The cannabis industry has evolved rapidly since California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis in 1996. Today, 36 states and Washington, D.C., have medical marijuana programs. Eighteen states have legalized recreational cannabis. Given that more states have laws for growing medical cannabis, it makes sense for many entrepreneurs to focus on that area of the industry. Eventually, your state will probably make cannabis accessible to all adults. Until then, follow this 2021 guide to getting into growing medical cannabis.
Know Your State’s Laws for Growing Medical Cannabis
Don’t make any assumptions about your state’s medical cannabis laws. Growing medical cannabis in California is not the same as growing medical cannabis in Florida. Each state has its own set of unique laws and guidelines.
Alaska and West Virginia offer a glimpse into the radical differences between cannabis laws in the United States.
The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services lets caregivers and patients grow up to six plants at a time. The state legalized medical cannabis by vote in 1998. The government tried to criminalize cannabis again, but the Alaska Court of Appeals sided with voters. If you want to avoid the restrictions of medical cannabis cultivation and sales, you now have the option to use and sell recreational marijuana. Alaska made recreational cannabis legal in 2014.
As of 2017, West Virginia allows medical cannabis for patients with select conditions, including terminal illnesses, chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder, and cancer. The West Virginia Health and Human Resources Bureau for Public Health has more information about qualifying conditions and the types of cannabis products allowed within the state. The law does not allow any home cultivation. Recreational cannabis is strictly forbidden by West Virginia law. Unfortunately, neither voters nor lawmakers seem keen on legalizing recreational use for adults.
Given the considerable differences between the states’ medical cannabis laws, you should contact your local agency for guidelines that will help you cultivate medical cannabis without breaking any rules. Take this very seriously. One mistake could mean that you don’t receive a license to grow cannabis. If you decide to grow cannabis without a license, you could face serious fines and jail time.
The following links will help you learn more about cultivating medical cannabis in your state:
Options for Cultivating Medical Cannabis
Medical cannabis cultivators usually rely on three growing options:
- Indoor cultivation
- Outdoor farming
- Greenhouse cultivation
Each option comes with pros and cons that you should know before you invest in a property.
Indoor Cultivation Pros and Cons
Indoor cultivation is the most high-tech option for growing cannabis. It also tends to give you the most product for your space.
- You maintain extraordinary control over your growing environment, including the amount of light and humidity that plants experience.
- Cultivators can adjust lighting conditions and temperatures to maximize cannabis flowering at specific times of the plant’s growth cycle.
- Growers get better protection from pests and diseases, which makes it easier to grow large, healthy flowers that command high prices in dispensaries.
- Since you control the environment, you can grow medical cannabis throughout the year regardless of seasonal changes.
- Indoor cultivators can grow a lot of cannabis within small spaces.
- You get excellent security from humans and animals that might want to access your plants.
- Controlling the growing environment means you have to invest a lot of money in equipment, such as grow lights, humidifiers, dehumidifiers, heaters, and irrigation systems.
- Warehouse spaces in green zones often have high prices.
- If a virus gets into your grow operation, it can affect your entire crop very quickly. You might have to destroy your plants and start over.
- Some pests might get into the warehouse and feed on your plants. Unfortunately, your plants do not get protection from beneficial insects like ladybugs and praying mantises.
- Unless you install solar panels, expect to use a lot of external resources like electricity and municipal water to grow your plants.
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Outdoor Cultivation Pros and Cons
Outdoor cultivation doesn’t yield as much cannabis, but it often has significantly lower costs. The land that you choose, however, will play a significant role in the success of your medical cannabis cultivation.
- Outdoor cultivation is the least expensive option for growing medical cannabis because you don’t have to invest in expensive equipment. While you need an irrigation system to maintain moisture, most of your inputs come directly from the environment.
- Some consumers prefer cannabis grown outdoors because they feel the process is more natural, which could lead to better healing properties.
- Many medical cannabis strains have been grown outdoors for centuries, so they adapt well to farm conditions.
- You don’t need to use nearly as much electricity and municipal water to grow medical cannabis outdoors, which helps you save money and reduces strain on the environment.
- You can introduce beneficial insects to help control pest populations.
