In this series, we hope to explain all the pertinent Cannabis plant facts at-a-glance. Start educating yourself on the Cannabis plant. Marijuana: The truth about growing your own pot Nick Hice, cultivation facility manager at Denver Relief, harvests several of the plants, getting them ready for the drying process. Kayvan Starting July 1, Virginians will be able to grow up to four marijuana plants per household under legalization. But there's a catch. There's no legal way to buy the seeds.
Breaking Down the Cannabis Plant
We wanted to start our blog with some Cannabis plant basics. In this series, we hope to explain all the pertinent Cannabis plant facts at-a-glance. There is so much information and so much science out there and we aim to guide you through it all. In today’s information age, it’s hard to know where to start with educating yourself on the Cannabis plant. With our collective decades of experience, we decided it’s best to start from the beginning; the plant itself.
Cannabis is like every other plant. Its growth cycle starts from a seed, grows and matures over time, and ultimately flowers and then repeats the cycle until it dies. The flowers are the most desirable part of the growth process and it is no different for Cannabis. Once a cannabis plant flowers, those flowers produce resin glands that contain cannabinoids and terpenes. These flowers are what is being harvested and ultimately used or processed into different medicine and other consumable items. What we call flower, pop culture calls “bud,” “weed,” “ganja,” “pot,” etc.
Parts Of the Cannabis Plant
The flowers contain the CBD and terpenes that cause you to get high and give people a number of other benefits, interacting with the endocannabinoid system. Flowers only grow on the female plants. This is what is dried out and ground before being smoked.
The cola on the cannabis plant is a cluster of buds growing closely together, almost in a bunch. Small colas can be found up and down the low branches, but the main cola almost always sits at the top of the marijuana plant.
The pistil is where the reproductive parts of the flower sit. They contain a lot of thin strands that look a bit like hair, called stigmas. They collect the pollen that is carried from male plants. The stigmas that can be found within are white when the plant is young but eventually turn yellow through the weed plant stages.
The pistil is all about the reproductive system of marijuana.
The bracts are what can be found around the female’s reproductive area. They are green, with leaves in a sort of “tear shape”. They have a number of resin glands, that actually hold the highest number of cannabinoids within the marijuana plant.
Inside the bracts, on the female cannabis plant, is the calyx. This is a see-through layer that protects the ovule. You can’t see it with the naked eye.
Trichomes are small but form an important part of marijuana anatomy. They make a crystal-like covering for the buds of the cannabis. Trichomes actually come from glands on the leaves, stems, and calyx of the female or male cannabis plant.
Trichomes protect the plant from anything in the wild that could harm them. They secrete terpenes and both CBD and THC.
The node is where a branch grows from the stem of the cannabis plant. Or where one branch stems off and creates another. Some nodes contain buds, but not all of them.
The nodes play an important role in the sexing of a cannabis plant and telling a male cannabis plant from a female cannabis plant. More on that later.
If you see clothing or accessories with a cannabis leaf on them as decoration, this will be from the fan leaves. They actually just capture light and don’t have a lot of resin within them. On a cannabis Sativa plant, the leaves tend to be further apart and more sparse.
Sugar leaves are where the resin is usually held. They’re small leaves where the buds form, and you can use them in a variety of cannabis products including pre-rolls, or to make THC and CBD extracts.
This is a term you’re probably familiar with. The stem is the same part of a cannabis plant as any other plant, and it gives structure and stability to the other parts of the marijuana plant.
The top of the stem can be cut off to encourage weed plant stages where the marijuana plant grows more branches and more buds.
How to tell male from female cannabis plants
To check the sex of a cannabis plant, you need some understanding of marijuana anatomy.
You should check in between the nodes. These are the parts of the marijuana plant where the branches spring off from a stem. On male plants, pollen sacs can be found here. On a female, stigma develops so they can catch the pollen.
You can see pre-flowers from around the fourth week of cannabis growth. In week six, it should definitely be clear what sex the plants are.
For a male marijuana plant, you’ll find small sacs growing. On females, you will find bracts on the cannabis plants. This is where the hairs that catch pollen will eventually start to grow.
How to propagate cannabis plants
There are numerous ways to propagate cannabis plants so that more will grow in the future.
Cloning is not as daunting as it sounds. You don’t have to do it in the lab. This is where you take a cutting from a cannabis Indica or cannabis Sativa plant and put it in the ideal growing conditions in soil or hydroponics.
It’s relatively simple and reliable. It also means that you know what type of cannabis plant is going to grow, and you will have taken cuttings from a healthy “mother”. Cannabis clones are going to take all you liked about the mother plant and create another generation that grows in the same way.
