CHICAGO - All it takes to grow marijuana at home is sunlight and water - and some nutrient-rich soil specially formulated for cannabis plants.
Starting next year, medical marijuana patients in Illinois will be allowed to grow their own cannabis plants at home. Each person enrolled in the medical program - currently that's more than 82,000 people - can grow five plants.
Home and garden centers and the companies that supply them are betting those people will need to buy equipment to get started.
Several companies from states like Colorado and California, where consumers have legally grown their own weed for years, brought cannabis-growing equipment this week to the Independent Garden Center Show at McCormick Place in Chicago, which had its first-ever "Cannabis Corner."
Attendees stopped at the booths, feeling soil samples, taking pamphlets and discussing nutrients. Exhibitors were working to get their products into more garden centers.
But many of the products, including a kit to grow your own marijuana plant, are already available online and ship nearly anywhere.
A few booths down from a company selling birdhouses, and just across from a bunch of lighted Christmas trees, A Pot for Pot displayed two thriving marijuana plants. One plant was 80 days old and ready for harvest, with plump buds hugging the stem. The other was half as old and hadn't yet developed buds, but the distinctive, five-pronged leaves were full and green.
The California-based company's marijuana kits include nutrient-rich soil, beneficial bacteria and instructions.
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"We like to think of ourselves as Blue Apron meets Chia Pet for growing cannabis," said one of the founders, Jason Levin.
"When you look at beer and wine, that requires a lot of skill on the brewers part," added co-founder Joshua Mezher. "With this, the plant does all the work."
The average customer grows 1 to 3 ounces of cannabis with the kit, Mezher said. The seeds are not included in the kit. Customers order them from A Pot for Pot's partner in the Netherlands, and the plants are usually ready to harvest in about 80 days.
The kits come in different sizes, with a 5-gallon kit selling for about $100 on the company's website and a desktop mini version that Levin said sold for $30. ("That one's a great holiday gift because it's cute and affordable," Levin said.)
Andrew Victor, national sales consultant for American Cannabis Company, ran his fingers through some soil in a container at his company's display.
For 14 years, the Denver-based company has sold soil to cultivation facilities but now it sees opportunities in selling to retailers.
"The time is right. States are falling like dominoes legalizing," Victor said. "In the middle of garden center people, here we are, American Cannabis Company, talking about growing cannabis."
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