There’s a patch of ground behind the lilies in Lauren’s west suburban backyard garden where tomatoes won’t grow. She thinks it has something to do with the soil’s pH, but whatever it is, it’s a fertile spot for a different kind of plant.

“Lauren,” a 40-year-old sales contractor, longtime cannabis advocate, and new Illinois medical marijuana card holder, moved back home four years ago from Colorado, where she and her ex-husband were avid gardeners. She’s using a pseudonym not because what she’s doing is illegal, but because it used to be. Back out west they grew conventionally edible plants outside, but in their basement they had an aquaponic growing system that allowed them to raise as many as 50 cannabis plants at a time. It wasn’t a big deal in pre-legal Fort Collins. “We were able to provide enough for our own consumption and provide for friends,” she says. “It was kind of what everybody did.”

When the couple split up and Lauren moved into her new home, she didn’t want to deal with the lights, chemicals, exhaust systems, insect invasions, and overall expense one must contemplate when deciding to convert a portion of the home to cannabis cultivation. “It’s a couple thousand dollars between lights and the way you’re gonna do it,” she says.

Hmm. Still not too clear if the law is OK with outdoor growing. Maybe we should check with a lawyer: “It can be a complicated answer, but the short response is, ‘maybe,’” says Larry Mishkin, a local attorney who specializes in cannabis law in association with the Hoban Law Group based in Denver. “Nowhere is there an express written provision directly prohibiting outdoor cultivation for homegrow. Still, to me, it reads as “no outside grow” without saying “no outside grow.”

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