- Exposure to the elements doesn’t always lead to positive outcomes. Any extremes, such as a severe storm or excessive heat, could cause significant damage to your crop.
- You have very little security on a farm. Even if you erect a fence around the property, expect animals, especially deer and rabbits, to eat some of your crops.
- Depending on your location, you may have a short growing season.
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Greenhouse Cultivation Pros and Cons
Greenhouse cultivation gives you a middle ground between indoor and outdoor grow operations. It’s definitely worth exploring, especially when you want more protection than a farm offers but don’t want to invest in the expensive equipment an indoor operation requires.
- Companies make a wide range of commercial greenhouses that you can use to meet your production goals.
- Greenhouses extend the growing season without forcing cultivators to use a lot of electricity and other resources that could harm the environment.
- Greenhouses generally cost much less than indoor grow operations.
- You can protect your cannabis plants from severe weather and most animals.
- Although cheaper than indoor grow operations, greenhouses often cost much more than farmland.
- The confined environment could mean that a virus or infestation destroys your entire crop.
- You get an extended growing season, but you might not be able to grow throughout the year.
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Making Money to Support Medical Cannabis Cultivation
Some people start growing cannabis specifically because they want to grow natural medicine that improves the lives of patients in their areas. Others start cannabis businesses strictly to make money. More often than not, medical cannabis cultivators understand that it takes both attitudes to grow cannabis successfully. You cannot continue growing when you don’t have enough money to support your operation. Then again, you can lose sight of patient needs when you grow exclusively for profits.
With that said, making money is obviously an essential aspect of medical cannabis cultivation.
Creating a Business Plan
Any state’s licensing agency will want to review your business plan to make sure you have the funds and process to meet the needs of patients. Spend time writing and adding details to your business plan. A good one will make it much easier for you to get a cultivation permit.
Your business plan will need to include several sections. You can step outside of the boundaries somewhat, but you must include:
- An executive summary that gives readers a brief overview of your business plan. Focus on grabbing the reader’s attention with short, punchy sentences that will make them want to keep reading.
- A solution section that identifies a problem you want your business to solve and how you plan to find a solution.
- A market opportunity section that provides data about your market size, local trends in medical cannabis, how regulations will influence your processes, and what competitors already exist.
- A strategic execution section that lays out a timeline of when you plan to reach milestones and how you will measure metrics to ensure progress.
- A marketing section that discusses what makes your brand stand out, the products you plan to offer patients, how much you think you will charge for your products, how you plan to promote your products while staying within regulatory guidelines, and where you plan to offer your products to patients.
- An operations section that explains your cultivation techniques. You should also discuss topics like security, personnel requirements, technology for your facility, and whether you already have real estate for your grow operation.
- A compliance section is important for most businesses. It really stands out in the cannabis industry. Listing the regulations and how you plan to comply shows that you understand your obligations and how seriously the government takes cannabis.
- A company section that describes essential team members who will make your business successful. If you already have a master grower prepared to work with you, this is the place to talk about that person’s credentials! You might also want to provide information about the professionals you consult when making cannabis business decisions.
- A financial section that shows you have a solid plan for generating revenues over time. This section needs to provide straightforward information about your finances. If you plan to invest your personal wealth, describe how much you will contribute. If you have investors, list their contributions. Some states will want to see that you have a certain amount of capital before giving you a license. Fudging the numbers to get a license will only come back to haunt you. Be honest!
- Appendices can include any additional information you think the licensing authority needs to know about you, your team, and your business proposal. It might include sales forecasts, market data, a profit and loss statement, and charts that provide visual evidence of your research.
Writing a persuasive business plan isn’t easy. Connect with a cannabis business consultant who has ample experience in the industry. Spending a little money now on a consultant could help you save a lot of time applying for your cultivation license.
Securing Funds for Your Medical Cannabis Grow Operation
How do you plan to fund your medical cannabis grow operation? Do you have enough money to purchase equipment, lease warehouse space, and pay employees? Getting started could easily cost $250,000, and that’s for a fairly small operation.
Unless you have quite a bit of money saved, you will need to rely on funders to start your business. Unfortunately, federal law makes it nearly impossible for you to get a small business loan from a bank or credit union. The good news is that private funders and lenders will often step in to fill the gap.
