The legal marijuana market is booming. There’s legitimate money to be made in weed, without having to sell it on the black market to reap the benefits. With more states passing cannabis legislation all the time, there is opportunity abound when it comes to starting a successful cannabis business. Individuals interested in large-scale cultivation are typically curious about the average cost of starting a cannabis grow. Understanding the startup costs of a cannabis grow is paramount to anyone beginning this (extremely lucrative) business venture. According to data published in 2017 in the Marijuana Business Factbook, the average startup costs for people interested in the wholesale cultivation of cannabis is $42/square foot.
How Much Does It Cost to Start a Cannabis Grow?
This is an average, however, as the cost of starting and maintaining an indoor grow is much more expensive than outdoor, greenhouse, or combination cannabis grows.
Indoor grows can cost as much as $75/square foot, making this the most expensive option for growing cannabis. Outdoor grows cost approximately $10-$17/square foot, while greenhouse and combination grows average $50/square foot.
Indoor grows are so much more expensive because everything must be controlled. Grow lights are essential, as well as systems for temperature and humidity control. Outdoor grows, on the other hand, use the light of the sun and don’t require any equipment to control the natural environment in which they cultivate.
While it’s more expensive, the controlled environment of an indoor grow allows cultivators to produce higher quality plants. Cannabis grown indoors can typically grab a higher price than outdoor cannabis. Growers can also cultivate cannabis all year, producing several crops rather than just one that is dependent on the seasons.
What exactly is the breakdown of the prices you’re looking at when starting a cannabis grow? The following is a rundown of what you’ll need to get your grow off the ground, as well as an idea of what it will cost to maintain it.
The Space to Grow
Professionally cultivating cannabis is much different than having a few plants in your closet or a grow room set up in your basement. If you want to grow marijuana for the masses, you’ll have to think on a larger scale. Like warehouse size scale.
Renting a space to grow weed isn’t like renting a space to make t-shirts. Even in states where cannabis is legal, landlords aren’t always willing to rent to growers. And if they are, it's likely the price you’ll pay is going to be more expensive.
According to the Denver Post, in 2014, the average price of industrial space was $4.74/square foot. Growers, however, were paying up to $17/square foot or more. While the average price per square foot will vary in different states, the space to grow doesn’t come cheap.
If you’re growing indoors, you’ll need lights to do it. The cost you spend on lighting is dependent on how many plants you’re planning on growing. There are literally hundreds of options for grow lights, ranging from budget-friendly to uber expensive. Keep in mind that each light has a maximum amount of space it can cover, so if you’re growing on a commercial scale plan to spend more.
LED grow lights can average from a 2400W that covers 6x6.5ft for $250-$350 to a 400W that covers 2x2ft for around $200. Rather than crowd a bunch of plants under one light, you’ll want to keep it to a minimum for maximum production. Some growers will do one plant for every 250W. If you’re growing indoors, plan on spending several thousand dollars to get the lights you need.
Temperature Control and Ventilation
Grow lights get hot and growing indoors requires the temperature to be regulated. Fans are a huge component of an indoor grow and can cost up to $100 or more per fan. The larger your grow operation, the more fans you will need. For a large-scale grow operation, you could be looking at startup costs for fans at $1,000 or more.
There is also the cost for humidifiers and ventilation systems. In order to keep plants healthy and happy, you’ll need all the equipment that makes up an ideal environment. On average, the cost of fans and other equipment you’ll need can run $1,000-$3,000.
You’ve got your space rented and all the equipment you need to get your grow going. You’ll also need to purchase whatever grow medium you plan on using. Whether growing in soil or setting up a hydroponic system, plan on spending the money to do so. Average prices will fluctuate depending on how you plan on growing.
There are low-cost hydroponic systems, but they aren’t exactly the best for growing cannabis commercially. The best hydroponic systems can average more than $400 but will produce more and are typically much easier to use.
If you’re choosing soil as your growing medium, a 10-gallon smart pot requires 1.34 cubic feet of soil. A 1.5 cu ft. bag of Roots Organic Soil averages $15. So, if you were growing 100 plants in 10-gallon pots, you would spend approximately $1,500 just on soil. A 10-gallon smart pot averages just about $10, so you would need another $1,000 for your pots.
Feeding your plants the nutrients they need is vital for maximizing your harvest. Different nutrients are needed throughout the lifecycle of the plant. While cost will all come down to how much cannabis you’re cultivating, you can plan on spending up to $1,000 or more on nutrients each harvest.
Starting a Cannabis Grow Will Cost You
The average cost of starting a cannabis grow isn’t cheap. Aside from the costs mentioned here, you’ll also need to pay for seeds or clones. And if you’re growing indoors, you’ll need to cover the cost of the electricity which can get as high as $2,000 a month or more. There’s also the cost of water if you’re not getting it from a well.
Don’t forget the licensing fees associated with the state you plan to grow in. In Colorado, for example, state fees for retail marijuana cultivation are $4,000. In California, a recent report found that only around 1% of growers are licensed because they can’t afford licensing costs. Annual fees for a “medium indoor” grow average almost $78,000.
If you’re serious about getting into the business of legal cannabis cultivation, you’ll need to consider around $20,000 at least to get your grow off the ground.