If you’ve made it to this point in our “How to Grow” series, you’ve already determined that you can legally grow cannabis for other individuals and patients. Today we’ll be discussing some real, practical concerns around growing for multiple people. So let’s get down to brass tacks, shall we?
The Elephant in the Room
First, let’s address something that’s really important. The rules and laws surrounding caregivers are often… vague, to put it politely. Even states or countries with explicit rules surrounding caregivers may not specify everything you need to know for your operation. Lawyers may only be able to give you a shrug as their best answer to a question, as some of the specifics may actually need to be worked out in a court.
Just remember to always be polite and courteous to law enforcement, and present any and all documentation they ask for. It is not wise to carry weapons or alcohol while you are working with cannabis, as this may incite further investigation. Police are often just trying to do their best given their current understanding of the law, and they are not lawyers.
One of the first practical questions you’ll need to tackle is where you can grow. Some jurisdictions are specific about where or how you can grow, and other jurisdictions are less restrictive. Based on your country/state law, and your county/city law, you may only be able to grow in specific areas and specific zones. As part of this process, you may need to draw up several maps and refer to city planners or city clerks to determine what is an appropriate location.
In this instance, we’ll use Tucson, Arizona (where I live) as an example. Arizona law dictates the following for caregivers:
- May only cultivate cannabis if your patient(s) are greater than 25 miles away from the closest dispensary. Note that this rule does not define where you as a caregiver may grow.
- You must operate as a non-profit, as defined by the state.
Seems simple right? But wait, I’m in Tucson. Tucson has its own rules too.
- Caregiver cultivation sites may be in the caregiver’s residence.
- Caregivers who are growing for more than one patient must cultivate in city zones of C-2, C-3, I-1, and I-2 (Commercial or Industrial Zones).
- Multiple caregivers may cultivate in the same location PROVIDED that the total cultivation size is under 250 square feet.
- All conditions applying to dispensary cultivation sites also apply to caregivers, except for the ability to grow at your place of residence.
Now let’s say you’re a caregiver in Tucson, and you don’t want your whole house smelling like cannabis all the time. Fair enough, you’ll just find another facility, right? Well, then there’s an entire set of other rules that applies to you. These rules denote “setback” distances dependent on your location relative to other things such as:
- Other cultivation sites (Setback by >2000 feet in commercial zones)
- Schools (Setback by >1000 feet in commercial zones, >500 feet in industrial zones)
- Churches, libraries, public parks (Setback by >1000 feet in commercial zones)
- Rehab centers and halfway houses. (Setback by >2000 feet in commercial zones)
Additionally, these rules also note that the structure in which cultivation takes place must be considered a permanent structure, not temporary. As you can see, these rules are extensive, and many caregivers opt to grow on their own personal property.
Editor’s Note: All distances are measured “as the crow flies,” in a circular radius around any of these facilities.
Second Editor’s Note: I also took a look at Pima County rules on cultivation sites (since Tucson is located in Pima County), and fortunately all Pima County rules are included in Tucson city rules, so it would’ve been redundant to add them to this article.
These rules such are fairly typical for cities that have made rulings on cannabis cultivation in their jurisdiction. Your city may or may not make these rules easily accessible, and it is your responsibility to find these rules if you are a caregiver. If your municipality has not made any ruling on cannabis cultivation, then only county, state, and country rules shall apply. Just remember that if the rules change, you’ll need to keep an eye on them!
Whoa Nelly! You thought the zoning restrictions and location restrictions were a lot? Well, if you’re not already asleep, this next section will help even the most stubborn of insomniacs.
Now let’s talk about finances. I have a few questions for you that should help guide your business plan.
1. What is your goal as a caregiver?
- If your goal is just to take care of a patient or patients, finances may not be a massive concern to you. You’re essentially just upgrading your personal grow to include a few extra individuals. In this case, you may decide a specific amount you’d like to charge your patients, assuming that you want to charge them at all.
- If your goal as a caregiver is to supplement your income, that’s great! You can charge a rate that nets you a positive over the cost of materials, while still doing your day job.
- If your goal is to make a career or a living out of caregiving, you’ll need to take several additional factors into consideration.
2. What are your costs?
As a caregiver, you are entering a little bit of the business world. In business, there are two factors to determine your success: Your costs and your revenue. When revenue is higher than costs, you have made a profit. When revenue is lower than costs, you have experienced a loss. Operating at a profit (or breaking even) is critical to the success of the business.
We should start by examining your costs. What will your ongoing costs be and what will your fixed costs be? Once you calculate your ongoing costs and your fixed costs, you will get a sense for how much money you need to make per month to strike even or turn a profit.
Your fixed costs will generally be equipment that lasts a long time. This includes things such as tools, reusable hydroponic equipment, processing/extraction equipment, and other mostly-permanent items. Your ongoing costs will include things such as labor (salaries!), rent/mortgage, nutrients, electricity bills, and water bills. It may take a few months to determine your ongoing costs, so be prepared to lose some money at first.
3. What is your revenue?
Now I’m sure you’re thinking, “Gee, my revenue comes from sales, genius!” And you know what? You’re not wrong.
But if your goal is to make a career out of cannabis caregiving, revenue is a very important question to answer, because your sales matter. How will you get your product to your patients and sell it? How will your patients transfer money or pay you? How many patients should you have to turn a profit (or break even) without also running out of product?
This question is absolutely critical if you want to make a living being a caregiver, and it leads into our next topic…
And last, but certainly not least, we should discuss your patients. You may enter caregiving only looking to help one or two patients you know personally, and we fully support that decision!
But you may also enter caregiving looking to make a living. In that case, your patients are also your clients and your customers. Finding regular clients is important to the success of your business! You may consider joining an online community or Facebook group to find patients who are looking for caregivers. Some growers I have spoken to have agencies that find patients for them. Or you can even try word of mouth and referrals. At the end of the day, finding clients is an important business function.
Caregiving can be deeply rewarding and (potentially) profitable! But it is a business, and carries with it a significant number of business questions. We at Growers Network hope that we have answered some of your practical questions, and have you thinking about caregiving as the next logical step in your growing career!
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About the Author
Hunter Wilson is a community builder with Growers Network. He graduated from the University of Arizona in 2011 with a Masters in Teaching and in 2007 with a Bachelors in Biology.