Last July, Connecticut legalized cannabis to possess and smoke, but the right to cultivate was granted only to licensed patients

Last July, Connecticut turned over a new leaf when it legalized cannabis for adult recreational use. Legal to possess and smoke, but not quite yet to grow. The right to cultivate cannabis plants was granted only to licensed medical marijuana (MMJ) patients, and was delayed until October. The rest of the state’s residents will have to wait until 2023.

Mark Mathew Braunstein

Why the wait? And has anyone waited?

Not I, nor have the other impatient MMJ patients who have confided to me that they had already explored their new hobby. I sowed my first two seeds symbolically on Independence Day. Until July, that same venture in home gardening might have thrown me behind bars. A Connecticut Yankee in Judge Arthur’s Court, no longer. Now the penalty for a first offense for rushing the timeline is just a written warning. I’m trembling with fear.

Patients in Connecticut are now allowed to grow six plants, the same as have MMJ patients next door in Rhode Island since 2006, and next door in Massachusetts since 2012. Patients next door in New York are on track to follow that same path in 2022. Now that it’s legal for Connecticut’s 53,700 patients, a question hangs in the air. How do we get started?

While it’s easy and cheap to trawl the hinterland of the internet for conflicting instructions, I prefer a single source with a single authoritative voice. I look to authors, and found two suitable books. The book that got me started was Jeff Lowenfels’s DIY Autoflowering Cannabis. Jeff’s book is perfect for the beginner, and most of us are beginners. The chapters parallel the steps you would follow for growing cannabis.

Shorter in height and requiring a shorter growing season than the more widely known Sativa and Indica varieties, the new hybridized strain of autoflowers is ideal for growing indoors. While you must incrementally shorten the light cycle for Sativa and Indica to spark their blooming, daylength is not an issue with autoflowers, as its name suggests. The flowers, not the leaves, are the most potent part of this herbaceous leafy green. That’s what the hippies meant by “flower power.”

A successful harvest had long eluded me. Beginning in 1987, I tried to grow marijuana in the woodlands of the Connecticut College Arboretum in which I lived. Back then, you winnowed out seeds abundant in your black-market stash. I sprouted seeds indoors, then transplanted them into garden beds I had pioneered and mixed in organic fertilizer weeks ahead of planting. This allowed time for roaming wildlife to follow their noses to dig up the fertilizer that smelled so appetizing. Rabbits grazed upon my few seedlings. Deer browsed upon my fewer saplings. Posing as a nature photographer with a tripod balanced on my shoulder, I carried in water in a backpack. Summer after summer, my plants never blossomed into flower. All I ever got to harvest was a handful of seven-fingered leaves. After five years of guerilla gardening, I gave up.

I achieved my first successful harvest of flowering buds early in September. In the midst of my second plantings, I was ready for a second book to keep me going. Published just in time in late October, that book is Ed Rosenthal’s Cannabis Grower’s Handbook. Ed’s earlier Marijuana Grower’s Handbook, first published in 1974, has been revised in several editions. For 2021, his 736-page magnum opus was updated, enlarged, and retitled, Cannabis Grower’s Handbook. “Marijuana” hails from the dark times of pot prohibition. “Cannabis” belongs to the happy times of plant liberation.

If you have any questions or problems, Ed’s encyclopedic tome has the answers and solutions. Yet, the first-time grower should not buy Ed’s new book. Not yet, anyway. You will barely know where to start reading, so will not likely know how to start growing. The weakness of Ed’s book bolsters Jeff’s book’s strength.

In preparation for my third crop that I will sow this spring, I will be reading parts of Ed’s exhaustive texts this winter. And meanwhile I will be enjoying the harvests from my first and second crops.

Mark Mathew Braunstein of Waterford provided in-person testimony in support of Connecticut’s medical marijuana bills at seven of the eight public hearings held from 1997 until its passage into law in 2012. You can read his many articles and editorials about cannabis and medical marijuana at www.MarkBraunstein.Org