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Why Buy at the Dispensary When You Can Grow Cannabis at Home for Cheaper?

November 1, 2016
With the legal cannabis market, consumers can buy an array of products without considering cultivation, much like buying produce at a grocery store. Grocery stores are supplied by farms that take care of the cultivation and grow a product at a reasonable price.

For the most part, this is also true of cannabis, but let’s take a look at the numbers and see how growing your own stash and buying from a dispensary or adult use store compare.

How Much Does Cannabis Cost at a Store or Dispensary?

The ability to walk into a store and purchase cannabis products is a luxury that shouldn’t be taken for granted. Products like flower, concentrates, edibles, and more range in potency, flavor, and effect, and require expensive machinery and a high level of skill to produce. The diversity of flower and quality genetics is something most consumers couldn’t dream of 20 years ago.

But these products are subject to high taxes and regulations that make packaging and distribution expensive.

Costs Estimates of Store Bought Cannabis

Costs Estimates of Store-Bought Cannabis (click to enlarge)

How Much Does It Cost to Grow Your Own Cannabis?

Growing your own cannabis has its own set of benefits and drawbacks. Taking cultivation into your own hands gives you complete control of what goes into your cannabis, and it also gives you full knowledge of the growing process and a better understanding and appreciation of the plant.

It also allows you to explore growing techniques, genetics, harvest times, and curing strategies. This all requires time and effort, but it’s satisfying in the long run.

Related

Growing Cannabis Indoors vs. Outdoors: 3 Key Differences

But growing your own cannabis does present some difficulties. Pests, mold, and other diseases can rapidly sabotage a grow and leave you with a bad crop. If you’re completely new to growing, trial and error could lead to some costly mistakes as you learn how to properly raise healthy crops with strong yields.

If you’re curious about the approximate costs of growing your own cannabis, keep in mind that pricing varies between growing indoors and outdoors, as well as the size of your grow.

Growing Cannabis Indoors

For our indoor cannabis grow cost estimates, we estimated costs for a 6′ x 6′ grow space, using soil as the growing medium, and only one room for both vegetative growing and flowering. Also, let’s assume we’re in a temperate climate where the use of A/C won’t be necessary, which will save some energy costs.

Related

How to grow marijuana indoors: A beginner’s guide

Not included in the price estimates is the cannabis plants themselves. For this exercise, we’ll use six clones to save space and reduce our vegetative growth time. A single clone can cost between $10-$30, but higher-quality clones can be more expensive. Our plants will spend around a month in vegetative growth and around 8-10 weeks flowering.

Cost Estimates of Growing Cannabis Indoors

EquipmentCost (USD)
Built grow space (6' x 6')$250
1000-watt light setup (ballast, HPS bulb, hood)$200-$600
Metal halide bulb$30-$100
6" inline fan$80-$200
Carbon filter$85-$120
Six 10-gallon pots$20-$40
Two 30-gallon water tanks$50-$100
60 gallons of soil$60
Nutrient starter kit$50-$100
Hardware (trellising, zip ties, stakes)$50
3.5 months of electricity to power equipment$700
TOTAL COST RANGE:$1,575 to $2,320
AVERAGE COST:$1,948

With a 1000-watt bulb, ideally, you will produce up to a gram of flower per watt. Realistically, when starting out, you might get anywhere between half a gram and a gram per watt. This assumes you avoid pests and disease, and you feed your plants nutrients to keep them healthy. You should set aside an hour or more every couple days to observe your plants and work in the garden to keep your plants happy.

Small Closet Grow

If a 6′ x 6′ ft space is unrealistic, consider growing in a much smaller space using a grow tent. Grow tent dimensions start at 2′ x 2′ x 5′ for under $1,000, which includes everything you’ll need to grow cannabis except for soil and the plants.  You can usually grow two to four plants in 1- to 3-gallon pots, and you’ll most likely use a 400-600 watt light.

Cost Estimates of a Small Closet Cannabis Grow

EquipmentCost
2' x 2' x 5' grow kit$900
Four 3-gallon pots$20
20 gallons of soil$20
TOTAL COST:$940

Growing Cannabis Outdoors

Growing cannabis outdoors can be a very simple startup process. The biggest factor to take into account is the climate where you live. It needs to be sunny and dry enough to promote growth and prevent rot, and it needs to stay sunny and warm long enough into the fall to allow the plants to finish flowering. Growing in a greenhouse can help regulate temperature and moisture-related issues.

Related

How to grow marijuana outdoors: a beginner’s guide

For this estimate, we are growing in a climate where plants can be outside from the start of the season (July) to the end of the season (October). Again, we assume using clones to start, which aren’t included in our cost estimates.

