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The new pot gardener

October 2, 2010 |  6:00 am

Marijuana-storyCall it the newest gardening trend: Marijuana activists, dispensary owners and growers say there's been an uptick of medical marijuana patients growing pot for themselves.

The new profile of the home grower is primarily middle-aged or older. It's someone who chooses to grow indoors to get a more frequent harvest and avoid caterpillars, slugs, spider mites and powdery mildew the main enemies of the cannabis plant. 

From my story on home-grown marijuana this week:

The reasons are varied: Buying medical marijuana at a dispensary can be expensive and uncomfortable for those who don't identify with marijuana culture, and now that the city of Los Angeles has declared that just 41 of the remaining 169 dispensaries are eligible to stay open, finding a convenient place to buy marijuana is becoming increasingly difficult, especially for those with a debilitating illness. The organically minded are concerned about chemicals that might be in marijuana they don't grow themselves, and still others worry about where their pot came from. "I don't want to fund terrorism," one home-grower says.

Some gardeners — and many do see this simply as a form of gardening — say they get the same soothing pleasure from tinkering with grow lights, temperature controls, fertilizers and additives as others get from nurturing prized rose bushes or carefully pruning bonsai trees.

But is it legal? Keep reading for the answer ...

Growing pot at home: What's legal?

If you have a recommendation from a doctor to use medical marijuana, it is also legal for you to grow it, in limited quantities. The trouble is figuring out how much you can grow before law enforcement comes after you. A timeline of the rules in California:

1996: Proposition 215 passes, making it legal for "seriously ill" Californians and their primary caregivers to grow marijuana for medical purposes if medical use has been recommended by a physician. No limit for how much marijuana a person with a recommendation can grow or possess is set at this time.

2004: Senate Bill 420, the Medical Marijuana Program Act, goes into effect. The bill establishes a voluntary registration of medical marijuana patients and their primary caregivers through a statewide identification card system. The bill's guidelines state that a cardholder can possess up to 8 ounces of dried marijuana or may cultivate as many as six mature or 12 immature plants. Individual counties may choose to set higher limits, but no county may set a lower limit.

2010: In People vs. Kelly, the state Supreme Court holds that patients can possess or cultivate as much as is "reasonably necessary." They cannot be convicted simply for exceeding the possession or cultivation guidelines in SB 420; however, they can be forced to defend themselves in court.

Deborah Netburn

Illustration: Ellen Weinstein for The Times