With cannabis legalization continuing its march across the country and beyond, many consumers are discovering that buying
Is Ordering Cannabis Seeds Legal?
Many novice growers may question whether buying cannabis seeds from an online seed bank is legal, given the illegality of marijuana under federal law. It was a somewhat hazy subject for years, but earlier this year the Drug Enforcement Administration shed some light on the subject.
In November 2021, Shane Pennington, an attorney specializing in cannabis law, sent a letter to the DEA seeking a determination whether cannabis seeds, clones and other genetic material with no more than 0.3 percent THC are subject to federal control. Earlier this year, he received a reply from the agency, which he shared in his
In a January letter to Pennington, Terrence L. Boos, the chief of the Drug & Chemical Evaluation Section of the DEA, wrote that “marijuana seed that has a delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of not more than 0.3% on a dry weight basis meets the definition of ‘hemp’ and thus is not controlled under the CSA. Conversely, marijuana seed having a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol concentration of more than 0.3% on a dry weight basis is controlled in schedule I under the CSA as marijuana.”
Since cannabis seeds have negligible amounts of THC (if any), they are legal to possess and send through the mail under the DEA opinion, which is based on the 2018 Farm Bill. The decision was welcomed by seed producers, but Ayman Dandashi, the partnerships manager at California-based seed vendor
“We’ve always operated with the understanding that what we’re doing is not wrong because the seed doesn’t have any THC,” Dandashi explains in a virtual interview. “So even before the DEA came out and made that statement, which was very helpful for us, we operated the same exact way. The supply chain was relatively the same.”
Why Grow Cannabis from Seeds?
Although many growers prefer to start their plants from seeds, doing so is not the only option to start a garden. In many areas, small rooted cuttings of mature cannabis plants known as clones are available at some marijuana dispensaries, giving home gardeners another choice. Both have their advantages and drawbacks, which should be considered before a selection is made.
Advantages to Growing Cannabis From Seed
Seeds are a good choice for several reasons, especially if the grower has a specific strain in mind for the garden. Because of the many seed companies that will ship their products, there is a vastly superior selection of strains — literally thousands — to choose from in seed form. In contrast, the selection of clones available from dispensaries or perhaps friends will be far more limited.
Plants grown from seed are usually more vigorous than their cloned counterparts, partly because they have a taproot that contributes to a more extensive root system to support the plant’s growth. Seeds are also free of pests and disease while clones, as living plants, can already be infected with harmful organisms when they are received if the producer has not been scrupulously careful.
Disadvantages to Growing Cannabis From Seed
Seeds also have disadvantages, however. Because they are created through sexual reproduction, there will be some genetic variation between plants, even of the same strain. And unless you acquire feminized seeds, about half of the plants will be desirable females and the rest will be males, which you’ll want to identify and cull from the garden before they pollinate the female flowers (more on this later).
Also, newly germinated seedlings are fragile and more susceptible to failure from environmental stress or pests and pathogens, particularly mold and fungi. Germinating seeds and growing seedlings up to the size of rooted clones will add a couple of weeks to your plants’ length of time to harvest, as well.
Types of Cannabis Seeds
In addition to the myriad strains (also known as varietals or cultivars) available, perusing the offerings of an online seed bank reveals many different types of cannabis seeds: regular, feminized, autoflower and fast version seeds can all be found, often from the same seed vendor. Understanding the different types of seeds can help a gardener decide which will be right for their garden and growing style and guide the selection process.
Regular seeds are produced in much the same way cannabis plants naturally reproduce in the wild. Cannabis plants are dioecious, which means that there are separate female and male plants (although hermaphrodites, individual plants that bear both male and femal flowers, are also sometimes produced). Left to nature, when a female plant’s flowers are fertilized with pollen from a male plant, the female flowers will produce seeds which will in turn produce roughly 50 percent male plants and 50 percent female plants.