Cost Estimates of Growing Cannabis Outdoors

EquipmentCost
45 gallon smart pots (5 count)$80-$140
Soil (20 gallons, 12 count)$300-$500
Soil amendments$100-$200
Nutrients$150-$500
Watering tank (250 gallons)$500
Mixing tank (50 gallons)$100
Water pump $200-$600
Hardware (trellising, zip ties, stakes hoses, valves)$400
TOTAL COST RANGE:$1,830-$2,940
AVERAGE COST:$2,385

You can get high yields of quality product growing outdoors. A plant grown in a 10-gallon pot should net you between 1-2 lbs of flower. You’ll need to consider the amount of time you will put into your garden—a couple of hours every couple of days on average should be enough to take care of your plants. Some days won’t require any work while others will require a bit.

Other expenses that may have an impact on your grow are equipment having to do with security or controlling odor.

If you already own equipment from growing other types of plants, you can certainly reuse many of these startup materials for growing cannabis. Growing just a plant or two in your yard will cost even less than the prices listed in these table.

Estimated Price Per Gram of Indoor and Outdoor Cannabis Grows

YieldCostPrice Per Gram
Indoor 6'x6' - 500 grams$1,948$3.90
Indoor 6'x6' - 1,000 grams$1,948$1.95
Indoor 2'x2' - 200 grams$940$4.70
Indoor 2'x2' - 400 grams$940$2.35
Outdoor - 2,000 grams$2,385$1.19
Outdoor - 4,000 grams$2,385$0.60

Looking at these totals, you’ll find that growing can be done for a much lower price than purchasing your product at the store. However, labor and property aren’t included in these costs. Someone will have to check in on the garden daily and spend time pruning, trimming, feeding, watering, and monitoring the plants for signs of disease, rot, or mold. Growing cannabis is labor-intensive and can be difficult, but if you’re looking for a new hobby and have the time to dedicate to it, you will save money and enjoy yourself.

Labor Costs and Their Impact on Price Per Gram

When including estimated labor costs of $20 per day for the growing period, the prices change significantly. (We adjusted the labor time needed for the 2′ x 2′ space at $10 per day because the size of the space is much more manageable.)

  • Indoor 6′ x 6′ space: $140 per week x 14 weeks = $1,960
  • Indoor 2′ x 2′ space:  $70 per week x 14 weeks = $980
  • Outdoor space: $140 per week x 20 weeks = $2,800

Estimated Price Per Gram of Home Grows Including Labor

YieldCost (Including Labor)Price Per Gram
Indoor - 500 grams$3,908$7.82
Indoor - 1,000 grams$3,908$3.91
Indoor 2'x2' - 200 grams$1,920$9.60
Outdoor - 2,000 grams$5,185$2.59
Outdoor - 4,000 grams$5,185$1.30

Reflecting on the costs between purchasing cannabis and growing your own in addition to the benefits that each method has to offer might have you clearly leaning to one side or stuck in a stalemate. Cannabis is not cheap or easy to grow, and chances are you will get higher quality, more diverse products at the local shop.

However, if you want to explore producing your own crop and if it feels less like labor and more like a hobby, then perhaps a personal garden is the way to go.

Trevor Hennings's Bio Image

Trevor Hennings

Trevor is a freelance writer and photographer. He has spent years in California working in the cannabis industry.

View Trevor Hennings's articles

  • Sniglet66

    Comprehensive, well balanced article. As an avid gardener that does BOTH – grows and buys legal weed – they can compliment each other. I can’t grow anything sativa leaning at home so the shops supply that; a home-grown crop of moderately potent weed is great for making edibles that are much cheaper than store bought. If one is already plant-savvy and has some gardening experience already, the learning curve is not so steep.

  • contel

    Definitely a worthwhile investment despite all the challenges and frustration.

  • eldarconvert .

    really good tips for beginner, if you want the best indoors out of your product indoors spend the money, get good meter’s as cheaper ones will fail, with nutrients you get what you pay for.

  • JohnPaul

    Growing your own is a Very satisfying experience and you get to grow the strains you want plus with just a little experience you will also find that you will be getting a higher quality of cannabis that dispensaries can’t match because the growers don’t slow dry or cure.

    Don’t let the prices in this article throw you off as they are on the high side.And don’t fall for the fertilizer hype. I only use three, Jack’s Classic All Purpose, Jack’s Classic Blossom Booster and Epsom (Magnesium Sulfate) and have never gotten anything but great results. Note: Jack’s Classic is from J.R. Peters. This company has been making Top quality fertilizer with micro nutrients for over 65 years and it’s inexpensive.

    I grow in 2 gal Perfect Pots in Happy Frog potting soil. My pots sit in 12″ black plastic Mondi saucers (these saucers are thick and ridged and will last a life time). When it’s time to water fill the saucer with 1 quart of your liquid fertilize. The liquid fertilize will wick up into the soil in the right amount so you never over water and the top couple of inches of soil remain dry. Two things, plants deposit their waste in the upper layers of the soil and pests don’t care for dry soil. And if you’re growing for Quality only use 1/2 the recommended dosage.

