Both Livermore and Golfieri recommend starting from seed if possible to avoid any surprise issues that may be brought into your grow space. When starting with clippings or clones, you can’t be positive that they won’t introduce bacteria, pests, or other pathogens into your garden. Golfieri advised, if you have the space, that you keep new plants in quarantine for a little while to avoid letting introduced pathogens spread to existing plants.
“You can’t just grow anything, especially with the way the climate is out here.”
I wanted to know whether there were specific tips and tricks for growing here in the Bay State. So I headed to the INSA cultivation facility in Easthampton to learn more about what it takes to grow cannabis successfully in New England.
Know Your Seasons.
When you’re dealing with new plants, you want to start with the best. So you might want to start by having the plant, flower, and/or soil tested by one of the labs in the state.
INSA’s cultivation center is state of the art and truly makes a home grower salivate. From its water filtration system to the various grow rooms where plants can be seen in different stages of their lifecycle, it was impressive to see cannabis grown on a large scale.
If you’re taking advantage of the outdoor grow period, it’s important to be aware that it stretches across three different seasons—spring, summer, and fall—each with its own specific weather. While fall in other regions may be more temperate, Massachusetts tends to have more rain. Our long, relatively autom thus creates perfect conditions for things like mold to develop.
Water is an often overlooked source of contamination. If you’re not using filtered or distilled water, which both INSA growers recommend, be sure to get a complete readout of your town or city’s water supply. This can usually be done by contacting your local water and sewer agency. While you can test water from the faucet yourself for things like pH levels, a more comprehensive assessment will indicate things like lead and heavy metals, which cannabis plants absorb readily. Heavy metals are of particular concern in Massachusetts, home to a lot of former mill towns.
And while Massachusetts isn’t not known for long periods of scorching heat in the summer, there are frequently spells of little to no rain that can cause issues if you’re unable to water your plants regularly.
Once you’ve decided to start growing cannabis at home, you can easily fall into an overwhelming green hole of information: What strains are easiest to grow? What’s the optimum cycle for indoor lights? Should you grow in soil or coco coir? Use sprays or opt for integrated pest management? It’s enough to drive anyone mad—or at least to the nearest dispensary.
If you’re planning to grow outdoors in Massachusetts—the season here lasts roughly May through November, by the way—make sure you choose the right strains. “You have to find specific ones for this region,” said Golfieri. “You can’t just grow anything, especially with the way the climate is out here. You have to find strands that are more hearty, to handle these conditions.” Kush strains are good options for beginners to consider.
Pick the Right Plants.
Thankfully, you don’t need a cutting-edge grow center to get a good harvest at home. INSA head grower Matt Livermore and assistant head grower Frank Golfieri shared some Massachusetts-specific tips they’ve cultivated over the years.
All that comes with a downside, of course: added cost.
There’s not much that compares to the sight of a majestic, outdoor cannabis plant. When it comes down to it both INSA growers stressed that indoor cultivation is easiest for new growers in Massachusetts. “You can control the environment better,” explained Golfieri. Fluctuating temperatures, long periods of cold or rain, and even unanticipated early freezes won’t matter at all to indoor plants (and more importantly, won’t impact your yield). It’s also far easier to control light conditions indoors.
Neither Livermore nor Golfieri were keen on the tests you can order online. “If you want to get it done, spend the money and go take the time to get your terpenes, cannabinoid profile figured out,” says Livermore. “You can find out if there are any microtoxins in the soil, or other things that are a problem. If you’re really that serious about growing, you take it to a reputable lab, for sure!”
Thankfully, there are lots of excellent resources online—including Leafly’s own dedicated section on growing—and many of them provide helpful information for the general grower. But what about growing locally, right here in Massachusetts?
To keep plants healthy, it’s crucial to limit their exposure to contaminants. Change into clean clothes before entering your grow room, and keep a separate pair of shoes to avoid tracking in contaminants from outside. Beyond those general tips, though, there are best practices specific to the state.
Four labs are currently open for testing cannabis in Massachusetts, all in the eastern part of the state. Costs start around $50, and you can choose what type of analysis you’d like to run, from cannabinoid and terpene profiles to various safety tests that check for common concerns such as mold, E. coli , yeast, fungus, and more.
Recreational marijuana law: best practices for landlords, Law Office of Renee Lazar. Provides guidance on smoking and cultivating in residential tenancies.
What you can do about second-hand smoke , Nolo Provides possible tactics for dealing with a neighbor who is sharing secondhand marijuana smoke.
Commonwealth v. Gerhardt, 477 Mass. 775 (2017) Talks about the use of field sobriety tests, and includes new Model Jury Instruction Regarding Roadside Assessments for Use in Prosecutions for Operating Under the Influence of Marijuana .
