For many, cannabis can be a great medicine.  It can help with pain management, anxiety and depression, insomnia, nausea and vomiting, and other symptoms of diseases like cancer, fibromyalgia, Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis, Multiple Sclerosis, ALS, Ehlers Danlos, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and many others.  How and how much cannabis you need depends on what the problems are, and are discussed in detail in other articles on this site.  However, one of the things cannabis is not, is cheap.  

Compared to many medications, it actually is inexpensive, but most medications are covered by your health insurance.  You have no idea and don’t bear the burden of the real cost of most medicines.  Health insurance doesn’t currently pay for cannabis medications however.  That cost is fully on the patient.  

To save on the cost of cannabis medicine, many patients ask about growing their own.  For some, this is a reasonable option, but it’s not as simple and easy as it sounds.  

Growing Cannabis Is Like Playing the Guitar

I often tell people that growing cannabis is like playing the guitar.  People say “it’s a weed, how hard can it be?”  And they’re right, and they’re wrong.  Like plinking out “Michael Row Your Boat Ashore” on the guitar, growing some cannabis is easy.  But growing safe and effective medicine is more like becoming Eddie Van Halen – not so easy.  

It turns out that a lot goes into doing this well.  Most cannabis doesn’t grow “true” from seeds.  This means that you can’t be sure exactly what you’ll get, which is why cloning is more often employed by professional growers.  

The length of time the plant is allowed to grow after it starts flowering, and even the length of time it is allowed to “cure” after harvesting can affect the chemical content of the flower.  

Growing Can Be Dangerous

Cannabis is what’s called an “avid” plant:  it absorbs chemicals readily from its soil and water.  Most plants don’t.   Planting cannabis in ordinary potting soil or in your back yard can lead to the absorption of pesticides, plastics, heavy metals, and other toxins that don’t show up in your tomatoes.  Of course, these then get concentrated in the very flowers that we need to use.  These chemicals can cause cancer, fertility issues, and neurologic degeneration – not to be messed around with. 

Even hydroponics doesn’t solve the problem necessarily.  Many of these same metals and toxins are in our normal water supply – which seems fine for us in small doses – but becomes problematic when the cannabis plant concentrates them over time. 

What’s The Solution?

There are ways to do this right and safely, of course.  They require knowing about the problems and seeking the solutions.  For example, special soil can be used that is free of chemicals and metals.  Similarly, reverse-osmosis systems can be used to filter water making it safe to use for hydroponic cannabis growing. 

Using appropriate fertilizer for cannabis plants is key, not only to their growth, but to the safety of the end-product.  Length of time between last fertilization and harvest makes a difference too.

However, the most important step is to test the final product.  As more countries and states have legalized cannabis for medical or other use, labs have become available to test the commercial products.  Many will test for private citizens as well. 

What gets tested for varies and you need to be sure you request the correct tests.  Some labs will test for potency either at a reduced rate or even for free!  However, as we’ve discussed, that’s just not good enough.  You need to get the safety profile tested including all those pesticides and heavy metals.  That’s usually not cheap!

Prices we’ve seen range from $200-600 for the full testing.  This is cheap enough for commercial growers, but still tough for home-growers, especially those who are doing so to save money on their medicine. 

I’ve argued for quite some time that states should allow home-growing of cannabis but should find some way to require testing and subsidize the cost.  Perhaps some of all those billions the recreational market is supposedly generating in taxes should cover patients’ testing costs. 

Ultimately, I’m not sure the cost savings of growing your own are worth the effort and risk.

Cannabis Derived Products

For many, their cannabis medical regimen doesn’t include flower directly.  They need edibles to treat their illness. 

Making your own edibles is another process that requires time, knowledge, and practice.  It turns out that due to the nature of cannabinoids (cannabis medicinal chemicals), making good edibles isn’t easy or reliable.  There are several recipes on this site for those who need them.  However, I usually urge patients to start their medical treatment with commercially available products so that we can be fairly confident that they’ll work as expected as we adjust the regimen.  Once we have a stable treatment, then homemade versions could be considered.  Of course, once those homemade products are done they, too, should be tested for potency and safety. 

In the end, growing your own cannabis, and making products from it, is not as easy as it seems and will likely not save money until you get good at it and do it for a long time.  For many patients who don’t have a green-thumb, the inclination, or are otherwise occupied by their illness, growing cannabis is likely a frustrating, expensive, and potentially dangerous side-track to their well-being. 

Consult with a Qualified Boston Medical Marijuana Expert Today 

Those considering using THC, CBD, or any type of medicine found in cannabis to help manage their condition should consider speaking to a trained medical expert who is knowledgeable about using cannabis therapeutically. Massachusetts medical marijuana doctor Jordan Tishler, M.D. sits on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and has years of experience helping patients treat pain and other ailments using cannabis. He and the team at InhaleMD stand ready to assist patients in determining whether medical marijuana is right for them. For more information, or to set up a virtual consultation with the team at InhaleMD, call us at (617) 477-8886 today.

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