Legal sales of cannabis in the United States grew 67% last year, which equates to almost $18 billion. Still, it’s estimated that illegal sales are several times higher (the global marijuana market is likely worth over $340 billion).
Needless to say, weed is big business – and licensed dispensaries are enjoying significant profits. For newcomers, the $300+ an ounce you pay probably doesn’t seem so bad. After all, dispensaries have enormous overheads to consider. However, once you delve deeper, you’ll find that cultivating marijuana at home is significantly cheaper in the long run.
DID YOU KNOW? Growing cannabis at home is significantly cheaper in the long run compared to buying from a dispensary.
The question is whether you should take the time and effort to do it. This article compares dispensary cannabis versus growing at home for five different categories.
Buying Weed From A Dispensary vs. Growing Your Own
1 – Cost
Growing at Home
Even the most basic grow room requires the following:
- Cannabis seeds
- Soil or another growing medium
- Plant pots
- Lighting such as a metal halide bulb
- A carbon filter
- Zip ties, stakes, and trellising
- A fan
- A grow tent
You must also factor in increased electricity costs. Then there is the slight matter of the time spent setting everything up and monitoring your plants. If you choose a hydroponics setup, you’re adding hundreds of dollars to your start-up costs.
It is possible to create a grow tent for a few bucks. However, a decent setup will likely cost over $1,000. The price rises to $4,000+ for a higher quality operation. On the plus side, invest in high-quality equipment, and your costs will reduce over the long-term.
The cost of cannabis varies according to where you live. Research from the Oxford Treatment Center found that an ounce of high-quality marijuana from a licensed dispensary was $326. However, it cost $210 in Oregon and $597 in Washington, D.C.
Research by American Marijuana found that marijuana consumers spent an average of $42 on cannabis per week. That equates to $2,184 annually, or just under seven ounces at national average prices. These are of course rough figures, but they do give an insight into average cannabis expenditure for both rec and MMJ users.
DID YOU KNOW? Cannabis users in legalized states spend an average of $42 per week on marijuana.
Verdict on Cost
If you use significantly more than seven ounces of cannabis in a year, it is worth considering growing your own (if you can do it legally). An ‘average’ cannabis consumer probably spends more in a year than the cost of a decent quality growing setup. By the second year, it is likely worth your while as your ongoing cultivation costs are reduced.
2 – Quality
Growing at Home
A few years ago, this would be no contest – dispensary weed would have been an easy winner. These days, things are different. The variety of high-quality seeds is enormous, and you’re spoiled for choice by what reputable breeders offer. For example, it is easy to find strains with THC levels over 25%.
Also, cultivating your own cannabis means you know precisely what goes into it. You can avoid chemical fertilizers to guarantee organic marijuana, for example. You also know whether you used pesticides or herbicides.
Furthermore, there is an immense level of information on marijuana cultivation (consider our own WayofLeaf growing library, for example). Also, once you get your first harvest right, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect. Growing cannabis will no longer seem intimidating.
Despite the wealth of information available at your fingertips, you’re still going to make plenty of mistakes growing your own weed. Licensed dispensaries, on the other hand, get their products from expert growers that seldom make errors. The bud they produce is expertly harvested, dried, cured, packaged, and delivered with very few inconsistencies.
Contrary to what you may read online, reputable dispensaries don’t tolerate low-quality cannabis. After all, they have a reputation to uphold in an increasingly competitive industry. Also, states with MMJ or recreational programs have strict guidelines on growing and selling weed; dispensaries caught breaking the rules are heavily punished and could lose their licenses.
Verdict on Quality
Unless you’re an experienced grower using high-quality genetic strains, dispensaries will almost always provide better quality cannabis.
3 – Abundance & Variety
Growing at Home
Depending on where you live, it is possible to grow up to six mature plants. It is entirely possible to get up to 20 ounces per plant, even when cultivated indoors. You’ll benefit from even more bud with outdoor-grown cannabis. However, cultivating this much weed is far from practical for most people, as state laws clearly outline the need to keep plants out of public view.
