The problem with plant counts – are home grow laws fair?

hands in front of cannabis plants home grow laws

There are 38 states with some type of legal cannabis, but home cultivation is only permitted in a handful of locations. Proponents believe adults should have the freedom to grow their own products. Those opposed feel home grow would weaken the legal industry and embolden the illicit market.

Most states that permit home grow limit the number of plants an individual can have at one time. Medical marijuana patients are often allowed more plants than adult-use consumers. However, many argue that plant counts are an unfair and arbitrary way to regulate gardens.

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Anyone who is familiar with how cannabis grows understands that no two plants are quite alike. The genetics, environment, and inputs can all factor into a weed plant’s size. Some people are lucky to get a small amount of smokable bud from an individual plant, while others may be blessed with bountiful pounds (especially if grown outdoors).

Cultivation expert and author Ed Rosenthal points to the U.S. Constitution in his argument against plant counts, saying the variation in sizes leads to a lack of equanimity among home growers.

“Cannabis laws that limit the number of plants are unconstitutional under the last clause of the 14th Amendment, which states, ‘nor deny to any person within its (a state’s) jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,’” Rosenthal told GreenState.

“The reason for this is that using plant numbers is not a valid way of measuring the amount of cannabis. A small ripe plant yielding only a few ounces, or even less than an ounce, is considered equally in plant counts with a plant weighing 10 lbs. This is not equal treatment under the law because it results in different weights being treated equally for purposes of determining guilt or punishment.”

Some may argue that canopy size (i.e., the square footage of a cannabis garden) would be a better way to regulate home grow. But should there be limits at all?

Home grow has long been a contentious debate for state legislators mulling cannabis reform, with opponents claiming illegal sales will continue and that home property values could be diminished. However, these theories remain to be seen.

Personal cultivation may be ideal for folks who don’t have an easy route to a dispensary. Perhaps the closest retail is far away, delivery isn’t available, or medical issues make leaving home challenging. Growing their own also allows people to monitor and control what goes into their bud (and their bodies).

The idea that allowing people to grow as much weed as they want leads to increased crime hasn’t been proven. There are no statistics indicating home grow hurts licensed cannabis. Many states also require cannabis to be grown inside due to safety concerns, which may be less sustainable than sun grown. 

It may take time before these claims are proven one way or the other, but can growing your own really be that bad? Everyone knows a tomato fresh from the garden is 100 times better than store-bought—can’t we say the same about the weed we smoke?


Rachelle Gordon

Rachelle Gordon is a cannabis journalist and Editor of She began her weed writing journey in 2015 and has been featured in High Times, CannabisNow, Beard Bros, MG, Skunk, Cannabis and Tech Today, and many others. Rachelle currently splits her time between Minneapolis and Oakland; her favorite cannabis cultivars include Silver Haze and Tangie. Follow Rachelle on Instagram @rachellethewriter