18 USC § 922(g)(3) prohibits any person who uses marijuana from shipping, transporting, receiving or possessing firearms or ammunition.
Comm. v. Keefner, 461 Mass. 507 (2012). The law which “decriminalized possession of one ounce or less of marijuana, did not repeal the offense of possession with intent to distribute marijuana, . where the amount of marijuana possessed is one ounce or less.”
Comm. v. Long, 482 Mass. 804 (2019) “The overwhelming odor of unburnt marijuana wafting from a large, windowless, cinder-block warehouse, . in a place where marijuana cultivation was not allowed under State law; evidence of an apparent break-in; and two isolated vehicles parked in what police officers viewed as a suspicious manner after ordinary business hours . was sufficient to support a finding of probable cause to search a warehouse for evidence of illegal marijuana cultivation.”
For information on medical marijuana, please see law about medical marijuana.
Can my financial aid be affected by marijuana use? and other marijuana-related concerns for college students, MassLive, April 2019. Even though recreational use is legal in Massachusetts, use by college students can cause “a major legal headache and the potential loss of financial aid if a student does not follow the law.”
MGL c.94G. The primary marijuana possession law. Includes who may possess marijuana, and how much.
Comm. v. Cruz, 459 Mass. 459 (2011). Police can’t order a person out of a car just because they smell burned marijuana.
MGL c.94C § 32L Possession of 2 ounces or less of marijuana.
MGL c.94C § 32M Possession of 2 ounces or less of marijuana; drug awareness program for those under 18.
Comm. v. Rodriguez, 472 Mass. 767 (2015). The smell of burned marijuana isn’t enough for police to stop a vehicle.
935 CMR Recreational marijuana regulations.
Cannabis Control Commission guidance documents. Includes information on marijuana use, sale, transportation, home cultivation, and zoning in Massachusetts.
A running list of recreational marijuana dispensaries in Massachusetts – and those soon to open, Boston.com Provides information on dispensaries, including locations, hours, parking, and payment options.
A look back at four years of recreational marijuana in Massachusetts, masslive.com A comprehensive timeline of the development of the marijuana industry in Massachusetts, including statistics on the impact on the economy.
Cannabis and the workplace: an overview of employees rights, Boston Lawyer Blog, Zalkind, Duncan & Bernstein. A thorough discussion of employees rights in regard to drug testing and recreational and medical marijuana.
Guidance on home cultivation. To grow marijuana in your home:
21 USC §§ 801-971 Drug abuse prevention and control.
Know the laws, Cannabis Control Commission. Provides plain language basics about what is legal (and what is not).
Comm. v. Richardson, 479 Mass. 344 (2018) Addresses the prosecution of a person for trafficking in marijuana where that person was legally permitted to grow marijuana for medical purposes. Includes new model jury instructions .
Other related laws.
Criminal law (Mass. practice v. 32) West Group, with supplement. Section 466.50 Act establishing a sensible state marijuana policy.
Massachusetts proof of cases, West Group. Annual edition. Section 47:2, Marijuana – possession and use by adults.
Valley Green Grow, Inc. v. Charlton, 99 Mass. App. Ct. 670 (2021) “The proposed cogeneration facility, incidental processing, and incidental manufacturing, when viewed as components of the entire indoor commercial horticultural use, were allowed as of right in the town’s agricultural district, and there was no merit to the arguments that the principal use of the locus was light manufacturing rather than commercial horticulture.”
Growing cannabis plants indoors often requires high-powered lamps, temperature controls, and expanded levels of ventilation which can overload electrical circuits and cause fires. To lower your risk of electrical fires, consult a licensed electrician to ensure you are following all relevant fire codes.
When making concentrates, extracting cannabis oil with flammable materials, such as propane and butane, is illegal. These materials release vapors that can easily trigger explosions. Consider alternative extraction methods.
Visit MoreAboutMJ.org for more information on growing marijuana and making marijuana products at home.
Keep Kids and Pets Safe.
When making edibles at home, such as cannabis-infused beverages or baked goods, it can be challenging to distribute cannabis evenly throughout a product. This can make it difficult to control potency and dosage of the edible.
For more information on fire safety and cannabis in your home, click here to view a flyer from the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services.
Lower Risk of Electrical Fires.
If you have any marijuana products in your home, be sure to store them away in a locked storage container and out of reach of children and pets.
Cannabis Oil Extraction.
Responsible Home Cultivation.
A violation of Massachusetts home cultivation laws is subject to a fine of up to $300 and forfeiture of the marijuana. Here’s a breakdown of the penalties for unauthorized cultivation: