As mentioned in News Joint Grow Journal 2, the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (Illinois House Bill 1438) has forced registered medical patients into a gray area of the law because Illinois requires patients to purchase cannabis seeds from dispensaries. However, Illinois dispensaries have not and do not sell cannabis genetics (they’ve accidently sold seeds inside eighths of flower). The law also states that seeds, cuts, and clones are not to be gifted or exchanged between patients.
Essentially, Illinois has caused registered medical patients, who want to procure seeds and grow their own medicine, to become criminals or go without. Illinois legislatures are working on a solution to this snafu in the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, but in the meantime, the Illinois cannabis industry market has adjusted and moved forward, with or without the State of Illinois’ consent.
Why do dispensaries not sell seeds? Creating stable genetics takes time, extra space, and expert resources, and in general, dispensaries want patients to buy flower from their cultivators, not grow medicine for themselves. In addition, the law is not black and white in how Illinois dispensary, cultivators, and brands are to legally go about procuring and selling genetics.
“How do I get seeds?” is one of the most ask questions we receive from medical patients. The patients I know or have communicated with desperately want to follow the law but are confused by where and how to purchase legal seeds or overwhelmed by the amount of choices offered.
Plenty of breeders and seed banks exist in the Unites States and across the pond, but plenty of scammers also exist. “Non-cannafam” patients who just want to grow their own medicine do not know the intricacies of the “seed bank and breeder industry” or of international, federal, or Illinois laws regarding seeds. They just want to grow their own personalized medicine in peace.
Without the State of Illinois changing or even publicity addressing this flaw in the law, the cannabis industry market, as markets do, has moved on without the State of Illinois. The biggest silver lining to this botched part of the law is that the free market has found a better process and solution for patients to procure seeds than patients would have had if dispensaries sold genetics.
For the last twenty months, Illinois “grow shops” have filled the demand for seeds by stocking a wide variety of genetics for medical patients. The market’s solution to the flawed law, I believe, has worked out exponentially more beneficial for patients than dispensaries could have offered for the following reason:
- Selection: grow shops are offering a greater variety of selection than Illinois dispensaries would have been able to offer. And why would an Illinois patient want to continually grow strains that only Illinois offers? The point to growing your own medicine is to grow the exact strain the gives the patient the most relief.
- Quality: grow shops are offering top-notch genetics from the best breeders around. Patients don’t have to worry about the quality of the genetics, because grow shop owners and staff members are usually growers themselves and know the difference.
- Cheaper: It’s difficult to judge what prices Illinois dispensaries would charge for seeds, but if Illinois cannabis-product prices are any indication, then the grow shops are surely selling the genetics cheaper than patients would have had to pay at dispensaries.
- Better access: Now that grow shops carry genetics, patients do not have to order seeds online or through the mail and risk breaking the law, losing the seeds in delivery, scammers, and other complications. Grow shops are already strategically placed throughout Illinois and accessible to most Illinoisans, and each month new grow shops are opening.
- Supports local businesses: Grow shops are local. Most grow shops have been around and are well established in the community, often for longer than local dispensaries. Buying from grow shops invest not only in the community but also supports the “local grow community” that grow shops have already garnered, supported, and advocated for.
- Patient access to expertise: grow shops, as mention, are usually owned and staffed by medical patients who have experience growing their own medicine. Grow shops employees (with some exceptions I’m sure) better understand strain lineages and medical effects. We constantly hear about “patient specialist” at dispensaries incorrectly “weedsplaining” strains and effects to patients. Now image the advice a patient would get about genetics from a dispensary “specialist” who has never grown medicine. Getting bad advice on an eighth of flower is one thing. Image ruining a patient’s entire grow with bad advice.
- Patient support: growing is a long-term project, and grow shops can better supply follow up questions and solutions to problems for a patient’s first or one-hundredth grow. Grow shops also supply the exact equipment a patient needs to germinate, grow, and harvest medicine. Growing is a series of adjustment, and access to expertise and equipment is a great benefit.
- Grow community: maybe the most overlooked benefit of purchasing genetics at grow shops is the chance to become part of a local “grow community” to help expand knowledge, make new likeminded friends, and become an overall better grower. Legalization has offered the benefit of sharing classes and other sources on how to grow your own medicine that were not available even five years ago. Take advantage of it.
The frustration and contempt that seeps through this opinion piece, even when I am purposely trying not to, is not aimed toward the State of Illinois, legislatures, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, or Illinois Department of Agriculture. I’m a lifetime Illinoisan: born, raised, and educated. I expect Illinois to be Illinois.
This frustration and contempt spawns from empathy and concern I feel for fellow patients, who have been placed in an untenable situation. I have heard their confusion and frustration firsthand. Some have even felt intimidated by the law.
When I first started News Joint Grow Journal and ran across this problem, I wanted Illinois to fix it. I’ve changed my mind.
The market has spoken and fixed a problem for medical patients that Illinois itself created. Illinois and dispensaries now need to stay away from selling seeds, and Illinois should instead write into the law a legal way for patients, grow shops, breeders, and “the grow community” to continue what the they have already created. This market adjustment for patients already functions smoother than nearly every other aspect of the law.