At the start of America’s slide into the COVID-19 pandemic, unusual behaviors became the new norm. Panic buyers cleaned out store shelves of toilet paper, but not immunity-boosting vitamins. Aloe vera, hand sanitizers, and household disinfectants became rare luxury items. Gun sales shot through the roof.
But one pandemic phenomenon the media hasn’t really honed in on: A surge in home gardening, both to curb anxiety and to prepare for possible food shortages. And yes, that surge includes growing weed at home, too.
A recent story at Quartz detailed the story of a major motion picture cameraman, Glenn Kaplan. When the coronavirus lockdowns began in March, movie studios shutdown, too. That gave Kaplan an opportunity to shift his technical chops from shooting films to setting up a cannabis cultivation in the comfort of his own home, with lights, tents, fans, and all.
“I’m obsessed… As a kind of geek in the film world with technology, I’ve been putting that energy toward this,” he told Quartz. And the newfound obsession did more than simply keep his mind busy. It ensured he would always have weed on hand, too. “It’s not like I can go run and see a friend, because we’re social-distancing.”
Kaplan’s not alone, either. In April, Amanda Siebe, a Democratic candidate running for Oregon’s House District 11, tweeted photos of her pot growing in, well, pots just as the state’s coronavirus quarantine kicked off its fourth week.
“Marijuana is actually pretty hearty,” she tweeted. “Put a couple seeds in a big pot & water. As you grow more you can bonzi [sic] it & make it produce more, but until you get a hand on growing it, you can just let it do its thing.”
Marijuana is actually pretty hearty. Put a couple seeds in a big pot & water. As you grow more you can bonzi it & make it produce more, but until you get a hand on growing it, you can just let it do its thing.
— #Siebe2020 for US House Oregon District 1 (@SiebeforORD1) April 10, 2020
In a phone interview with Marijuana Moment, Siebe clarified that her tweets served as both catharsis and confession.
“For me, it’s part of my everyday life. It’s not just what I do, it treats my medical condition. Without cannabis, I don’t have any quality of life,” she said. “I’m to the point where I’m done hiding it.”
Tending gardens has long been a source of soothing the soul and revivifying the mind. But during the coronavirus pandemic, many people began home gardening in the event of global shortages. And it wasn’t just in the US, either. According to Reuters, Russians got in on the gardening game, as well, even isolating themselves in cabins and huts with their new domestic farms.
One US cultivation supplier soared over all others in recent months. Hawthorne Gardening is the weed-growing equipment arm of Scotts Miracle-Gro. From 2016 to 2019, the parent company’s stock price more than doubled during that same period, with Hawthorne now making up 20 percent of Scotts Miracle-Gro’s total revenue. And the demand for supplies to grow cannabis at home kept increasing once quarantines went into effect.
“We’re shipping more out the door at Hawthorne than we ever have before,” Hawthorne’s general manager, Chris Hagedorn, said during an earnings call in early May, according to Quartz.
“We joked when all this started — not that it’s a joking matter, but you’ve got to find levity where you can,” Hagedorn continued. “What were people going to do when quarantine hit the whole country? They’re going to sit at home and smoke pot and garden. And I think, in all seriousness, there’s a lot of truth in that statement.”
However, not all cannabis patients and consumers have the privilege of tending cannabis gardens at home without fear of retribution from the authorities. Even in states with medical marijuana programs, laws in New Jersey and Florida ban residents from growing in their own homes.
Medical cannabis supplies haven’t gone dry in New Jersey, but COVID-19 exposed how vulnerable the state’s patients would be if social disruption cut off their supply chain. “If you have a child with Dravet syndrome, and you don’t have access to your medicine, that’s a big freaking deal,” Scott Rudder, the president of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association, said during a recent NJ.com webinar. “And that should make people angry, right? People should not have to worry about where they’re going to get medicines for themselves or for their child.”
Of all US states, New Jersey is among those hit the hardest hit by the pandemic. New Jersey comes in second after New York for most confirmed cases and deaths caused by the coronavirus. Although Governor Phil Murphy slowly began easing up on lockdown restrictions over the last week, haphazard behaviors could trigger another surge of cases, threatening patients’ access to store-bought medical cannabis.
State legislators who allow medical cannabis but ban homegrows should ask themselves: Is it more important to divert this plant from the black market, or is it more important that patients have reliable, self-sufficient access to it? Besides cannabis’s medicinal values, simply tending to dank buds is, in and of itself, therapeutic, too. Science says so.