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Guest Post: Growing medical marijuana – some facts you should know

(Young plants growing)

William Levy
CEO, PotValet (California)

Growing medical marijuana (mmj) presents many benefits, the most appealing of which gives the option for patients to grow their own medicine at home. Like any botanical endeavor, growing your own cannabis takes time and care. Here are some things you need to know before you start growing medical marijuana.

Cultivation limits

Although medical marijuana as accessible treatment has taken big leaps in cannabis history, not all areas in the United States permit the cultivation of medical cannabis. There are over 400 localities that have proposed or passed a cultivation ban on medical marijuana. Make sure to research your local laws to determine if growing your own medical hemp is possible in your state.

Zoning regulations additionally exist due to complaints by neighbors, so check if your area is eligible for marijuana growth. Be sure to research the possession limit per state to avoid cultivating more than the legal amount.

The basics

Medical marijuana cultivation takes around 3 months from seed until harvest. An overview of the growing process is as such:

•       Seed
•       Seedling
•       Vegetative
•       Flowering
•       Harvest

In order to start growing medical cannabis, you need these basic ingredients:

•       Bright light (at least 8 hours of direct sunlight or grow lights)
•       Air
•       A grow medium (soil or others)
•       Nutrients
•       The right temperature
•       Water

Growing indoors vs. outdoors

Decide whether it is more suitable for you to grow indoors or outdoors. Here are the pros and cons of growing indoors vs. outdoors:

Indoors
•       Discretion
•       More control over the plant’s growth
•       More responsibility
•       Temperature control

Outdoors
•       Cheaper (no need for grow lights)
•       People can steal your plants
•       Pollination
•       Bugs and animals

Growing medium

Choose a growing medium for your plant. Remember that each medium has different care requirements. Three of the most popular growing mediums are:

•       Soil
•       Inert (soilless)
•       Hydroponics

Soil is the most common growing medium whilst others choose to go soilless with soil alternatives such as coco coir, vermiculite, and Promix. Inert growing mediums can give you faster growth and larger yields.

If you have the time and money to set up a hydroponics system, you may want to consider this method that produces faster growth than soil due to a larger oxygen supply to the roots. The set up is complex and you will need an air pump, a reservoir of nutrient water, and rooters to get started.

Choosing your strain

Different marijuana strains will address different medical conditions. You may choose from indica, sativa, or hybrids. Research which of these strains works best with your condition. You may also wish to select a strain based on ease of growth and taste and potency.

Seeds and initial care

Remember that only female cannabis plants can produce the bud that is used in medical marijuana consumption. It is therefore suggested that seeds be bought off the internet to ensure the female gender of your plant. You can also purchase a clone, which is an exact copy of another plant. This can be purchased at the medical marijuana dispensary or can be obtained from someone who already has female cannabis plants. Clones shave off a couple of weeks of growth time but are harder to obtain than seeds.

If growing indoors, set your grow lights and fans (if needed) to 70-85°F. Make sure to water your plants until the top of your growing medium is dry one inch deep. When your plants are at the seedling stage, keep a close eye on them until they are well established.

Vegetative stage

When cannabis plants believe it is summer, they will enter the vegetative growth stage. The longer the plant stays in the vegetative stage, the larger it will grow. At this point you should look out for:

•       Odd coloring or spotting on leaves (leaves should always look healthy)
•       Falling, drying, or curling leaves
•       Rot or bad smell (indicates rotting, bacteria, or mold)
•       Very slow growth
•       Insects and other animals

Be sure to use a vegetative nutrient formula for this stage of your plant.

Flowering stage

During this stage, your plant will start to grow buds or flower. Cannabis plants must receive a 12+ hour dark period each day in order to flower. At this point, you should switch to a bloom formula as nutrients during the vegetative stage contain too much nitrogen. Keep nutrients low before you approach harvest as your plant will not need the extra nutrients during flowering. If you can, lower temperatures to 65-80°F.

Harvesting

You will know your plant is ready to harvest by looking atits pistils (the white hairs growing from the bud). A general rule of thumb is to harvest when 50-75% of the pistils have turned colored. Buds should be plump, fragrant, and filled out.

Drying

Once your buds are ready, you need to dry them out. Cut off individual branches and trim the buds before drying. Ensure the air is not humid to prevent mold. A humidifier or dehumidifier can help control humidity. Drying should take about one week.

Curing

Cure when your stems begin to snap rather than bend. Place your buds in a tightly closed jar kept in a cool place. After two weeks, you will be ready to consume your medical marijuana!

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