Cost Analysis: Dispensary vs. Home Grown
Cannabis can be an expensive habit, so making your money go as far as possible is important. Lee G. Lyzit breaks down the costs of producing your own cannabis compared to buying it at a dispensary.
Growing cannabis at home can be a very rewarding venture. Aside from having control over every aspect of the cultivation process, growing your own weed gives you a sense of accomplishment, not to mention bragging rights among your friends. On the other hand, with more and more states legalizing recreational cannabis, purchasing a retail cannabis product is now super easy and convenient. There are advantages and disadvantages to both options, but some people may wonder about the financial incentives of growing their own marijuana. Trying to compare the cost of growing your own weed to purchasing it at a dispensary is kind of like comparing apples to oranges. There are just so many variables that affect the cost of each option. Is it more cost effective to grow your own weed at home or purchase it at a dispensary? This seemingly straightforward question has an answer that is full of twists and turns.
When walking into a dispensary, a person is met with an almost overwhelming amount of weed choices. Dispensaries typically grade their flower material based on quality and availability. In other words, there can be a huge difference in cost from strain to strain or from dispensary to dispensary. For legal cannabis, aside from the actual cost to cultivate it, dispensaries must follow stringent state regulations, which also affect the cost. Typically, the stricter the regulations, the higher the cost. In Michigan, where all cannabis products must be grown, tested, and transported by separate state-approved entities, the price is typically higher than in states with less exacting regulations or where in-house growing, testing, and transporting is allowed. Another factor that greatly affects cannabis pricing at dispensaries is supply. In the west coast states or in Colorado, where legal marijuana programs have been in place longer and where the climate is more conducive to higher production, the price of cannabis (on average) is lower. Taking all that into consideration, the price of marijuana from a U.S.-based dispensary can range any-where from $15-$65 for one-eighth ounce of flower material or $120-$520 per ounce.
Cost of Cultivation
The costs associated with growing your own cannabis are quite varied as well. There is a wide range of products available for growing cannabis and, as with many things in life, you get what you pay for. Put another way, if you buy a couple of cheap shop lights, use the least expensive fertilizer, and then expect to grow pot that rivals the top-shelf selection at a dispensary, think again. To grow high-quality cannabis, a grower must make a serious investment in his or her indoor gardening equipment, dedicate a large amount of time to gardening, and secure a high-quality strain.
However, going back to my original statement that growing your own weed can be a very rewarding venture, there is nothing more satisfying than harvesting a high-quality marijuana crop that, through your own blood, sweat, and tears, became a reality.
Initial Costs for a Home Cannabis Garden
Cannabis has three stages of growth: propagation (seedling/clone), vegetative, and flowering. Each of these stages has different requirements for cultivation. After securing seedlings or clones, a grower who wants to set up a perpetual garden will need to purchase equipment for each stage of growth. At its most basic, that equipment may include a grow tent or the construction of a room, lighting equipment, soil or other hydro/aeroponic system, nutrients, and fans for ventilation. A kit for a 600-1,000-watt starter system begins at around $1,000 (on aver-age). This would include a multi-chambered grow tent, fans for ventilation, artificial lighting, and soil/nutrients. Keep in mind these kits are for a home hobbyist set-up with a flower space of about 16-20 square feet. Artificial lighting in a kit like this would typically include a 400-600 watt HID light for flowering/blooming and a four-bulb T5 fixture for the vegetative and cloning stages. A multi-chambered grow tent (or two separate areas) is necessary so the light cycles from each stage of growth do not interfere with each other. A good starter kit would also include small ventilation fans for air movement and maintaining the appropriate temperature and humidity levels. A grow kit is the easiest way a new grower can purchase a package that includes everything needed to get started. However, one thing a growing package will likely not include is seeds and/or clones.
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To be a successful home cannabis grower, you will need to secure some decent genetics. This can be done by purchasing seeds from a reputable dealer or finding a dispensary or friend with a clean, high-quality clone. The cost for this may range from $50-$200. Starting from seed will eliminate potential problems, such as pests and pathogens, which can come with a clone but will require sexing (only female cannabis plants produce the coveted flowers) and will take longer to mature in the initial growing cycle.
Ongoing Costs for a Home Cannabis Garden
After the initial cost of the garden set-up, there will be ongoing costs associated with electricity/energy consumption, soil, nutrients, labor, and equipment maintenance/upgrades. Electricity costs vary depending on where you live, as these costs fluctuate from location to location. The national average cost of electricity in the U.S. is $0.13 per kWh. Most start-up kits (600-watt flowering/200-400 watt vegetative) will average 12 kilowatt hours per day for lighting, ventilation, etc. Using the national average kWh rate this equates to a cost of about $47 dollars a month ($1.56 per day) in electricity. Keep in mind that growing cannabis under the sun eliminates the expense associated with artificial lighting and greatly reduces the overall cost of home cannabis production. Super soil mixtures average $20 per grow cycle (or $10 per month) and nutrient kits will cost around $40 per grow cycle (or $20 per month).
Again, the costs associated with soils and nutrients can vary greatly depending on the brand and quality of the products. Labor costs are difficult to calculate because they depend on how you value your time, but should be considered all the same as an ongoing cost.
A beginner grower should allocate at least an hour a day to his or her gardening hobby. Equipment maintenance and upgrade costs include bulb changes (annually), the cost of additional equipment if you decide to expand the grow space and/or increase the amount of available light energy, and the acquisition of additional tools for fine-tuning your garden.
What Will I Get from My Indoor Cannabis Garden?
The yield of a cannabis garden is directly related to the amount of available energy. In other words, assuming you have a relatively full and healthy plant canopy, the more watts of artificial lighting you have available, the larger the yield. Beginner growers typically average 0.5 grams per watt of electricity. For example, a 600-watt flowering room would produce 300 grams (about 11 oz.) per eight to 10 weeks. Considering that would equate to a cost of $1,320-$5,720 from a dispensary, the initial cost of setting up a garden would be paid off after the first grow cycle (assuming everything goes smoothly). Once you become more efficient at growing, you can expect to see yields of up to a gram of weed for every watt of light. However, it will generally take multiple grow cycles before a gardener can achieve this level of success.
Although the costs associated with purchasing marijuana from a dispensary will fluctuate greatly from state to state, growing your own cannabis at home is likely a more cost-efficient method. However, growing high-quality cannabis takes skill, effort, and patience.
Not everyone has a green thumb, the time, and/or the energy to be successful with an indoor cannabis garden. Whether or not to grow cannabis at home or purchase it at a dispensary ultimately comes down to the desire and skill of the individual. Those with a strong desire to learn a new trade and dive into the intricacies of indoor horticulture will likely be rewarded with high-quality cannabis at a fraction of the cost that would be paid at a dispensary.
On the other hand, those who have no interest in gardening or who do not have the time and/or energy to dedicate to an indoor garden should stick to purchasing their weed at a dispensary.