolutely what you must do to successfully grow weed at home.
He's only laughing because a stray tear could throw off the pH balance.
Plants are living, breathing things that require ideal conditions to thrive. On top of providing all the air flow, 24 hours a day, you'll need an entire room that, in the middle of the day with the lights off, looks like this all over:
That's not nearly as easy as it seems, and it has to be done every time you add a fan or make a correction to a grow room. Then you have the heavy equipment that needs be set up, as well as running high voltage (read: DANGEROUS) wiring and industrial-quality ventilation to your new weed cave.
It looks kind of like a thermos ... and it costs $244.
Basically, you have to be a carpenter, plumber, electrician, gardener and some type of lab technician by the time you're finished just setting up that room. If plumber and electrician stick out as two skills that shouldn't be in the same room with each other at the same time, that's because they really shouldn't. So, if this for some reason sounds like the career path for you, study up on your electric skills, lest you wind up electrocuted to death like this poor fella.
Of course, you can always hire trained people to do all of this work for you, adding to the start-up debt that you've already sold one and a half kidneys to pay.
"So this is for a home welding set-up? In your basement?"
Hey, speaking of dealing with other people ...