Gardeners solely interested in producing cannabis to smoke or otherwise ingest strive to grow only unfertilized female flowers, which are the most potent and will have no seeds. Male plants produce flowers generally unfit for use and will produce pollen, causing the females to produce seed and lowering their flower quality. Growers who use regular seeds closely watch their plants as they begin to flower, removing any males they find. Generally, gardeners who use regular seeds will plant twice as many seeds as the number of plants they hope to grow, to account for the male plants (about half) that will be discarded.
To eliminate the challenges posed by male plants, many seed vendors offer feminized seeds, which have been specially bred to produce only female plants. With no males in the garden, gardeners can be confident they will produce seedless buds, also known as sensimilla.
“If you’re a home grower and you’re looking to just grow cannabis for cannabis to have flower for yourself and you want to have as large a yield as possible, feminized seeds are the way to go,” says Dandashi.
Photoperiod or Autoflower Seeds
Home growers also have the option of choosing between photoperiod or autoflower seeds. In nature, the Cannabis sativa plant is spurred into flowering when nights begin to get longer, about the time of the summer solstice, with flowers maturing in late summer or early autumn. However, another closely related species, Cannabis ruderalis, is not dependent on day length (photoperiod) to begin flowering.
Noticing this difference, savvy breeders have created hybrids that incorporate genetics from both C. sativa and ruderalis to produce versions of popular varietals that will flower during any season, giving growers the option to produce multiple crops throughout the year. Autoflower seeds also eliminate the need to keep females in total darkness during the night period, which is necessary with photoperiod plants to keep them in their flowering stage.
Fast Version Seeds
Many growers are now offering what are known as fast version seeds, which mature more quickly than most standard varietals. Kyle Kushman, an internationally known seed breeder who has a partnership with Homegrown Cannabis Co., explained the advantages of fast version seeds.
“When you see a cultivar described as a Fast Version, it means it has a faster flowering time than your normal, photoperiod plants. They have a little ruderalis in the genetic mix, but they’re not full autos,” Kushman wrote in an email. “You’ll still need to adjust [lighting to 12 hours on, 12 hours off to initiate flowering], but most will finish flowering in just 6 weeks. This earlier harvest has huge advantages, especially outdoors where you can beat autumn rains and all the issues that come with that excess moisture. Indoors, you’re saving 2 weeks of nutes [nutrients], electricity and effort. And the yields are just as impressive. More bang. Less bucks.”
The different types of seeds give growers options that can help them select the best seeds for their garden, be it indoors or outside. Luckily, many of the most popular strains are available in regular, feminized and autoflower versions, giving gardeners the opportunity to pick their favorite varietal and growing type.
Choosing a Cannabis Seed Bank
For many growers, the first step to choosing which cannabis seeds to buy is to decide which strains they are interested in cultivating. For many, the choice will be made based on personal experience, with the gardener selecting seeds for some of their favorite strains. Others might research varietals to find new strains to try based on achieving a desired effect or to fit particular growing conditions. Once the decision on strain is made, the type of seeds (feminized, autoflower, etc.) should also be considered.
Shopping list in hand, the home cannabis gardener is ready to place an order for cannabis seeds. But with so many seed banks, how can the home grower choose a reputable business selling high-quality cannabis genetics?
Dandashi recommends several factors to look for when choosing a cannabis seed bank. He suggests doing business with a seed vendor that exhibits an interest in the success of home growers, such as offering information on how to grow quality cannabis and a forum for members to show off their harvests. He also recommends looking into how long a vendor has been in business to avoid brand new entrants to the field.
Most reputable seed banks will offer a wide selection of strains and seed types, while relationships with well-known breeders are also a good sign that a seed bank is a legitimate business offering quality products. And like any online business, a quick search on the internet for customer reviews can provide a wealth of information about a company’s reputation with consumers.
With a little research and preparation, anyone can purchase cannabis seeds to produce quality bud in a home garden. Of course, that’s only the beginning of the endeavor. Once the seeds arrive, there will be months more work and nurturing before harvest time!