    Humboldt County grower.

    • Ivan van Ogre

      I worry about the future so I always feel like I need to have all my bases covered
      so I totally copied and pasted your post. Great advice, thank you!

  • Hammer Head

    Honestly, I don’t know where you got your pricing, but I assembled a home grow for about $500 – $600. I purchased all of my good quality equipment online as cheap as possible (do your research & shopping). When I see numbers almost hitting $2000 I wonder if you just walked out and purchased your equipment wherever you found it regardless of the price.

    • Hammer Head

      not trying to sound negative, but you can build a grow in your house pretty damn cheap as long as you are doing your research and shopping correctly. Be picky on quality and price.

      • Sidharth Mishra

        hey bro can u tell me about growing weed indoor and the links from where you got the equipment

    • lorkoos

      Exactly. You can get a nice setup for much less money that the author says.

  • hanscom

    I agree with Hammer that start up costs for outdoor grows are inflated. If you already grow tomatoes and beans you are 3/4 there. I believe growing cannabis is not more labor intensive than beans. Just train the plants to grow sideways by bending them gently everyday and then about 2-3 feet tie them to a weight with wire or clothes hanger. This keeps them low so you don’t show this monster to all the nieghbors and does not hurt production. Might have to sacrifice the main bud tho but others will make up for it.

  • Paul

    I have been growing in my 10 x 10 storage shed for 6 years now and I’ve never gotten 1 gr / watt. I use a 1000w for flowering and 400w for veg. My grows are 4 to 6 plants at a time. I am growing strickly hydroponic; not potting soil. I started using clones and last year started growing from seed. Am I doing something wrong or is the 1 gr / watt BS? My last crop was 6 plants of Juicy Fruit and it yielded 350 gr of bud and 200 gr of trim, (I use the trim to make eatables and topicals). Got any suggestions how I can get my yield closer to the 1 gr / watt if that’s even possible?

  • Frank Paris

    I use cannabis sacramentally for doing creative work, and grow my own. I toke up about 3 times a day, one to three puffs per session. I don’t waste smoke. So I’ve discovered that all I need to do is grow one plant every six months indoors and that more than satisfies my usage but mostly,I’m the only one that digs into this homegrown. I’m now using a single 70W LED array (about a buck per watt for the fixture) and grow the plant hydroponically. My last “crop” was from a Critical Super Sliver Haze seed I got postal from Europe. Critical Super Silver Haze is an incredibly productive plant for indoors. I only made one decapitation when the plant was about two feet high, and it spread its wings like I’ve never seen before. By the time I flowered it, it was four feet high and four feet wide and you couldn’t see through it it was so full of leaf and side branches. This one plant produced enough prime bud (I estimate) to last me 16 months. I’ve got it packed away in about 2,000 cc. worth of airtight containers. I spent maybe a total of $200 on supplies and I’ll be able to grow 1 plant every six months for just about as long as I live on this investment. And the electricity with the 70W LED bulb on 16 hours a day during vegetative growth and 10 hours a day during flowering, I hardly notice the electric bill in the Pacific Northwest.

  • GBAUTO

    If you are reasonably mechanically inclined you can build a decent closet hydro setup for under $600 with led lights. My power ran about $30/mo during grows. I also have grown outdoors and with the same strain it’s possible to yield more vs. indoors. Drawbacks are growing with the seasons, disease and pest problems and security. Indoors allows more resistance to pest and disease and you control the plant growth cycle.

  • Jim Jackson

    My single plant setup includes a small grow tent (48″x24″x60″), two 1000w LED lights. My planter is a two bucket hydroponic setup that I build myself. Total cost about $500. For a grow I will go through about $20 worth of nutrients and $200 worth of electricity (cheap power!). From this one plant I get around 7oz of dried flower and ~10gr of water hash. So, first grow I got 7oz worth with a $720 investment or about $3.50/gr . The next and subsequent grows cost about $220 for 7oz or $.89/gr.

  • Former Expat

    The numbers seem a little wacky here. Let’s say you’ve got someone only interested in supplying themself. A heavy smoker is somewhere around the gram-a-day range, so our one person will be looking for about 400 grams (around 14 ounces) from a grow.

    An outdoor grow targeting that yield would be soil = $60, pots = $50, nutrients = $50, pest control = $50, garden gadgets = $75, for a total of $285. Throw in seeds/clones at $100, and your per-gram cost comes to $1.03 all-in, with no more labor than required to tend the tomatoes and the marigolds.

