The legality of purchasing cannabis 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.
This blog post is for informational purposes only. Nothing in this post should be construed as legal advice.
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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.
As cannabis is legal for medical purposes only, the cultivation of seeds may only ever be permissible when used to grow plants for medicinal purposes. Canada currently houses various seed banks that exist (ostensibly) for the sole purpose of selling seeds for medical use. Additionally, given the adherence to certain restrictions, seeds can be purchased from online seed banks and shipped to various locations throughout the country.
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?
It is legal to buy and sell the seeds over the counter as well as through the mail to and from a U.K. address, provided the seeds are never germinated. Online cannabis seed banks operating from the U. K. emphasize that seeds are not to be germinated under any circumstances. Seeds are sold for non-cultivation purposes such as use as collector items, bird food, and fish bait.
Ultimately, the potential liability of buying and/or selling cannabis seeds in the UK is largely dependent on the perceived intent of the seller/purchaser.
The possession of cannabis seeds in Australia is only legal for medical purposes. Cannabis, under Australian law is summarized to include seeds, concentrates, tars, the plant, and any piece of the plant, disregarding hemp and hemp products.
In spite of this, Australia’s National Drug Strategy favors sanctions and minimal penalties for recreational cannabis use and to a smaller extent, trafficking. The legal consequences of buying cannabis seeds exists along a continuum and is to a large extent, a function of both the the perceived intent of the seller or purchaser and the state/province where the purchase has taken place.
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.
In Italy, the sale, purchase and possession of cannabis seeds is essentially legal, as seeds do not contain THC. Italian law states that cannabis plants or products from the plant are illegal when containing an excess of 0.6% THC. Marijuana seeds in Italy are often labeled as collectors items, among other disclaimers.
Italian law makes it somewhat legal to grow cannabis provided that the plant’s THC content does not exceed 0.6%. Immature, vegetative plants do not produce enough THC to be considered illegal. Italy’s first cannabis clone shop, the Hemp Embassy, takes advantage of this legal loophole. Buyers of cannabis genetics must take steps to ensure that plants do not flower.
Along with Germany, France is one of the toughest countries in the European Union regarding it’s laws on cannabis. The use, possession, cultivation, sale and purchase of cannabis is illegal in France. The country does have an industrial hemp industry, with 20 recognized strains producing less that 0.2% THC.
Due to certain interpretations of EU free-trade laws, cannabis seeds may get shipped to France by cannabis seed banks in the European Union, but not bought or sold in the French market.
As a general matter, buying cannabis seeds in Germany is illegal if they seem to be sold or possessed for any intended illegal cultivation. Cannabis seeds, excluding hemp varieties, are are listed as plant parts in Annex I of the BtMG narcotics law. Where the confusion lies is when considering that selling or possessing cannabis seeds is deemed punishable if used for illegal cultivation. The legal status of marijuana seeds for use outside of illegal cultivation is not explained, such as for souvenir purposes, use as bird food or as fishing bait additives.
Medical cannabis patients in Germany are not permitted to grow their own plants, therefore buying seeds to grow medicinal cannabis would be against the law. However, in 2017 the German Federal Administrative Court made a groundbreaking decision when it ruled in favor of a medical patient wishing to cultivate his own cannabis at home.
In Belgium, the sale of cannabis seeds is a grey area; it is not specifically prohibited by law, in part to seeds not containing the illegal substance THC, but seed vendors in Belgium have had trouble selling cannabis seeds locally.
During the mid-2000’s, many grow equipment/cannabis seed shops in Belgium were shut down by authorities. As a result, vendors left Belgium flocking to the more liberal Netherlands laws regarding cannabis.
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.
In Austria, cannabis seeds can be purchased somewhat legally. The ambiguous wording of Austrian Narcotics Decree, annex IV, focuses on Δ9-THC and prohibits substances containing above the legal limit of 0.3%. Cannabis seeds, along with non-flowering cannabis plants do not contain enough THC to be considered an illegal substance by that measure.
As a result of this legal loophole, Austrian hemp and cannabis trade shows are able to feature immature, vegetating cannabis clones and seedlings that are sold for “aromatherapy purposes”.
It is legal to sell and buy cannabis seeds as well as all equipment for cultivation in the Czech Republic, for use as collectors items. Cannabis seeds do not contain the illegal substance THC. However, one must act in accordance with Czech laws; cannabis cultivation and possession remains illegal for recreational use in the Czech Republic.
Since the 2010 amendment (467/2009 Coll) to the penal code, cultivation of cannabis in Czech has been decriminalized provided that plant count is five or below.
According to the Act on Drug Prevention, the possession and sale of cannabis seeds in Poland legal. Marijuana seeds do not contain the illegal substance THC, so are not considered a controlled substance. However, under Polish law cultivating marijuana remains illegal. Cannabis seeds are sold strictly for intended use outside of marijuana growing, such as collectables.
On July 20, 2017 Poland legalized marijuana for medical use. However, the new law doesn’t allow for domestic cultivation. Cannabis is imported into the country and sold at pharmacies to qualified patients in various forms.
The sale and purchase of cannabis seeds in Switzerland is not clearly defined; current Swiss legislation does not target marijuana seeds specifically, but rather prohibits this sale of non-authorized hemp seeds. It is legal to grow hemp in Switzerland, with restrictions on THC levels exceeding 1%.
Since March of 2014, cannabis seeds are no longer illegal in Slovakia. However, the law change applies only to marijuana seeds; possession or cultivation of the cannabis plant remains illegal. The current active legislation forged by the Health Ministry states that cannabis seeds do not contain the psychoactive chemical compounds known as cannabinoids.
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.
Cannabis seeds and leaves are excluded from India’s list of banned substances, making the possession of cannabis seeds in India legal. The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act reads “…b) ganja, that is, the flowering or fruiting tops of the cannabis plant (excluding the seeds and leaves when not accompanied by the tops.”
Other marijuana laws vary by state in India. Bhang is an edible cannabis preparation available in India, and can be made using cannabis seeds and leaves exclusively to stay in accordance with the law.
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. Regarding to sale, purchase and possession of cannabis seeds, citizens and registered residents will be protected under the law, while tourists are not.
Cannabis (Marijuana) Seeds
Cannabis (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.
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 www.THCLegalGroup.com