Clones are delicate, and you need to get good at understanding an active vegetating cannabis plant so that you can make a clone, there is definitely a skill involved in picking the cutting, making the cutting itself, and replanting it. You probably won’t get it 100% right the first time around.
Seeds don’t need you to grow from an initial plant, you can buy seeds and plant them just like you would any other plant, fruit, or vegetable. It takes a little longer for them to grow this way.
Seeds don’t always germinate, so there is a real art to growing your own marijuana using seeds.
One good thing about seeds is the fact that they haven’t been exposed to diseases or a bad growing environment. You can also buy feminized seeds if you want, which guarantee a certain percentage of female cannabis plants.
Another positive thing about seeds is that they can easily be shipped and transported, and you can buy a number of varieties of cannabis. You might even be able to germinate your own strands.
Whether you choose cannabis clones or growing from seeds, it doesn’t matter, as long as you make a point of becoming good at it. A lot of manufacturers prefer to use clones as it gives a much more consistent result, and allows you to know the properties of the plant that will grow.
Marijuana: The truth about growing your own pot
Nick Hice, cultivation facility manager at Denver Relief, harvests several of the plants, getting them ready for the drying process. Kayvan Khalatbari, owner of the pot-growing business and dispensary, talks about growing your own marijuana.
DENVER, CO. – FEBRUARY 04: Dan Ericson trims the sugar leaf off the bud readying it for the drying process. Kayvan Khalatbari owns Denver Relief, a marijuana growing, dispensary, and consulting business. Khalatbari and his employees are meticulous in their marijuana cultivation from start to finish and says the process takes constant care and vigilance by anyone considering growing the plant. (Photo By Kathryn Scott Osler/The Denver Post)
Dozens of medicinal-marijuana plants grow under special lighting at Denver Relief. Photos by Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post
Kayvan Khalatbari is operations head of Denver Relief, a marijuana-growing dispensary and consulting business, where every plant is tracked througout its growing life.
Dan Ericson trims the “sugar leaves” — the single leaves close to the bud — off a pot plant, readying it for the drying process. Then he’ll hang the plant upside down for a week to dry.
So you want to grow pot. Or you’re worried the neighbors will.
Marijuana is the botanical conversation piece that just won’t go away. Reactions to it run a wild gamut: It’s the evil weed or a source of future state tax revenue and entrepreneurial ingenuity. Or it’s the only path left to freedom from pain for some people, and journalists should write about it with the same seriousness that they accord blood-pressure medicine.
If you’re 21 or older, Amendment 64 allows you to cultivate up to six marijuana plants in an “enclosed, locked space” in Colorado. (This is still illegal under federal law.)
Sounds simple. But growing marijuana isn’t easy, those who do it professionally say.
Until 2014, it’s illegal to sell plants to those without a medical-marijuana card.
Growing cannabis from seed is possible but impractical.
Such activities are subject to federal prosecution.
One thing is certain: Legalization is changing the landscape of our state. Maybe not our yards, but surely our headspace, our parties, our neighborhoods and our lives. If we understand the plant, it will help us talk about that change using facts rather than fear or naive enthusiasm.
We went to experts with the questions we felt any gardener and homeowner would have. Our interviewees for this story and video were Kayvan Khalatbari and Nick Hice, co-owners of Denver Relief, a medicinal-marijuana dispensary whose growing facility is home to about 1,900 marijuana plants.
An overview of the basics
Question: Where can Coloradans grow marijuana plants? Can people just stick them in a sunny window next to basil and aloe?
Answer: A big thing to remember with marijuana plants is that they need to flower to produce THC ( tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical that gets people high) and other medicinal cannabinoids. In order to do that, they need 12 hours of light and 12 hours of total darkness a day.
So the best place to grow marijuana is in a room in the basement with a locked door so light doesn’t inadvertently get in when the plants are “sleeping.” If you don’t have a basement, a small closet with light-leak protection around the door will work.
A: All sorts of prepackaged items are available, like grow boxes or grow tents, that are probably best for a small space like a closet, or fo r someone who doesn’t want to get into growing marijuana too intensely.
But if you’re trying to get six plants to be as robust as possible, you probably need to install something that’s more permanent, like a 400- to 600-watt lamp with a hood assembly that comes with a ballast, which you place at least a forearm’s length above the plants.
Keep in mind that the ballast is going to get very hot, so you need to have adequate cooling in the room as well, like a portable air conditioner with a thermostat. You don’t want the room to get above 80 degrees because the hotter it is, the slower the plants grow. The ideal temperature is 75 to 80 degrees when the lights are on and 68 to 74 degrees when the lights are off.
