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Buying weed vs. growing your own: Which is cheaper?

Published on October 5, 2022

Written by Pat Goggins

A big green Hella Jelly nug with leaves on the branch. (David Downs/Leafly)
Hella Jelly, on the branch. (David Downs/Leafly)

As the weed harvest comes in and growers reap the benefits of months of labor, the question arises: Was all that time and effort worth it? Sticky days spent pruning plants, asking a friend to water plants while you were out of town, and the fear of losing your whole crop to bugs or early rains might seem like too much work and stress just for some weed.

But it is worth it, if you love growing weed as a hobby. It’s both cheap and easy to grow your own quality weed. Here are some estimates on how much homegrown weed will cost you per gram compared to store-bought weed. These estimates are meant to give you, the potential grower, a rough idea of costs, if you’re on the fence about growing your own. 

  • Homegrown (outdoor): $0.45/gram 
  • Homegrown (indoor): $5.80/gram (1st year); $1.34/gram (subsequent years)
  • Store-bought: $5-20/gram (depending on quality and market)

Again, we want to stress that these are all estimates and that weed prices, quality of weed, utilities, and the cost of materials all vary depending on growing practices, what state you live in, and how the economy is doing. Keep reading to see how we broke down these numbers.

How much does it cost to grow your own weed?

Growing your own weed is cheaper than you may think. The biggest roadblock to doing it is space: You’ll either need a garden plot outside or a dedicated area inside for a grow tent (one that’s close to a window to get rid of the smell). Check out where it’s legal to homegrow.

The cost of growing outdoor weed

Growing weed outdoors can be cheap—like, practically free, if weed grows easily where you live. It can be pricier in arid, humid, cold or hot climates, which can require spending more money to counteract nature.

Again, the main restriction is having a plot of land outside, and one that gets good light. It’ll need to get at least six hours of direct light a day (often south-facing). 

Materials and tools are inexpensive or even free. You may need to invest in a couple tools, like a shovel or trowel, but chances are you already have these or can borrow them; you can buy some new rich soil and some fertilizer, but your soil may be great as is, too. 

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If anything, you’ll likely need to buy wooden stakes, tomato cages, or other trellising materials to support your plants, but you may have these laying around too. A tarp or greenhouse materials are handy if it starts raining early in the fall.

You’ll need some weed seeds or clones, which often run $10-20 a pop, or, you can make friends with another grower who can give you genetics for free. If money is no object, you can even spend up to $1,000 per clone, if you like.

All in all, you can usually grow weed outdoors for less than $100 each year, and if you know the right people, almost $0. Learn more details on growing weed outdoors

The cost of growing indoor weed

We put together a small indoor grow for $500, which can fit one big plant or about 4 small plants. And that’s a one-time investment—after the initial setup, a grow tent should be good for years to come. You can go bigger with an indoor setup, which will cost more initially, but you’ll also be able to yield more weed with each harvest.

On top of initial setup costs, your utility bill will be higher than normal because you’ll have to run at least one light for 12-18 hours a day while growing (if not more lights), plus you may need to run an AC, heater, or dehumidifier depending on the temperature and humidity in your grow room. 

Calculating utilities can be tricky. The average cost of electricity in the US is about 15.5 cents per kilowatt-hour ($0.1546/kWh). With the grow light in our setup above, we estimate electricity to be about $20/month, based on the national average and a daily 18-hour light cycle. Electricity may be more or less depending on utilities prices in your state, if you need to power extra equipment, and if your growing cycle is longer or shorter. 

For an average 5-month growing cycle with the above setup, we estimate $650 in the first year of indoor growing: $500 setup + $100 utilities + $50 for seeds or clones. But that’s only the first harvest; after that, you’ll only need to pay for utilities and genetics, so $150 per harvest. Indoor growing pays itself off quickly. Learn more on how to set up an indoor weed grow here.

How much weed will one plant give you?

one much weed can you get from one plant?
(Michelle Noelke/Leafly)

Predicting the yield of a weed plant can be tricky as many factors play into it, such as a strain’s genetics, how much space is available for plants to grow, the amount of light a growing space receives (both indoors and outdoors), and more. For outdoor, weather in a particular year also plays a big part.

Our yield estimates for weed plants are:

  • 1 indoor plant: ¼ lb. (112 grams)
  • 1 outdoor plant: ½ lb. (224 grams) 

Price comparison: homegrown weed vs. store-bought weed

Putting all the numbers together, we divided average setup costs by average yields: $100/224 grams for outdoor, $650/112 grams for the first indoor harvest, and $150/112 grams for subsequent indoor harvests. Adding an average for store-bought weed of different qualities across multiple states gives us these estimates:

  • Homegrown (outdoor): $0.45/gram 
  • Homegrown (indoor): $5.80/gram (1st year); $1.34/gram (subsequent years)
  • Store-bought: $5-20/gram (depending on quality and market)

Yes, those numbers are right: Growing your own weed is a fraction of buying it in stores. Growing your own outdoor weed is pocket change. You can’t even make a payphone call for 45 cents. And the above estimate is for spending $100 on an outdoor setup (it could cost less than that), and for one outdoor plant. 

Typically, if you grow outdoors, you’ll have multiple plants. If you’re growing two plants outdoors, cut that price in half; four plants, cut it in quarters. You can even get a pound or more per plant, making it even more affordable.

And when have you ever bought indoor for less than $1.50? It’ll take a harvest to get to that price, but you’ll be there in no time.

This indoor estimate is also based on one plant. You can grow multiple plants at a time, and also have multiple harvests in a year. If you have two harvests a year, that $1.34/gram cost will quickly offset the higher cost of the first harvest.

The missing variable: labor

Of course, time is money, and the big variable these prices don’t account for is labor—how much time you spend digging holes, watering, pruning, trimming, and all the other sticky steps involved in growing weed. 

If you’re only growing a handful of plants, you’ll usually only need to spend 1-3 hours per week taking care of them. This includes watering, pruning, potting, trellising, etc. Some weeks will be less, some more. There’s usually a little more work on the bookends—setting up plants in the beginning and harvesting at the end. After harvesting, trimming can take up to eight hours per pound of weed. 

One drawback to growing your own is that you’ll need to be home to water them every couple days, or ask a buddy to. Like a farmer, you’re pretty tied to the land (or grow tent). You can set up timers and irrigation lines if you’re going out of town for a week, but things can go wrong, so you’ll want to be around your plants most of the time you’re growing. 

Prices aside, most people grow their own weed for the simple fact that they love the hobby of it. The whole growing process is fun, and getting weed at the end is the cherry on top. You can factor in how much time you spend growing and compare that to an hourly wage, but if you’re on the fence about growing your own weed, it really comes down to whether or not growing plants sounds like a fun hobby for you. So if you have the space and the interest, you’ll absolutely save money on buying it, and it’s easy to grow quality weed.

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