Op-ed for The Medical Cannabis Community by Home Grow Chicago
Home Growing in Illinois
Is cannabis cultivation losing its edge? According to the DEA, the Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program has helped identify and eliminate cannabis grow sites throughout the United States since 1979. In 2018, seven indoor and thirteen outdoor cultivation sites in Illinois were eradicated by the program, seizing approximately $5,273.00 in assets—these numbers have been in decline since 2011 according to the program’s annual reports.
It appears that the future generation of home growers will never experience the anxiety and paranoia that was once intrinsic to growing cannabis, and that’s a good thing. While cannabis cultivation remains federally illegal, in 2020, Illinois residents 21 years of age or older who are registered patients under the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act will be allowed to grow five plants per household for personal use.
Some qualifying patients might be weighing home growing as an option but are concerned about physical limitations, time, or how much it might cost. Other folks may be considering obtaining a medical card just to give it a try, legally. Without a medical card growing five plants is a civil violation punishable by a minimum fine of $100 and a maximum fine of $200.
Recently, we’ve heard a lot about flower shortages and increasing prices in Illinois. One way to protect yourself is to grow your own cannabis. Learning the art and science of cannabis cultivation is the first step to building your cannabis sovereignty. Take control of your medicine, and learn to grow!
Growing Your Own
So what does it take to grow your own cannabis? With careful planning, an understanding of the basics, some time and determination, anyone can learn to grow their own. If you are contemplating whether home growing is worth your time, below are a handful of things to consider when growing your own cannabis.
If you’re starting from scratch, it’s first important to understand grow location requirements and consider any space limitations.
Per the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, your grow location must be an “enclosed, locked space” out of ordinary public view. An enclosed, locked space may include a residential building that is your primary residence or a structure on the same plot, such as a shed or greenhouse, which will remain locked while unoccupied. Selecting a grow location is the first step to setting up your first successful, compliant grow.
Space may be one of your biggest constraints, especially when growing in an urban area or studio apartment. Providing adequate space for your plant, as well as proper airflow and light distribution, will help promote healthy growth. Within smaller enclosures, it may be beneficial to grow smaller plants or fewer than the allotted maximum of five plants.
Basements or other cool, dry, and dark places will tend to make for better growing spaces. Other parameters to consider are room daytime and nighttime temperatures, relative humidity during night and day, and potential for outside light penetrability during the dark period. A grow tent, in the absence of a grow room, is oftentimes used to contain and protect the grow.
If using a tent consider the best location to place your tent as it will stick out in plain sight, generate heat and noise, and will house equipment which will need safe, undisturbed access to electricity.
After choosing your desired grow location and the number of plants you wish to grow (1-5), the next step will be to consider potential equipment needs.
- Grow Tent: Grow tents come in different sizes. The appropriate size will depend on your available space and how many plants you decide to grow at one time. A grow tent will keep vegetation contained and will inhibit unwanted light and other disturbances from interfering with the grow operation. Alternatively, your grow room can be an entire room, a shed, or greenhouse.
- Lighting: Indoor cultivation is entirely reliant on artificial or supplemental lighting. Artificial lights, typically a variation of high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps, including: High Pressure Sodium (HPS); Metal Halide (MH); and Ceramic Metal Halide (CMH); and Light Emitting Diode (LED) lights or Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL), allow indoor plants to sustain photosynthesis. Lights can also be a major source of heat which must be mediated with a proportional ventilation system. Choose the light wattage based on the size of the grow, taking into consideration watts or lumens/square foot of canopy.
- Adjustable Light Hangers: It’s important to adjust light height throughout the growth of plant. If the light source is too far away the plants will stretch to “find” the light. Stretching leads to lanky stems that may have difficulty supporting the weight of the plant. If the light source is too close the light may burn the plants. Ensure that all plants receive ample or maximum light without causing excessive heat.
- Ventilation System/Ducting/Filter: Provide ventilation for the grow environment by forcing hot air out and bringing cooler air in. Push air through a carbon scrubber to filter out odor-causing particles. A small system comprised of a vortex fan, ducting, and carbon air filter will typically suffices for a grow tent. Larger rooms may require a custom HVAC system.
- Ballast: Provides power to HID lights. The ballast wattage should be rated for the wattage of your lights. A dimming ballast can be beneficial to adjusting light output. Ballasts emit heat and should be placed outside of a grow tent.
- Circulating Fans: Forces ambient air to circulate within the environment, distributing heat and promoting plant transpiration.
- Power Strip/Extension Cords: Keeps electrical components away from areas which may contain water spills. Ensure all electrical plugs are securely connected and clean. Do not daisy chain extension cords.
- Timer: Turns ballast and lights on/off for appropriate vegetative or flowering period. Use additional timers for other equipment as needed.
- Temperature and Humidity Meter: Accurately measure room temperature and humidity.
- PH Meter: Needed to measure the pH of water and runoff water.
Growing Within Your Budget
It’s entirely possible to plant a random seed, expose it only to natural sunlight, and use regular plant nutrients to grow at little or no cost. It’s also possible to spend over $5,000 on your first grow. Your equipment set up will largely depend on your budget constraints, ambitions, experience, and desired time dedication.
Low budget: $250-$300
Regardless of your budget, if you are planning to start your first grow on January 1, 2020 or beyond, make sure to have your grow room set up properly before germinating your seeds.
Why Home Grow?
Besides experiencing the joy of consuming your own home grown cannabis and knowing exactly what goes into your plant, developing a community of growers and meeting new people can be one of the best things about home growing. Whether your goal is to just dabble in cannabis growing, offset your current consumption costs, or grow the biggest buds possible there is room for everyone in the home grow community.
Home Grow Chicago’s growing workshops are designed for first time growers and guide those new to indoor cultivation through the fundamentals of growing cannabis plants for personal use. If you are wondering where to begin, considering signing up for their workshops.