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States Struggle with the First-Seed Problem

September 7, 2016

How can you start growing cannabis when it’s not legal to obtain the first clone or seed? Unfortunately, the answer isn’t so easy. Each state that has legalized medical marijuana has struggled with how to address the issue that has been dubbed by some in the industry as the “first-seed problem.”

This problem affects not only growers beginning their business in a state preparing for legalization. It can also be an issue for growers who are already established and want to expand into another state that’s in the process of legalization.

The first-seed problem is primarily a legal quandary: how and where professional can growers legally acquire initial seeds, cuttings, clones or plants to begin a grow operation according to state law, but without violating federal law. The states themselves are unsure how to handle this issue. They can’t sanction or can’t guarantee no legal action for violating the federal law of purchasing and transporting cannabis across state lines.

Each state has a different, but unhelpful, approach as to how growers should handle the problem. Many states will at least acknowledge that the problem is a common one by placing it on the state website’s Frequently Asked Questions section.

But the state usually follows it with an answer that provides zero information. Montana, for example, has as its question: “Where can I get materials and marijuana seeds or cuttings to get started?” The answer is: “The department does not have information about growing marijuana, but recommends using the Internet, family and friends as resources to find information.”

Some states avoid the issue altogether in the legislation they have passed, and simply do not mention it in the law or the FAQ section. In Illinois, the question states, “Do the rules address where initial seeds/clones come from?” The answer is a simple “no” without further explanation or guidance for growers who wish to comply with the laws.

Other states take the direct approach and let growers know the truth: There is no legal way to acquire initial product. Hawaii’s health department addresses the problem this way: “DOH is not a resource for access to marijuana and does not have information to give to patients. At this time, there are no legal means to purchase marijuana or marijuana seeds or plants.”

Unfortunately, there are no legal options, unless a grower is starting their operation in a state where legalization has already begun. Many growers obtain their inventory from people in the state who were growing cannabis prior to legalization. They don’t have to cross state lines or have seeds mailed—and risk being charged with drug trafficking—all the while hoping the state looks the other way.

Additional Resources:

Hawaii FAQ:  http://health.hawaii.gov/medicalmarijuana/patients/growing-medical-marijuana/

Nevada FAQ:


Montana FAQ: https://dphhs.mt.gov/marijuana/mmpfaq.aspx#159682084-where-can-i-get-materials-and-marijuana-seeds-or-cuttings-to-get-started


By: Devon Landis
Cannabis Cultivation Today articles are for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal guidance or advice on grow practices. You should contact an attorney or a qualified cultivation consultant for specific compliance and cultivation advice.
 © 2016 CAN Performance Group, LLC. All rights reserved.



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