You also have to watch humidity, because every time you water plants in a small space, you’re going to get high humidity. It should be below 50 percent to prevent bud mold or rot.
You can measure humidity with a hygrometer from a hardware or grow store, and reduce it with a dehumidifier or air conditioner.
Q:How would a home grower comply with the rule that limits them to three plants in flower?
A: That means you can grow only three plants if you don’t have two separate growing areas. The reason having only three plants is bad is that you want to keep a rotation going. Or else every time you get done harvesting, you have to go back to a store. If you want a continual supply, you want the perpetualness of having a vegetative stage and a flowering stage going all the time.
Logistics and costs
Q: How much does all this stuff cost?
A: Most grow boxes are $200 to $400, but if you want one with HVAC temperature-control capabilities, it’s pretty pricey — close to $1,000. You can find grow boxes at most local hydroponic stores or grow shops.
A light system and building materials will run $350 to $1,000, and electricity costs per harvest are $100 to $200.
Q:Where would a home grower get seeds?
A: I actually never recommend starting a marijuana plant from seed, because you have to determine whether the seeds are male or female, which is difficult. Only female plants produce the flowers that are most desirable in terms of cannabinoid content. Male plants are pretty much unusable (for smoking purposes).
The best thing to do is to buy a clone — a cutting from a proven plant. People who have red cards (medical-marijuana cards) can buy clones from medical-marijuana centers and grow their own plants. If you know somebody who grows, it is legal today (under state law) for a 21-year-old (or someone older) with a marijuana plant in Colorado to give another 21-year-old (or older) a clone from that plant. But if you don’t know someone who grows, I don’t see an option to legally purchase seeds or clones in this state before 2014, when retail marijuana facilities open.
Cannabis botany 101
Q:Tell us about the different strains of marijuana. How would people choose one?
A: There are three types of cannabis — indica, sativa and ruderalis.
Ruderalis is a ditch weed found in Europe with low THC content. The marijuana we’re familiar with is indica and sativa. Indica has higher CBN (a type of cannabinoid) content, which relieves pain and makes you lethargic. Sativa has the highest psychoactive content, is energizing and provides lucid thought. Most everything available today is a hybrid (and) carries the characteristics of both indica and sativa.
Indica-dominant hybrids are good for growing indoors, because they only get 2 to 3 feet tall from the top of the pot, with a diameter of 12 to 18 inches.
Q:Isn’t hemp a type of marijuana? Can that be grown in a house?
A: Hemp is basically a cultivated variety of sativa. For several thousand years, it has been bred for tall growth, fibrous stems and low THC levels. It still has the medicinal cannabinoids, but you need so many hemp plants to get valuable cannabinoid content — more than 100 — that it wouldn’t be worth growing at home.
Care, air and food
Q:What’s next after obtaining clone plants?
A: Place the clone in a pot filled with a planting medium. Although potting soil would technically work, we use a soilless growing media made from coco fiber, worm casings, perlite and vermiculite because it’s developed specially for marijuana, even though (manufacturers) don’t admit that. You can get premixed versions at grow stores — Royal Gold Tupur is a good brand.
A lot of people use hydroponics, where plant roots are free flowing in what is essentially a circulating water bath. But that can be a problem for inexperienced growers, because if you accidentally add too many nutrients to the water, you can burn or kill the plants because the roots suck the extra nutrients right up. Soilless media act as a buffer to protect the roots.
Q:What type of container is used?
A: Many people use 5-gallon plastic buckets, but those create problems because the roots just wrap around themselves and form a large root ball. If you use a 3- to 5-gallon fiber pot, the root sticks through the pot and (the plant) air-prunes itself, while feeder roots grow in the pot. That gives the plant a larger nutrient intake.
Q:How are the plants fed and watered?
A: Most nutrient products in hydroponic stores come with very easy-to-understand directions and a “recipe” and schedule on the side of the package that you can follow. You should also water the plants every two to three days with tap water that has sat in a container for 24 hours to let the chlorine evaporate.
In addition, because you aren’t growing the plants outside where carbon dioxide is abundant, you must supplement the indoor air with it. Many small-time growers use CO2 tanks (similar to those on a soda fountain machine) with a regulator valve. You can get these tanks from grow stores or beverage suppliers. You can also buy automatic controllers for the tanks that release CO2 at the ideal ratio of 1,250 to 1,550 parts per million.
Getting to harvest
Q:What gets done with the plants after they’ve been potted?
A: Start with clones that are 4 to 5 inches tall, and give them 24-hour light until they reach 9 to 15 inches. If you keep temperatures below 80 degrees, this takes four to five weeks — less if you’re growing hydroponically.