  • Starting out with a small closet or grow tent using a 400 watt system is more that the average person should need. I’d recommend getting a low cost LED light that can be switched between veg/bloom so you only need one grow light. They produce less heat and can be tailored for the stage of growth. Start with using organic soil in pots with a grow light. Ask your buddies if they are growing to give you a few clones, be sure to stay within the legal limit for your State. After a couple crops, you can invest more $$ to upgrade to hydroponics. Nothing better than smoking your own pot…. https://www.estagecraft.com/

  • Alan479 Martin

    Just plant some junk seeds from your Mexican brick in select places or even nearby and hope that one of them turns out to be a winner.

  • Fun Please

    Anyone that pays more than $30 an eighth is an idiot that contributes to price gouging.
    Don’t be an idiot

    • Susie Mmpatient

      Spoken like someone who doesn’t live in a state where no dispo sells an eighth of anything for under $40, ever, and the standard price is $60/eighth. And there are 16 dispensaries serving a metro area of more than 6 million people.

  • alteredmindset

    I am a bit late to this discussion and I realize that, yet, I grow myself and have spent waaaaaaayyy less than all those estimates. The most expensive buy was for LED lights, that was $321 meizhi with a real wattage of 568, the tent was only 70, combined fans 75, soil about 40. five gallon pots at 1.25, nutes 50. still not close to your estimates. I even have plants in grow right now that I estimate at one pound and a quarter each. and I have three. so estimates aside, whether it is shady drug dealer person or dispensary, growing is cheaper and safer than dealing with the outside elements, and, a final point, you know what goes into your weed when you grow it yourself.

  • MHandAddictionsRightsAdvocate

    Depending on where you live isn’t there tax on cannabis purchased at a dispensary or store increasing the cost. I have been a Licensed Medical marijuana user in Canada since July 2009, or sort of, my license and that of my growers actually expired on March 31st 2014, when the MMAR was repealed. We are still licensed under the MMAR thanks to a last minute Supreme Court injunction, as they were eliminating all growing or trying to at least, and I believe that Health Canada admitted you could grow it yourself for $1.80-$5.00 a gram. While my grow is reasonably large, he doesn’t even grow my whole license, and in February they got grandma to look after their daughter and took their first vacation in forever, a full month, and they arranged for a friend to water the plants and check on them, and he called me pissed off when he got home and discovered that the guy was lazy and didn’t check the ph of the water. I’m a 15+ gram a day user, currently I have 6 different strains,but I buy by the pound from him. The cost of setting up even a small 6 x 6 grow tent and the other costs involved lights, pots etc, are good for more than one crop as well, they last quite a while so to count the cost based on one harvest makes no sense either. Clones are a one time expense typically as you take clones from your clones. The cost of electricity is a huge factor as 18 hours of light when in veg state as clones then you go 12 and 12 which triggers the plant to flower, but the yields depend a great deal on the strain, and an indica typically has a flowering period of 60 day whereas a sativa can take weeks longer and often have a lower yield.

  • Greg Bezoff

    I mostly grow outdoors, and my cost per gram is about 18 cents. If you grow the right strains and care for them well, you can obtain up to four pounds of dried bud per plant. My indoor setup cost me about $800 and the lights run about $25 per month. A four month indoor grow cycle costs me about 50 cents per dried gram of bud. This tells me that the profit margin on cannabis is absolutely outrageous. However, to be fair, all of these costs include my labour for free. If I had to hire somebody to do the work, the cost of production would be rather higher.

    • D Kane

      How the shit are you getting 4 pounds of dried bud per plant? I need to get on your system.
      I’m no pro but I’ve done a lot of grows and the max I’ve achieved was less than a pound per plant.

  • jwmii2

    This is why we created The Growing Rack. You can get started for not much money and have a grow space that is mobile and modular at the same time. It’s much easier to take care of a small space when it comes to bugs and mold vs a larger space or room. Plus when you are done you can tear it down in a matter of minutes. Tents are too flimsy and cabinets aren’t large enough for most people.

  • Dean_the_Human

    Out of curiosity, anyone have an estimate for an average monthly cost of electricity for a 2 x 2 closet grow? I’m in California and PG&E is crazy expensive… But I’d really like to try growing my own Platinum OG plant. And if anyone has any tips on that one, I’d really appreciate any advice.

  • Eleo Gordon

    Hello everyone. I have 2000 square feet of land where I want to grow outside cannabis. How much cost seedlings for that much of land and how many plants I can grow? Please let me know.

  • lorkoos

    It’s not only about the cost. One of the dirty little secrets of commercial weed is this: in a recent survey, batches of cannabis sold in Washington state shops were tested, and it was found that 60% of the samples had greater than the allowed levels of pesticides. It’s nice to know where your pot comes from, and growing it yourself is the best way to do that unless you can get your stash directly from someone who grows organically.