If yield matters to you, look for strains that provide huge amounts of bud. In theory, you could benefit from approximately 100 ounces of cannabis in a calendar year. At average American prices, this equates to $32,600 annually!
In terms of variety, you can also try growing different strains simultaneously if you choose to grow yourself. However, this process can confuse even an experienced grower. In general, you should only cultivate one marijuana strain at a time. This severely limits your exposure to different strains.
With few exceptions, the most weed you can purchase from a dispensary at any one time is an ounce. However, there is nothing to prevent adult users from walking to the same dispensary the next day and buying more. In other words, there isn’t much of a system in place to prevent people from buying large amounts of cannabis.
If you live somewhere like Portland or Denver, you’ll find dozens of dispensaries in a small radius. While you can technically buy a lot of cannabis, you’ll get arrested if a police officer finds more than two ounces in your possession. Also, it will cost thousands of dollars to buy multiple ounces.
Of course, a major benefit when buying from dispensaries is the enormous array of options available. You can buy a few grams of different strains – imagine buying an eighth of a gram of eight different strains! Simply put, dispensaries allow users to experience the joys of literally hundreds of different strains.
Verdict on Abundance & Variety
This one’s a toss up. Growing cannabis at home means you don’t have to make several trips to dispensaries, or spend a fortune on overpriced bud. Dispensaries, on the other hand, offer a greater variety – meaning you can sample more flavors and experience different highs.
4 – Legality
Growing at Home
At present, it is legal to grow cannabis at home in select states (please check your state’s laws to see if you need an MMJ card). That said, even in states where it is legal to cultivate marijuana, you can still get into trouble. This can happen if you grow more plants than state law mandates, or if you fail to keep your plants out of public view.
At present, a total of 35 states plus Washington, D.C. allow some form of legal marijuana purchase. You can buy weed in these locations if you’re 21 or older (though not every state has its program in place yet).
That being said, there are counties within legal states that don’t have dispensaries. In this case, you may need to travel some distance to find cannabis (it may also be illegal to use marijuana in your county). Please check local laws before making a purchase. Also, make sure you are in possession of less than the state limits.
Verdict on Legality
This one’s pretty simple: if you’re buying weed from a dispensary, you know it’s legal. If you’re growing at home, you may be breaking some rules you don’t even know about.
5 – Knowledge Gained
Growing at Home
You can read all the articles you like, but nothing improves your knowledge of cannabis more than growing it. You can experiment with crossbreeding and develop new strains of your own. It is also possible to cultivate marijuana to your specific tastes. Whether you want something that offers energy or sedation, you get to become a scientist of sorts.
Those who grow marijuana also say it gives them a deeper appreciation for the plant. After spending months feeding and caring for it, there’s little doubt that you’ll develop an attachment. In the future, you’ll go to a dispensary and know more than the budtender!
There are a lot of knowledgeable budtenders who can give you valuable information on cannabis strains. Ask lots of questions, and you could become an expert in your own right. However, budtenders have a limited amount of time to answer your queries, so they may point you in the direction of good resource material.
Verdict on Knowledge Gained
You will learn from a budtender, but not nearly as much as you will from cultivating your own cannabis.
Final Thoughts on Dispensary Cannabis Versus Growing Your Own
Like most things, there are pluses and minuses for cultivating marijuana versus buying it from a dispensary.
With a dispensary, you have easy access to an enormous variety of cannabis strains. Assuming you live in a legal state, there’s a fair chance you live close to a licensed dispensary. You’ll also have access to extremely high-quality marijuana.
If you cultivate cannabis at home, you benefit from having all the weed you can use. Although initial setup costs may seem high, you will save money in the long-term if you’re a regular user. You’ll also gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the marijuana plant. If you have the time and energy and live in a legal state, it is worth trying to grow at least one plant.