Then you want to throw the plants into the flower cycle (12 hours of light followed by 12 hours of dark). During the second to third week of flowering, prune the bottom third of the plant so it puts its growth energy into the top once buds form.
A: Most plants are ready to harvest after 65 to 70 days of flowering. A good way to tell if the plant is harvestable is to get a 45x magnifying glass from a grow store and check out the trichomes on the flowers. Trichomes are the translucent resin glands that contain the cannabinoids. When they turn amber or a milky purple, you know they’re ready. This sounds difficult, but it’s actually pretty easy for the layman to do.
Another option is, if about 80 percent of the flower’s pistils turn orange or darker brown rather than white, then they’re ready to harvest.
Processing the harvest
Q:OK, say a home grower successfully gets three pot plants to the final flowering stage. They’re healthy and producing buds. How are they processed?
A: When a plant is fully mature, some people cut it off at the base, then cut off the fan leaves and hang it upside down. After it’s dried, they’ll trim off all the outer “sugar” leaves (the single leaves close to the bud).
What we think is best is to take down the plant and cut off all the leaves at once. If you leave the sugar leaves on, they may make the marijuana harsher. We trim so the (flower) bud has a clean egg shape, and use (the sugar leaves) to make concentrates to smoke, vaporize or cook with.
Then you hang the plant upside down for about a week, until the stem snaps rather than bends. Conditions should be about 68 degrees with 50 percent humidity. If the plant dries too fast, it locks in the chlorophyll, making it taste like plant material instead of marijuana. If it gets too humid, it can mold.
More questions, more answers
Q:Where can people find legitimate, affordable pot-growing help?
A: There’s a 1,200-page book that is beyond most other books and pretty much says everything you need to know about marijuana growing: “Marijuana Horticulture: The Indoor/Outdoor Medical Grower’s Bible,” by Jorge Cervantes (Van Patten Publishing, 2006). Our guys still keep it on hand, and they’ve been growing for 15 years.
Q: Can THC be topically absorbed? Could people who grow fail a drug test if they touch their plants?
A: You shouldn’t have any issue with handling the plant, but the scent is very pronounced, so you may smell like marijuana.
Q:What are the dangers for those who grow?
A: Be discreet. You wouldn’t tell everybody you have $2,000 just sitting on your nightstand, so don’t tell everyone you have $500 to $1,000 worth of marijuana in your basement. Putting a lock on your growing-room door and installing a home security system is not a bad idea.
Q: This is not something somebody who’s not fully committed should do, is it?
A: It is a daily, daily beast to take care of these plants. If you don’t acknowledge something it’s asking for for a day or two, you can lose two weeks of growth. Even if you do not mess up, that doesn’t mean you’re going to grow good marijuana.
Edited from an interview with Kayvan Khalatbari, principal of Denver Relief Consulting.
A Virginian’s guide to legally grow marijuana at home starting July 1
RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)- Starting July 1, Virginians will be able to legally grow up to four marijuana plants per household.
But there’s a catch. There’s no legal way to buy the seeds.
The gray area is a product of the accelerated timeline proposed by Gov. Ralph Northam’s office at the end of a lengthy legislative process.
At the time, lawmakers were under pressure to move up the legalization of simple possession to this summer. To win over critics, supporters were looking for a way to allow the public to safely obtain marijuana before recreational sales go live, something that’s not expected to happen until 2024.
As the Commonwealth enters new territory, many Virginians are wondering how to get started. Amid confusion, law enforcement and landlords are warning people to proceed with caution.
“Everything you need…except the seeds”
Happy Trees Agricultural Supply in Richmond is stocking up on lights, soil and nutrients to help Virginians start growing their own marijuana.
“We have everything you need, except the seeds, to grow your four plants,” said Happy Trees Co-Founder Josiah Ickes. “We’re expecting a huge boom in sales.”
“You can start for as little as $150 bucks or you can get weird with it and spend as much as you want,” said Co-Founder Christopher Haynie.
The continued ban on the sale and purchase of seeds came as a surprise to the store. They initially advertised plans to start offering them on July 1 with lawn signs before realizing it wouldn’t be allowed.
“It’s very frustrating that we don’t have a direct legal path to acquiring seeds,” Ickes said. “That is going to lead people down the road of finding seeds that are not legal and there may not be a safe way to do that.”
According to Jenn Michelle Pedini, the executive director of Virginia NORML, adults can gift seeds and other marijuana products to each other in certain circumstances, as long as no money changes hands.
Due to the federal prohibition on pot, Pedini said it’s illegal to have seeds mailed to you and to cross state lines after purchasing them elsewhere.
