Last year Massachusetts increased the number of cannabis plants people could legally cultivate in their own homes, making the Bay State a home grow leader in New England.

“It’s fascinating how we have expanded home grow rights in recent years, but it has had no impact on commercial profits,” said Grant Smith Ellis, a Massachusetts-based medical cannabis activist. “I think, hopefully, Massachusetts will be a good incubation chamber for other New England states to look at how home grow policy is going to play out in the real world. And so far, we’re seeing that expanded access to home grow is a net positive.”

Massachusetts law allows an adult over 21 to grow up to six cannabis plants in their home for personal use, or up to 12 plants for two or more adults. Medical cannabis patients can possess up to 24 plants.

Unlike neighboring states, Massachusetts uses “flowering” and “vegging” in place of “mature” and “immature.” Plant limits are split between the two, so 24 plants would be 12 flowering and 12 vegging plants.

Maine, which legalized adult-use cannabis through a ballot measure the same year as Massachusetts in 2016, allows up to three mature plants and up to 12 immature plants for adult-use. Medical patients in Maine are allowed six mature and 12 immature plants.

Although Maine has a smaller limit for home cultivation when compared to Massachusetts, it may have a lot more homes with cannabis legally growing in them. The state also has a vibrant caretaker population. The state has over 3,000 registered caregivers, most of whom are permitted to grow in their own homes whether it is for themselves or a limited number of patients. 

Vermont legalized recreational cannabis through the legislature in 2018, but is still in the process of finalizing regulations for that market. In the meantime, the state allows home cultivation of no more than three mature plants or six immature plants.

Connecticut’s legislature legalized adult-use cannabis in the summer of 2021, and has been moving at a much faster pace than the Green Mountain State at rolling out the adult-use market. As of Oct. 21, 2021 medical cannabis patients were permitted to possess three mature and three immature with a household limit of 12 plants. Recreational cannabis users will be able to grow the same amounts, but not until July 1, 2023.

“Home grow is especially important in Connecticut because medical cannabis patients have very limited options in this market,” said medical patient Lou Rinaldi. “All four of the state’s licensed producers are now owned and controlled by out-of-state corporations, which are deeply entrenched in their cartel-like regulatory capture.”

Rinaldi said he would like the state to revisit its medical regulations and increase the number of plants patients can possess.

“A limit of three mature and three immature indoor plants per patient is a good start, but it’s not enough,” he said.

Rhode Island and New Hampshire are the last holdouts in New England without legalized adult-use cannabis, though both have well-established medical cannabis markets. New Hampshire does not currently allow home growing, which was a recent sticking point in the debate over how and when the Granite State will legalize adult-use.

Rhode Island allows medical patients to possess up to 12 adult plants and 12 immature plants at one time. Though, they must get approval for each plant and patients must pay as much as a $25 fee for every “Set,” which is a single mature and immature plant paired as one unit.

“Every state should have the right to home grow. It brings the cost down for people and it keeps you safe in terms of what you personally need,” said Ellen Lenox Smith, of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition.

Smith was an early participant in the Rhode Island medical cannabis program when it was first legalized in 2006. She got into home cultivation because at the time there not yet any dispensaries, so it was the only legal option to access cannabis.

Smith noted that the $25 fee was the maximum amount and that the state allows fee reductions based on health or financial status. Rhode Island’s legislature is expected to produce an adult-use legalization bill this session, and Smith said she was hopeful that the fees would be eliminated as part of that legalization effort.

“If you’re going to go full legalization, why the heck would you even think to charge for a plant used for medicine? I think that’s going to be wiped away once we get full legalization,” she said.

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Zack cut his journalistic teeth covering high school sports in the south before spending a decade covering local government, politics and the courts in the Boston, Massachusetts area. He's previously written...