A growing number of experts are making a business out of teaching people how to grow their own pot. Here's what to know to get started. A Spanish term meaning “seedless,” sinsemilla is cannabis grown without seeds. Learn more about sinsemilla from Leafly.
As marijuana is legalized in more places, here’s how to grow your own
When it comes to growing his own marijuana, Chris Haynie leaves little to chance.
Inside a grow room in Richmond, Haynie has erected a 42-square-foot tent that houses four marijuana plants, the state’s legal limit for personal cultivation. Haynie’s setup is high-tech: An irrigation system releases moisture on a precise schedule; a motorized LED light timed to mimic the rising and setting of the sun moves along a rail across the top of the tent; and a monitoring system tracks key metrics of plant health, such as the moisture level and pH of the soil, and relays the data to an app on Haynie’s phone. If the system senses urgent problems, he’ll receive a warning text. Haynie’s friends are used to him bolting from a room mid-conversation to tend to his plants.
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Haynie, a bearded 38-year-old cannabis connoisseur who tattooed his thumbs with green ink, is no horticulture amateur. As the co-founder of Richmond’s Happy Trees Agricultural Supply, he’s part of a growing number of experts who are making a business out of teaching people how to grow their own pot. Recent laws in Virginia allow for limited cultivation of marijuana for personal use, and Happy Trees, which Haynie launched in 2019 with Josiah Ickes, 36, specializes in setting up growers to cultivate the plant.
Marijuana remains illegal on a federal level, but many states have abolished restrictions, creating a patchwork of rules throughout the country. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have passed laws allowing recreational use. Virginia legalized home cultivation in July 2021; under the law, people 21 and older may possess up to an ounce of marijuana. It remains illegal, though, to buy or sell it in any form — including seeds — until 2024, when retail sales are expected to begin.
People still find ways to access seeds. When D.C. legalized the possession of limited amounts of marijuana in 2015, the District lacked the authority to create a legal economic market for sales. So cannabis activists organized seed giveaways throughout the city. At one early event in 2015, lines stretched for blocks.
The regulatory scheme also established what has become an expansive “giveaway market,” in which Washingtonians have used a loophole to provide harvested marijuana as a gift in exchange for the purchase of a legal product. Companies sell cookies, tea or paintings with a baggie of “free” marijuana on the side. One company sells motivational speeches delivered by a person who travels by bicycle.
A Spanish term meaning “seedless,” sinsemilla refers to cannabis grown without seeds. In the wild, cannabis grows seeds along with buds so when it dies, it will grow again the following year. Growing sinsemilla cannabis was adopted in the 1960s and ‘70s to produce buds without seeds for consumers, by only growing bud-producing female cannabis plants and not allowing them to get pollinated.
“I only buy sinsemilla flower.”
“Sinsemilla is the only way to grow premium cannabis.”
History of sinsemilla
Cannabis can be male or female, and in the wild males pollinate females, which then produce seeds. The genetics of both male and female plants are passed down to the seeds, so that when a female plant dies—cannabis is an annual, growing and dying each year—it drops seeds, which grow into new plants the following spring.
Only female cannabis plants produce buds, so when they are pollinated, seeds grow with the buds. Sinsemilla, or “seedless” cannabis was grown to keep seeds out of female plants so they only produce buds. To grow sinsemilla cannabis, male plants are discard or moved away from females before they develop pollen sacs and can pollinate females. This allows female plants to focus their resources on bud production instead of seed production.
Growing cannabis with seeds is beneficial for the natural evolution of the plant. Plants naturally evolved within their environment, picking up traits and characteristics that helped them better survive their environment.
Benefits of sinsemilla
Before sinsemilla became a standard practice among cultivators, there was a good chance weed you grew or bought had seeds in the buds. Bud with seeds are generally considered lower quality—seeds lead to a harsh smoke.
With sinsemilla, the cannabis plant can divert all its energies and resources on producing buds, instead of seeds. This leads to better quality and higher potency buds, and also higher yields because there won’t be seeds in the buds. The difference in potency is so drastic that when consumers first started smoking sinsemilla, they thought it was a different species of cannabis.