In the 2022 session, Pedini wants lawmakers to create a legal avenue at the state level.
“The most immediate option for retail sales is to do so through the existing medical operators. This is what most states that have enacted adult use legalization do,” Pedini said. “Virginia still has a chance to go down that path but that wasn’t something that was enacted this year.”
House Democratic Leader Charniele Herring, who sponsored the bill, said she supported moving forward with that option in 2021 but she said the idea was shot down by others in her party.
“There was no appetite from some to allow dispensaries to do that because the rationale is they didn’t want them to have a leg up on the business of recreational marijuana,” Herring said. “Honestly, I lost on that one.”
Tamara Netzel, a medical marijuana patient and the founder of Cruel Consequences, said trying to navigate the new law has been a challenge.
Netzel started using cannabis after her prescribed medication for Multiple Sclerosis made her liver go into failure. For months after that, she suffered from chronic pain and became depressed.
“I’m the last person you would’ve thought would’ve tried cannabis but I was desperate.” Netzel said. “It was a choice I had to make and at that time I was like, I don’t want to break the law so I sought out people who wanted to change the law.”
Now, the law has changed and Netzel is among those hoping to grow at home as a cheaper alternative. Currently, she said she pays about $800 per month to use cannabis for her condition, not including the cost of periodically renewing her medical card recommendation.
“I’m going to give it a try but I am afraid of messing up because the law is so complicated,” Netzel said.
“People have to read the fine print”
Chesterfield Police Chief Jeffrey Katz, who was speaking on behalf of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, said there are several regulations people need to follow to stay out of trouble.
Adults ages 21 and older are allowed to grow up to four cannabis plants per household, not per person.
Katz said, to be in compliance, they needs to be out of public view and out of reach of children. Plus, each plant needs to be labelled with the owners name, state identification number and a disclaimer that they are for personal use only.
“People have to read the fine print. We’re going to do our best to educate people but we’re not going to not enforce the law,” Katz said.
The Virginia Apartment Management Association is warning renters to proceed with caution. VAMA Executive Director Patrick McCloud said some leases have language banning substances considered illegal under state and federal law. He said that could cause problems since Congress has yet to address marijuana prohibition nationally. McCloud said tenants should check with management before getting started with home cultivation.
While he can’t speak for all departments, Katz said, in Chesterfield, police are not going to be asking where people got their seeds.
Katz said, in general, enforcement of home cultivation regulations will likely stem from complaints.
“I can tell you with absolute certainty that we are not going to create a task force to address homegrown marijuana plants. That’s not in the best interest of public safety or our community,” Katz said.
Another concern for Katz is preventing a boom in illegal sales while people are in the process of growing, since recreational stores can’t open yet.
“Those dynamics have created essentially a vacuum. It will drive people who wish to possess marijuana to street level drug dealers,” Katz said.
How to get from seed to smoke
Cody Anderson, a cannabis cultivation coach, said growing at home is a safer alternative for those concerned about toxins in black market products.
Anderson said it typically takes about six months to get from seed to smoke. He said first-time growers should consider taking a class to avoid trial and error.
While Virginians can legally grow outdoors if they follow state regulations, Anderson recommends growing indoors.
“You have to have control over heat and humidity, especially in Virginia,” Anderson said. “If you’re comfortable in an environment as a human, the plants are going to be comfortable as well.”
Anderson said there are also quality considerations that make indoor growth more desirable for beginners.
“You have to be careful when you’re ingesting it to make sure it doesn’t have mold on it. That can make you really sick,” Anderson said.
Anderson cautioned that the power needed to grow indoors is significant and potentially a fire hazard if not done properly.
“It can burn down houses and apartment buildings, between the lights and dehumidifiers needed to run all of this, it pulls a lot of power,” Anderson said. “That’s I think another reason the state of Virginia didn’t go huge. Four plants is plenty. It makes it so people can do it safely.”
Anderson said four plants, if grown properly, can produce a years-worth of marijuana.
“Depending on your grow style and how you’re growing, it’s not uncommon to get a pound a plant,” Anderson said.
While Virginians are allowed to possess up to an ounce of marijuana in public, Anderson said lawmakers set no clear limits on how much pot can be kept in a private residence.
“Right now, you can have three plants and be in compliance and also have 300 pounds of marijuana in your house and, under Virginia law, you’re solid,” Katz said.
That’s an area the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) has asked lawmakers to clarify in the future.
“I think it’s natural with legislation, especially big changes, to have to come back and fix things,” said Herring. “Again, it’s a breathing, living document and if there are changes that are needed, we will make those changes.”
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