420 Property can help you explore options for:
- Cannabis and hemp business credit and loans
- Capital advisory, investment capital, and private debt
- Commercial real estate loans
- Equipment leasing and loans
You don’t necessarily need an excellent credit score to qualify for medical cannabis cultivation funding. You don’t have anything to lose by applying, so you might as well see whether you qualify. It could be a significant step to starting the business of your dreams.
Forming Relationships in the Medical Cannabis Community
Business success often depends on how well you can form relationships with other people in your industry. That applies to medical cannabis just as much as any other type of business.
Take time to get to know the people active in your local community of cultivators, caregivers, and dispensary operators. Attend conferences and meetings. Offer to exchange information and products (assuming that your laws allow this). Get involved in patient advocacy so you can grow opportunities for companies like yours growing medical cannabis.
The more you become a part of your medical cannabis community, the easier it becomes for you to form partnerships that lead to mutual benefits.
You might want to spend all of your time mixing strains to create a unique product for your brand. That’s great, but you have to balance your time in the lab with time socializing. Business isn’t all about numbers. It’s often about who you know and how much you’re willing to help others reach their goals.
Staying Current With Your Industry’s Latest Laws and Trends
The cannabis industry evolves rapidly! The regulations that shape your approach to marketing and sales today may not work within a few years. Make time to pay attention to changes that lawmakers suggest in your state. The introduction of any cannabis-related bill could affect your long-term business strategy.
You also need to keep up with trends within the industry. Know what types of strains patients prefer right now. Do your customers want to buy flowers or edibles? Do they prefer indica, sativa, or hybrids? Information from a few years ago might not mean much tomorrow, so you need to keep your eye on the future.
Choose Cannabis Strains Known for Their Medicinal Properties
Cannabis legalization has encouraged cultivators to create hundreds of new breeds. Patients often feel confused when they first start learning about how different strains can treat their ailments. Luckily, they have experienced caregivers who can narrow their options for them.
You might experience similar confusion when you start growing medical cannabis legally. With so many strains to choose from, how do you know which ones patients will want to buy?
Scientists still don’t have a full understanding of how cannabis and the endocannabinoid system work together to maintain health and remedy symptoms. Until we have concrete data that shows how certain amounts of THC, CBD, terpenes, and other chemicals interact with specific health concerns, you will have to rely on anecdotal evidence.
You might want to grow several types of medical cannabis to give dispensaries, caregivers, and patients some options. The following strains, however, have positive reputations for treating a variety of health problems.
Blue Dream is a sativa strain that induces euphoria and happiness. Many people report that it helps them regain their appetites. That potentially makes Blue Dream a good treatment for cancer patients struggling to maintain their weight.
Technically, Cataract Kush is a hybrid strain, but it often has 20% THC that makes it feel pretty intense for inexperienced users. Cataract Kush is often recommended for people suffering from chronic nerve pain. Many people also find it uplifting and relaxing. Inexperienced users may feel anxious after using Cataract Kush. It’s powerful medicine that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Lavender is an indica strain with fairly low levels of THC and quite a bit of CBD. It’s known for helping people feel relaxed and happy. Caregivers commonly recommend it for patients struggling with insomnia. Many people also find that Lavender eases chronic pain. If you have anxiety, this is probably a good option for you since very few people report paranoia and other adverse effects.
Sour Diesel is a sativa-dominant cannabis variety frequently used to treat depression and stress. It’s known for its uplifting and energetic qualities. Equally importantly, very few people report feeling paranoid after taking Sour Diesel, which adds to its usefulness as a mental health treatment.
White Widow is a hybrid strain with sativa and indica qualities. For many people, this is a “best of both worlds” solution because the sativa properties make them feel euphoric, while the indica properties help them relax.
Other Medical Cannabis Strains to Consider
Other strains popular for their medical applications include:
- Crimea Blue
- White Berry
- G13 Haze
- Northern Lights
- Jack Herer
Find the Right Property for Medical Cannabis Cultivation
The cannabis industry relies on green zone properties that allow cultivation. When you see the number of properties available in your state, you might feel overwhelmed by the options. 420 Property makes the process much easier with listings that give you detailed information about indoor, outdoor, and greenhouse properties.
Find your property today and start growing medical cannabis!