Growers Network Staff

November 28, 2018 3 min read
November 28, 2018
3 min read

What are cannabis caregivers?

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Today we want to answer a question that many outside the industry ask — what the heck is a caregiver? Let’s find out.

The following is an article produced by a contributing author. Growers Network does not endorse nor evaluate the claims of our contributors, nor do they influence our editorial process. We thank our contributors for their time and effort so we can continue our exclusive Growers Spotlight service.


Typically, if I were to say “caregiver” to somebody who’s not in the cannabis industry, generally they’d think of somebody who is an assisted living provider. They’d probably think of somebody who works in a hospice, retirement home, or at a senior citizen’s place of residence.

But in cannabis, caregiver means something entirely different. Not only in terms of connotations, but they are also considered legally different. One of the first states to legalize medical marijuana (abbreviated as MMJ) was California, and they legally defined a caregiver in section 11362.5 of the California Health and Safety Code.

But the definition provided by California law is pretty vague. It says that a primary caregiver is somebody “who has consistently assumed responsibility for the housing, health, or safety of that person.” Because cannabis is medicine, any grower who supplied cannabis directly to a patient was essentially a caregiver.

Other states would later take the caregiver model of cannabis and apply it to themselves, further clarifying the definition of a caregiver. In Arizona, for example, a caregiver is defined in the Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) section 36-2804.02 as somebody who has been officially designated as a caregiver by a qualified patient and meets certain minimum standards. Essentially, a caregiver in Arizona is determined by the patient.


Ok, that’s great. But what does a caregiver actually do?


Glad you asked.

While their role will depend heavily on your state’s medical marijuana laws, caregivers essentially provide patients who have a doctor’s recommendation with cannabis. These caregivers are allowed to cultivate and supply cannabis to several patients who regularly purchase medical cannabis. In states like Arizona, restrictions do apply to caregivers:

  1. Caregivers are only allowed if the patient lives >25 miles from the nearest dispensary.
  2. Caregivers may have multiple patients that they serve, but must be the primary caregiver for at least one individual as certified by the state.

But not all states are this strict. In some states, caregivers can be virtually anywhere, regardless of the nearest dispensary’s location.


What if I want to be a caregiver?


Now we get to the crux of the matter. You want to start growing cannabis for more than just yourself. Becoming a caregiver is an excellent start, and it will give you a sense for running a plant-touching cannabusiness. In our 200 series of educational articles, we’ll cover the basics of being your own caregiver in the cannabis industry. Look forward to these articles soon, only on Growers Network.


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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.