Whether you are thinking of cultivating cannabis commercially or for personal use, you’re going to need marijuana seeds.
Due to the disjoint between federal cannabis prohibition and the patchwork of state marijuana laws, it can be confusing to know where to legally buy cannabis seeds.
In this guide, we’ll outline where it is legal to buy marijuana seeds in the US and detail everything else you need to know to get started growing cannabis legally.
Is it legal to purchase cannabis seeds in the US?
The short answer is “it depends.”
The long answer requires consideration of both federal and state laws.
Is it federally legal to purchase cannabis seeds?
At the federal level, marijuana seeds, like all marijuana products, are prohibited.
However, in 2022 the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) issued a clarification regarding the legality of marijuana seeds in response to a letter from a lawyer.
This lawyer referenced the legalization of hemp in 2018, which includes all cannabis products containing less than 0.03 percent THC. They argued that since marijuana seeds contain less than 0.03 percent THC, they should therefore have the same legal status as hemp.
The DEA agreed, stating that for this reason marijuana seeds are not considered a controlled substance. It is only illegal if the seeds are used to grow marijuana. After all, you could, in theory, be using your cannabis seeds as fishing bait or bird food.
The DEA’s position, however, is an “official determination” rather than law. Still, it suggests a softening in federal authorities’ approach to cannabis.
What about at the state level?
Things don’t get much clearer when it comes to state laws on purchasing cannabis seeds.
In general, states that have legalized adult-use marijuana manage their cannabis industries as a closed-loop, seed-to-sale market. This means it is legal to buy, produce, and sell cannabis seeds so long as it all takes place within the state’s borders.
The complication arises if you transport cannabis seeds across state lines. As we now know, all marijuana products are federally illegal, so carrying cannabis seeds from one state to another could result in federal criminal charges, even if both states have legalized recreational marijuana use. However, cases like this are exceptionally rare.
There are other things to be aware of regarding cannabis seeds in states that have legalized marijuana. Not all of them allow cannabis cultivation for personal use, while others require a license to do so. States that allow home marijuana cultivation tend to put a limit on the number of plants you’re legally permitted to grow. So, even if you have legally purchased your cannabis seeds in a state where marijuana possession and purchases are legal, you could still fall afoul of the law.
Meanwhile, in states that have legalized medical marijuana but not adult-use, only registered medical cannabis patients or their designated caregivers are allowed to purchase cannabis seeds.
States that have maintained full marijuana prohibition are aligned with federal law in not permitting cannabis seed sales at all.
Can I legally buy cannabis seeds from another country?
Countries such as the Netherlands and the United Kingdom are known for having quality cannabis seed banks, so is it possible to legally buy from them? In theory, yes, you can. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
First, even with the DEA’s official determination, marijuana products such as cannabis seeds are federally illegal. So bringing them into the US risks, at a minimum, having them seized or, if they are posted, having the package confiscated.
As well as this, importing non-native plant material, cannabis or otherwise, can be an administrative headache in its own right. The US requires imported seeds to be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate issued by the relevant authority in the exporting country. Even importing seeds from Canada requires an official permit authorizing the import of plants and plant products.
It’s a shame, but there are plenty of brick-and-mortar and online stores where you can buy marijuana seeds in the US.
What are the options for legally buying cannabis seeds in the US?
If you live in a state that’s fully legalized marijuana, then you can go to a cannabis retailer, marijuana farmer’s market, or a company that specializes in cannabis seeds. However, most cannabis retailers don’t sell seeds, and farmer’s markets and seed companies are few and far between. There’s also no guarantee that the employees will be all that knowledgeable about the cannabis seeds they have in stock.
A more solid option is to buy cannabis seeds online from a reputable supplier. Aside from being more convenient, online cannabis seed stores tend to have a much wider range of cannabis breeders and strains to choose from.
And, as indicated earlier, it is probably a better idea to source your cannabis seeds from an online retailer based in the US. Not only will your cannabis seeds arrive sooner, but also the risk of your package being confiscated is much lower than if it has to pass through Customs and Border Protection.