BOSTON — Now that recreational marijuana is legal in Massachusetts, your neighbor might be thinking about testing out their green thumb. While buying recreational pot is still in the uncertain future, growing is starting to flourish.
"These are just six plants and the people that take care of these plants spend a considerable amount of their day every day making sure that they're happy, and fed and warm and loved,” said Peter Bernard, director of Massachusetts Growers Advocacy Council. He says that since ballot question 4 passed in November, there’s been a noticeable a spike in people inquiring about setting up their own personal grow.
Bernard showed Boston 25 News a medical marijuana grow inside a home on the south shore on the condition we wouldn't identify the owner. Although this is perfectly legal, a lot of people still don't want their neighbors to know.
The setup consists of two tents with different strains of cannabis in each tent. It’s a hydroponic grow, which means water is constantly flowing through the base of the potted plants. There are LED lights, fans, humidifiers, and exhausts that are tied to intricate climate monitoring systems to make sure the conditions are ideal for growing.
Bernard says growing cannabis is not cheap and estimates this grow operation costs around $8,000, which he says is about average for a personal grow.
"People think you can throw a seed in a bucket of dirt and walk away and come back in six months and they're finding out that's not the case” he says.
A BUDDING HOBBY
It was standing room only at the New England Cannabis Convention (NECANN) last month in Boston and the forum for home growers was one of the most popular attractions of the weekend.
“Probably a lot of beginners in there,” said Matt Arkin, who attended the home growing seminar.
Arkin said that the popularity shows that a lot of marijuana is about to be coming into the market.
Arkin is a cancer survivor who has been growing medical marijuana for three years in New Jersey. He and his girlfriend are moving to Massachusetts later this year, specifically because it's legal to grow recreational pot. He attended the seminar to see if he could pick up some new tips.
Home growing is becoming a big business in Massachusetts. At NECANN vendors were selling light kits, grow tents, soil and cultivation kits which can run from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
"If you learn how to do that properly, you're home free. You're set. You no longer have to deal with the black market,” said Mike Fitzgerald, co-founder of New England Grassroots Institute. Fitzgerald was one of the speakers at the home growing seminars.
Like many hobbies, Fitzgerald said growing marijuana is a complicated and potentially dangerous endeavor. There's a lot to learn to get the type of plants you want.
"You plug in a light, you have an air conditioner in the other room, and you can overload that. That can definitely lead to fires in the home,” said Fitzgerald.
Police are still grappling with this new trend of home growing. In December, the Office of Public Safety and Security issued a letter to local law enforcement, advising them on how to enforce the law.
"Whether a given quantity of marijuana was lawfully cultivated on the premises is also a question subject to circumstantial proof."
Fitzgerald believes it will be tough to enforce what people do behind closed doors.
“Once you're in somebody's home, no. The best thing is to come to New England Grassroots where we teach you to do this properly,” he said “
In Massachusetts, it's still illegal to sell marijuana without a license. The law sets the limit on how many plants you can grow at six, or a maximum of 12 if there's two people in the house. The plants must also be under lock and key and must be grown in your primary residence.
Cox Media Group