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A guide to buying cannabis seeds

January 14, 2019

The first couple months of the year is a great time to start planning your cannabis garden to get a head start on the outdoor growing season, which roughly runs from March to November, depending on where you live. Navigating the cannabis seed market can be challenging when states have different degrees of legality.  This guide will answer your questions on buying seeds so you can be on your way to growing your own cannabis.

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(Courtesy of Erik Nugshots)

Marijuana seeds are considered cannabis products just like flower, edibles, and concentrates. Their legality depends on which state you live in. People living in states with adult-use legalization can buy, produce, and sell seeds within their own state, but seeds can’t cross state lines. People living in states with medical marijuana legalization can only buy seeds if they have a medical card.

Seed banks exist outside of the US and can sell them for “souvenir purposes,” but it is illegal to bring seeds into the US and Customs will seize any cannabis seeds that they find in packages or on a person.

Look for cannabis seeds at a nearby dispensary

Where can I buy cannabis seeds?

Many world-renowned seed banks are overseas in the Netherlands, the UK, Spain, and other countries where cannabis laws are less restricted. Seed banks provide seeds from a variety of different breeders.

In states with adult-use legalization or a medical marijuana program, you can buy seeds within your own state, either at a dispensary or through a specific seed company’s website.

Researching cannabis seeds online

Before you purchase seeds online, you’ll need to figure out what strain you want to grow and what breeder you want to buy from.

Because US federal law still prohibits cannabis, it can be hard to find information on seed banks and breeders. Breeders who have a long history and positive reputation are usually a good place to start. To get an idea of what well-established breeders look like, check out:

Europe

US

You can also do some research and find an online grow journal that details the whole growing process of a specific strain from a particular breeder. Through these, you’ll be able to look over another grower’s specific notes and see pictures of the final results.

If you grow some seeds and like the results, try growing another strain from that same breeder and see how it goes.

Check out Leafly’s Growing section for more on how to grow cannabis 

Shopping at the dispensary

Although this option is only available to people living in states with medical and adult-use legalization, buying marijuana seeds at the dispensary is far more straightforward. However, your options are more limited.

Dispensary staff should be able to give you information on the seeds they’re selling, but keep in mind that a lot of dispensaries focus on selling flower and end-products. It’s a good idea to call ahead and talk to staff to see if they are knowledgeable about seeds and can give you specific information on growing.

How do I know if I’m getting quality genetics?

(Sunshine Seeds/iStock)

Breeders talk about “unstable genetics,” meaning that a seed’s origin is unknown. Make sure that when you buy a packet of seeds that it or the breeder who produced them can list where the seeds came from and how they were crossed and/or backcrossed to get the seed that you hold in your hand. If you can’t get a seed’s history, it could be anything and the result of poor breeding practices.

An inexperienced breeder might cross a male and a female one time and sell the resulting seeds as a new hybrid strain, but professional breeders usually put their strains through several rounds of backcrossing to stabilize the genetics and ensure consistent plants that reflect those genetics.

Related
Cannabis Breeding: How Are New Strains Created?

What’s the difference between regular, feminized, and autoflower seeds?

Regular seeds

If you buy a packet of regular seeds, they’ll come with a mix of males and females. A lot of cultivators prefer to grow these because they haven’t been backcrossed—essentially inbred—as much as feminized or autoflower seeds. You’ll need to sex out the seeds once their reproductive organs show during the flowering phase and discard the males—because they don’t produce buds and will pollenate females, resulting in seeded flowers.

Feminized seeds

Seeds can come feminized, meaning you can just put them in soil and start growing for buds. These seeds are guaranteed to be bud-producing females and growing them cuts out the step of having to sex out plants and discard the males.

It also reduces the risk of having a stray male sneak into your crop—just one male can pollinate a huge crop, causing your females to focus their energies on producing seeds instead of buds.

Autoflower seeds

Autoflower plants change from the vegetative to flowering state with age, not the changing of their light cycle. They have a short grow-to-harvest time and can be ready to harvest in as little as 2 ½ to 3 months from when you put the seeds in the ground. The downside is that, typically, they are less potent, but autoflower seeds are great for people who want to grow cannabis but don’t want to spend a lot of time doing it.

Related
Stages of the marijuana plant growth cycle

How much do marijuana seeds cost?

Cannabis seeds usually come in a pack of 10 or 12 seeds and start at around $40 a pack and go up from there. Some high-end genetics can run between $200 to $500 a pack.

Feminized and autoflower seeds will cost more because more breeding work was put in to creating them and they take less time for the grower to get buds.

How many seeds should I buy? Are they all going to survive?

(PierceHSmith/iStock)

When you grow any amount of seeds, a percentage of them won’t germinate, even if you get them from a reputable breeder. Always count on a few not germinating or dying off, or roughly 1/4 of the total you put in the ground.

When growing regular seeds, some won’t germinate and some will have to be discarded because they’ll turn out to be males. With feminized seeds, some won’t germinate, but a higher percentage of them will turn into flowering plants because there won’t be any males.

If you want six total cannabis plants to harvest for buds and are growing from regular seeds, start with about 4 times as many, or 24 seeds. Some won’t germinate and some will turn out to be males, and then you’ll want to discard down to the six best phenotypes. If growing feminized seeds, you can probably start with about twice as many seeds in this case (about 12); a couple won’t germinate, and then discard down to the six best phenotypes.

Make sure to always stay within your state’s legal limit of growing plants.

How do I buy strain-specific cannabis seeds?

Blue Dream, Gelato, and Original Glue have gained in popularity in recent years. To try your hand at growing them, check out these resources:

Pat Goggins's Bio Image
Pat Goggins

Pat Goggins is an editor at Leafly, specializing in cannabis cultivation after working for a commercial grower in Oregon for two years. When not fixing typos, you’ll probably find him on a boat or in the mountains.

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