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Cannabis home grow is not legal in Pennsylvania, but advocates are fighting to include it in any adult use legalization bill that might move. However, because many state’s legislators seem to believe a home grow would be easy, they’re concerned that pot plants could proliferate willy-nilly across the state.

“Growing isn’t easy,” said Robert Rudnitsky, Executive Director of PhillyNORML. “Ultimately it would be the same thing if someone wanted to grow their own tomatoes.

“Once we set up the garden, we will have more tomatoes then we know what to do with.”

State Senators Dan Laughlin (R) and Sharif Street (D) have proposed multiple bills allowing home grow for medical patients, in addition to their attempts to pass adult use cannabis legalization. One proposal for home grow was grounded last June, but Rudnitsky continues to lobby the issue.

“We are not asking for outdoor grow,” continued Rudnitsky. “Anything to do with indoor grow would be subject to the ability of someone able to pay their electric bill. It’s not a free ticket, and if regulators show up they will have to be open to a spot inspection.

“You can’t flush plants down the toilet.”

Other states have approved such measures, including legalization of licensed caregivers, who are able to grow cannabis plants for multiple medical patients.

“Most folks can grow their own tomatoes,” said DeVaughn Ward, a senior legislative counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project. “But a majority of people like to go to the store to buy them, for convenience and uniformity of product.

“The cost savings for those who grow their own is going to be cheaper because of taxes and transportation. I hear some people are driving 45 minutes each way for dispensary visits. With that trip and rising gas prices, that’s the calculus for some folks.”

Ward doesn’t think Pennsylvania will ever allow caregivers to produce for patients. He does believe legislation seen in other states could lead the state down the path to approval for patients to grow their own cannabis, with set limits and tight regulations.

“If you can trust patients to hold and buy the product and keep it safe, from children or anyone else, I don’t think there should be as much concern for them keeping plants safe from those who shouldn’t access the product,” said Ward. “I think lawmakers or folks who think allowing home grow is going to lead to people growing everywhere is not realistic. There’s a lot of variables and it’s harder to grow cannabis than one may think.”

Access and affordability will continue to be an issue for medical patients. Adult use legalization would push operators to open more access points for consumers, but price will continue to be a concern unless the cannabis market crashes, a concern no one wants to see come to fruition.

“Prices [in the legacy market] are already dropping so fast and hard and legislators don’t even know it,” said Rudnitsky. “They’re sitting in hearings. They don’t understand supply and demand with cannabis and it’s difficult to explain to them.

“A patient might get three pounds on six plants. That’s maybe $3,000 on market price and half of that is for electricity. So how much money can someone really make out of their house?”

PhillyNORML doesn’t support any propositions of a trade-off that would involve discounts on products for medical patients instead of legalized home grow. Waiving medical card fees would only do so much, accounting for minimal savings for consumers.

“Ultimately, I feel, just like with beer,” said Rudnitsky. “If someone wants to make craft beer, they should be able to do that. And they should be able to do it with cannabis if they want.

“You can have people spot-checking. Regulation inspectors that would continually inspect peoples grows. You can’t leave them to their own accord, but other places are doing it. There has to be regulation in place.”

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Rob Edwards

Rob Edwards is currently the Mid-Atlantic Regional Reporter for Grown In, reporting on the cannabis industry. He was previously a content producer/reporter for NJ Advance Media and a former beat writer...