The legality of purchasing weed seeds is frustratingly like all other legal matters pertaining to marijuana; tricky. Depending on the Country, State, and a variety of other circumstantial factors, one may or may not be legally permitted to purchase them.
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Marijuana seeds are a product of cannabis plants; these plants are dioecious, which means that their male and female organs appear on separate individuals. Cannabis plants that are solely female are used to produce high potency cannabis and seeds that drop from matured plants are harvested for the production of hemp products or for the production of more plants.
Although the price of seeds depends a number of factors (availability, location, breeder etc.), seeds typically cost between $10 to $20 dollars per seed. Thus, a pack of ten seeds can cost well over $100. Individuals can physically, although not necessarily legally, purchase seeds on various online seed banks.
Some of the more common productions sites can be found within Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain, and the Netherlands. The laws concerning the production and sale of cannabis seeds in these countries are less stringent and therefore more attractive (and less risky) to growers.
As a general matter, and certainly on a purely federal level, purchasing cannabis seeds in the United States seeds is illegal. This is because marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substance Act and the purchasing (and importing) of an illegal substance is of course illegal. However, on a State level where cannabis may be legal in either a medicinal or recreational capacity, approved cannabis dispensaries and (in some cases) individuals may purchase and possess seeds.
The laws and regulations governing the purchase of seeds will vary according to the legislation passed by the state and depending on the license the business has acquired, will limit the quantity and source of the acquired seeds. Similarly, the number of seeds that an individual can possess varies by state. For example, if an individual lives in Colorado, he or she can legally purchase enough seeds to grow six marijuana plants for recreational use. Washington D.C has a similar framework in place for individual growers whose intent is to use the seeds purely for personal use.
Due to the federal prohibition, importing cannabis seeds from outside of the United States may prove challenging and risky, even if one intends to use them in a State where cannabis is legal. Indeed, there is a distinct possibility that U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents may seize the cannabis seeds that are shipped from foreign countries upon arrival into the U.S at the risk and expense of the importer.
To avoid some of these legal hurdles, seed banks in other countries officially sell their products for ‘souvenir purposes’, rather than for the purpose of marijuana cultivation. Additionally, in certain circumstances, cannabis seeds can be purchased for alternative uses within the U.S., such as bird food or fishing bait additives.
These seeds are often sterilized to ensure that they will not germinate. Responsible companies that sell cannabis seeds through their website warn purchasers that by placing an order, the individual must act in accordance with the laws of their country and respective state.
Currently, it is illegal to purchase cannabis seeds in Canada for recreational use. However, individuals with the proper documentation from the Canadian governmental body, Health Canada, are allowed to purchase and grow cannabis seeds for medical use.
This amendment to the general prohibition proved to be among the more important court rulings of 2016 and allowed severely ill patients to alleviate their pain with some of mother earth’s finest medicine. Of course, even individuals with the proper permits may only grow a limited amount and are not free to sell or disperse their product to unlicensed individuals.
The possession and trafficking of cannabis seeds is legal in the UK. However, for 99.99% of the population, individuals and companies alike, the cultivation, growth, and sale of any subsequently derived marijuana is illegal in the U.K. One could easily imagine why this is such a confusing (even schizophrenic?) legal dynamic – what good is it to allow for the possession of seeds if one cannot legally do anything with them?
The one notable company that has managed to procure a cannabis license to produce medical marijuana is GW Pharmaceuticals. This company is known for producing incredible products at (unfortunately) extremely high price points. For the common individual, Marijuana remains unavailable.
The Netherlands is known for its progressive attitude towards cannabis use and prefers regulation to prohibition in a broader effort to curtail substance abuse. Cannabis seeds, along with fully developed marijuana flowers, can be sold in coffee shops throughout the country, given proper adherence to regulatory guidelines.
However, foreign tourists in the Netherlands are only permitted to purchase cannabis seeds from coffee shops in cities like Amsterdam that have refused to implement the Weed Pass rule; a law which prevents non-residents from purchasing cannabis seeds.
Like the United States, Spain has a marijuana legal regime that draws distinctions along national and regional levels. Certain regions of the country are massively amenable to the consumption of the plant (Catalonia and Barcelona in particular) while other regions have instituted laws and policies that are less favorable.
When purchasing seeds, make sure you are familiar with the laws of the locality. While it is fair to say that Spain as a matter of national policy has a rather relaxed view on Cannabis, its criminal code still officially prohibits the sale of cannabis. Critically, it does not prohibit the consumption of marijuana and for this reason, there are hundreds and hundreds of smoking clubs across the country.
Principally, Spain is interested in preventing mass scale trafficking of the plant. Officials and law enforcement are not overly concerned with individuals growing the plant for their own consumption. As this pertains to purchasing cannabis seeds, it seems that being caught with the seeds would not be particularly burdensome; hence the many cannabis seed banks and breeders located in Spain – it is legal to buy and sell seeds and other ‘hemp’ products.
The purchase, cultivation and/or trafficking of cannabis seeds in South Africa is fundamentally illegal. If an individual is caught engaging in any of these activities, the police will nearly certainly confiscate the seeds and depending on the quantity of seeds in question, impose stiff or lax penalties.
Indeed, possessing a small number of cannabis seeds will likely yield only a small fine however, if the individual is found to have a large quantity of seeds, he/she may be imprisoned.
Citizens of Uruguay and registered residents 18 or older are allowed to grow up to 6 marijuana plants at home. Personal use of cannabis is is not penalized nor specified – Uruguay’s law allows for possession of an unspecified “personal amount” of usable marijuana. This includes seeds.
Marijuana seeds can be obtained at the various state-controlled dispensaries, and “Club de Cannabis” clubs. Relating to cannabis seeds’ sale and purchase legality, citizens and registered residents will be protected under the law, while tourists are not.
Ultimately, both sellers and buyers of marijuana seeds must be aware of three key factors; the national legality of the purchase, the regional legality of the purchase, and the quantity of the purchase. Depending on how these factors interface with one another, one may expect greater or less severe penalties for the purchasing of marijuana seeds. Stay safe, stay free.
Abe Cohn is COO of THC Legal Group, a team of Marijuana Lawyers specializing in legal protection for the cannabis industry. For more information, please visit their website at http://www.THCLegalGroup.com