What is “Small-scale cultivation for personal use” and “plant count limits” all about?


The phrase, “small-scale cultivation for personal use” is an important one to be familiar with if you grow cannabis at home, or plan to. Small scale cultivation for personal use is legal phraseology often included in legislation that speaks to home grower rights, rules, and unfortunately, infamous cannabis plant count numbers. Small scale cultivation is about growing for yourself, for personal consumption, and non-commercial purposes. 

There have been several states to introduce plant count numbers in the recent medical and recreational cannabis green rush. Two, three, four and six plant count numbers are common go-to plant count numbers at this point. Unfortunately, these arbitrary numbers are an example of excessive red tape perpetuated by those individuals in state and local governments who likely lack an understanding of cultivation in general. How so? Someone somewhere thought they should decide how many plants you ought be able to grow at home. Sounds like a slippery slope, doesn’t it? 

But wait, is this even remotely enforceable? Probably not. Not really. First, there would need to be a department dedicated to patrolling private properties to incriminate citizens. Here privacy rights are infringed and it’s not economically viable to do such patrolling. Governments and police are already steeped in problematic and expensive illicit commercial cannabis industry crackdowns. We are talking enormous illicit warehouses, outdoor grows, and even international trade. There’s just much bigger fish to fry than to go after law abiding citizens who might want to grow more than 6 plants. 

At the end of the day, we are on the honor system. And it is sad we need permission to grow a plant. But let’s honestly and honorably improve the model before it too late. 


Thinking about plant count limits…

Could you imagine a cap on how many tomatoes or carrots you could grow at home for yourself? This is laughable. But the point is, would the rules be based on how many plants you have? Or on the total produced product? In home-brewing, where people brew their own beer at home, the most common guideline is 100 – 200 gallons per year as a cap. This translates to 1/2 a keg to 1 keg worth of beer a month (depending on how many people live with you.) Interesting, right? 

Did you know different tomato plant varieties will yield different amounts of tomatoes? And the same goes for cannabis plants!

In cannabis cultivation, plants are often divided into three categories in terms of their yield-potential. Low yielding, medium yielding, and heavy yielding plants are common phrases. One can easily argue it would make more sense to focus on yields and produced product as a metric, not the number of actual plants. Plus, if you want to try breeding, propagating, etc., you are limited by a restrictive 4 or 6 plant count less. Is it really necessary?

Some options are to either scale cannabis plant count limits to 99, remove them all together, or remove them all and institute guidelines based on total produced product like home-brewing, which has monthly caps. Limiting cannabis by total yield ends up being problematic as there are several categories of plant to consider: stems/stalks, your best buds, your larf (small, popcorn sized cannabis flowers), your trim, as well as the leaves. Sure, the different parts of the plant can be utilized in various ways, yet what is counted weight-wise if there were cannabis yield caps instead of plant count numbers? 

To make matters more complex, there’s also “wet” weight and “dry” weight. The weight of cannabis plants changes considerably as it dries.  

Overall, to restrict based on yield, is an algorithm that micromanages, not empowers people. 


It would be a step in the right direction to pair small scale cannabis cultivation for personal use with 99 plant count limits. Or remove restrictions completely.


Consider the fact that a seasoned home grower can actually grow just one cannabis plant and harvest more than the person struggling with home growing as a beginner with three, four, or even six plants. That is if they know how to grow cannabis skillfully. Granted, large harvests from just one plant require many more months of work and gardening to allow the plant time to evolve to it’s maximum potential.

Or consider that a new grower may try their hand at growing two cannabis plants, but lose both due to pests or disease or some other cultivation mishap. Or consider that a grower with regular cannabis seeds may end up with males or hermaphrodites, which are not desirable. In cannabis cultivation, there are regular seeds which can spawn females, males or hermaphrodites, and there are feminized seeds (“Fem Seeds”) which are seeds altered by hormones to ensure an extremely high percentage of female plants. If you only have regular seeds, to ensure you get 2 female plants, you would need to plant several regular seeds, but according to plant count numbers, this would be prohibited…illegal. 

It is possible that plant count limits may stem from a bit of fear. Government officials, out of fear, may assume you’ll have an incentive to sell it illegally. This doesn’t reflect much faith in people. Besides, when people grow more cannabis than they need, they are generous with it and share it among their close friends and family. Share, as in, give away for free. In California, legally you can give it away, but you may not sell it under any circumstances. 

Not everyone can grow enough cannabis flower on 3 plants to meet their needs. This is especially true for new growers. New growers rarely make it through their first harvest or three without any problems or with exquisite results and heavy yields. Whether its pests, powdery mildew, over watering, under watering, or gardeners following bad advice or growing finicky genetics — new beginners struggle with growing cannabis for the first time. Like any new hobby, it takes time to learn. Plant count laws truly make it difficult for new home growers trying to be law-abiding citizens while learning to grow and start a lifelong hobby for personal pleasure. 

When you are learning to grow, it’s ideal to play and experiment with seedlings, planting seeds including feminized seeds, regular seeds, auto-flowering seeds, planting clones, cloning at home, experimenting with different lighting, and different cannabis varieties. This is just the tip of the ice-berg in terms of learning the art of cannabis cultivation. To insist on 2, 3, 4, and 6 cannabis plant count limits is unnecessary on many levels. 


So why cannabis plant count numbers?


Cannabis plant counts may stem from fear and ignorance about gardening, verses fear and ignorance around home-growers squelching commercial cannabis profits. If officials and lawmakers realized that cannabis plants don’t grow into enormous plants without a significant amount of time and effort (like 4 months + for a very heavy yielding plant) and that beginners struggle maintaining them, they might offer a looser leash. No leash at all would best, but perhaps a 99 plant count number would be a more feasible step. 

Plant count numbers like 2, 3 or 6 barely meet people’s needs or wants. Higher plant count numbers would allow people to experiment, take their time, make mistakes and not have it jeopardize their yield needs. People should be able to grow without fear of scarcity or of being nefarious. A 99 plant count gives people the ability to start an enriching lifelong hobby, that empowers them to be giving and grow generously for their family and friends. It also gives people permission to get creative with cannabis cultivation and have a relaxed approach towards it. People learn much quicker and become seasoned gardeners far faster when they are surrounded by more than a few plants.


Plant count numbers in 2020


New Hampshire just announced a 3 plant count for patients. Washington is considering a 6 plant count per person and 15 plant count per household. California has a 6 plant count for adults over the age of 21, but there is also a contentious co-existence of Prop 64 and Prop 215 to consider. Prop 64 has the recreational laws on the books, which is where the 6 plant count comes from. However, Prop 215 gives Californians with doctor recommendations the right to grow as much cannabis “as they need according to their condition.” This is another excellent model to consider in addition to a 99 plant count number limit or total produced yield. 

You might think commercial cannabis businesses would be against home growing and home growers. You are correct, but to a lesser extent that you might assume. To a great extent, home growing is treated with much respect and sanctity. Cannabis business owners and the cannabis industry workforce are extremely supportive of home growers and home growing. Nevertheless, some government officials and lobbyists inevitably write legislation that attempts to make home growing illegal as in Louisiana

But to this day, only a small percentage of cannabis consumers actually grow at home. Numbers will change over the years with informed cannabis law reform and more cannabis growing education. 


Small scale cultivation for personal use should be as common as apple pie!