Cannabis users are out of the closet in New Mexico, and one of the first things they want to do is grow weed. The public has long been connoisseurs of fine wine; now they have also become connoisseurs of fine cannabis. However, it’s no longer the ’60s when a quarter of the Panama Red or Acapulco Gold you illegally purchased was seed.
The Paper. spoke with Travis Chapman, general manager of AHL Garden Supply in Albuquerque about growing cannabis at home. AHL is the oldest indoor grow store in New Mexico and—at 28 years and counting—one of the oldest in the country. Chapman has worked at the store for the past 24 years.
“With legalization adults 21 and older can grow and have in their possession six flowering plants, plus six nonflowering plants, or a total of 12 cannabis plants. A household’s maximum is two times that amount. So even if you had four adults in the same household, you can only grow 24 plants,” Chapman said. Medical cannabis home growers were allowed a total of 16 plants, but only four could be mature flowering plants. At this point the Department of Health’s plant count is the same for both medical and recreational.
Technically any adult in New Mexico can be growing at home right now—but where do you get seeds? “If you don’t have a medical card, there’s no legal way yet for New Mexican adults to acquire either seeds, cannabis cuttings or plants. It’s a gray area still, because they’re figuring out how to implement the laws,” Chapman explained.
Once the recreational law goes fully into effect and there are retail places selling recreational cannabis products, they will be selling seeds and cloned plants. “The only options right now are getting seeds from a friend as a gift or buying seeds or clones on the black market. If you happen to have some seeds, you could legally grow those seeds now, because they’ve been in your possession,” Chapman said
Obtaining seeds is difficult as most of the plants grown now are non-pollinated female plants that don’t produce seeds on their own. Commercial growers eliminate males that produce pollen sacks from their gardens as soon as they identify them and produce Sinsemilla cannabis. The term comes from the Spanish words “sin” (“without”) and “semilla” (“seed”) or “without seeds.”
“Occasionally you will have a seed here or there. However, cannabis is grown to be essentially seedless. Seeds are pretty rare, unless it’s coming up from Mexico, and then everything’s a different story. You might still find a lot of seeds. I’ve heard of cuttings from really sought-after plants selling for up to $500. It’s probably really more typical at $10 to $20 per seed,” Chapman said.
To propagate directly from a cannabis plant, a clipping is taken during its vegetative state of building leaf and stem structure, dipped into a rooting hormone or cloning gel and placed in a little bit of soil or a starter plug. A humidity dome and a propagation tray can keep the moisture inside the cutting until it roots. “Some cannabis breeders who are producing very popular strains will sell a cutting or seed to you. However, you have to agree that you won’t reproduce it and sell it to other people,” Chapman said.
A growlight trying to replicate what the sun does is the most expensive aspect of the investment needed to produce high-yield and quality flowers. “If you chose to grow outside, it could get stolen as soon as anybody identifies it. That happens all the time, and that will continue to happen, even in a legal environment,” Chapman warned.
Inside, during the vegetative stage, the plants need 16 to 20 or even 24 hours of light every day. And then, in order to trigger their flowering stage, 12 hours of light and then 12 hours of absolute darkness are needed. The flowering period lasts from 6 to 10 weeks. Different strains can take longer. The flowering period for outside growers begins in late July to early/mid-August in Albuquerque. Cannabis should be put outside early to mid-June.
There’s a class of cannabis plants that are called “auto flowers,” which have been genetically bred so they don’t require the specific photo periods to initiate flowering. “They flower automatically and keep flowering until they mature, regardless of the amount of light that they’re receiving. And those are the $500 seeds,” Chapman said.
“It is possible probably to grow inside for less than a $500 investment in equipment. However, you’re going to be compromising on so many things that your cannabis flavor, aroma, density of flower and percentages of THC and other cannabinoids are not the quantity or the quality that most people are looking for,” Chapman said.
If you’re challenged on finances, Chapman recommends outdoor growing. You’ll need high-quality soil, plant food and nutrient supplements. Disease risks and pests like spider mites, aphids and whiteflies are mitigated by appropriate natural pest controls and organic pest products to try to prevent and then treat if necessary. Outdoor plants are especially at risk to grasshoppers, caterpillars and worms.
The curing of cannabis is far more complicated and difficult than growing it. The important parts of cannabis growing are the harvesting, drying and the curing processes. You can’t just pull it out of the ground, hang it upside down until it’s dry and smoke it. The curing process can be a long-term storage of the flowers through different techniques until they are ready for consumption.
“For some growers curing takes months and months and months. Some people cure for six months after the post-harvest. Growing is much easier than what comes after it. If you want to perfect your craft, go online,” Chapman said. Websites, forums, YouTube and blogs are supportive.
“We recommend people start small and keep spending basic while they’re learning to grow cannabis,” Chapman advised. “When people have too much riding on their project, they lose all the joy and the fun of it when it doesn’t go well.”