How Legal Are Cannabis Seeds in the U.S.?

Drug law in the United States is a funny thing. In most states, it is perfectly legal to be high on an illegal substance — to be stoned completely out of your mind on weed, for example, but if you have even a gram over the legal limit of that substance, you could face major fines and even jail time. Technically, tools you might use to consume illegal drugs are illegal, too, but so many of those tools are usable with legal drugs, like tobacco, so law enforcement can’t do much to punish you for having a weed pipe or even a bong.

In states where cannabis consumption is illegal, it makes sense that growing a cannabis plant is taboo — but what about buying seeds? Read on to learn whether you can get in trouble for buying cannabis seeds, and what you can do to cultivate those seeds into healthy plants.

Hemp Seeds vs. Marijuana Seeds

Technically, cannabis seeds are both legal and illegal under federal law. This is because the Feds distinguish between different types of cannabis — one type is illegal while the other is more or less fine. Psychoactive cannabis, often called marijuana, contains a compound that is considered dangerous by the Federal Government, and as a result, every aspect of psychoactive cannabis, from its seeds to its buds to extracts produced from it, is tightly controlled.

In contrast, non-psychoactive cannabis, often called hemp, was legalized by the U.S. Congress in 2018. Today, hundreds of thousands of acres of hemp grow across the U.S., harvested for its seeds, fibers and non-psychoactive compounds. Though most commercial hemp growers need to register for licenses to tend a hemp crop, it is legal under federal law for regular consumers to buy and grow hemp seeds at home.

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However, federal law isn’t the only law governing cannabis in the U.S. States also have a say in how their residents can acquire and use cannabis products. Plenty of states that have legalized psychoactive cannabis for medical or recreational use permit residents to grow their own cannabis plants at home; conversely, a number of states that are staunchly against cannabis consumption do not even allow the cultivation of hemp within their borders. Before you set out to grow your own cannabis from home — psychoactive or not — you should check with your state law.

Where to Get Cannabis Seeds

If cannabis seeds are legal to buy in your area, you might be wondering where you can get your hands on some. You might spy cannabis seeds, or hemp seeds, at your grocery store, but these are unlikely to develop into mature plants; they are for eating, not planting. You might be able to find non-psychoactive hemp seeds appropriate for cultivation at a local nursery, especially if you live in a state that has a strong cannabis culture. However, your best bet for buying plantable hemp seeds is the internet, where you can find reputable companies and affordable prices for quality seeds.

If psychoactive cannabis seeds are what you are after, you are much more restricted. Critically, you cannot order cannabis seeds online because the U.S. mail service and other interstate shipping companies are subject to federal law, not state law. Pot shops can sell seeds to customers looking to cultivate a crop at home; you might check out an Oregon dispensary if you live near the Pacific Northwest. Cannabis growers, too, sometimes will offer seeds from their cannabis crop, but if you are buying from a grow op, you might instead pick up some clones, which have more stable genetics than seeds.

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What to Do Next

Raising cannabis plants can be incredibly easy, or it can be incredibly complex, depending on what you hope to achieve with your grow. In some states, you might be able to tend an outdoor garden of cannabis, which reduces the energy required to keep your plants alive and thriving. However, for indoor grows, you might need to invest in all sorts of equipment, like grow lights, humidifiers, soil amendments, watering systems and more. These tools are often helpful in ensuring a productive harvest, but if you don’t care much about your yield of cannabis buds, you can tend your plant like you would any other.

Can you buy cannabis seeds in the U.S.? Frustratingly, like so many aspects of cannabis law, the answer is both yes and no. With some diligent research, you should be able to find out whether you can buy and plant cannabis seeds in your area.

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