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Is it illegal to sell cannabis seeds

An Introduction to the Big Business of Cannabis Seeds

Cannabis seeds can produce widely different plants. And in anticipation of national legalization, the market is evolving quietly, but quickly.

Cannabis seeds are, obviously, integral to the weed industry. With so many growers around the world, they’re in higher demand than ever. As a result, a network of online and physical retailers has popped up to satisfy both legal and grey market needs.

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But increased demand and legalization are changing the seed business. How will the cannabis seeds market evolve with growing demand and more legalization efforts?

The 3 main typles of cannabis seeds.

There is a great deal of variety within cannabis seeds. Specifically, you can divide them into three main types:

Regular: These contain both male and female plants, meaning that half of the plants will not flower. This kind requires more light to begin flowering.

Autoflower: Autoflowering seeds begin flowering as soon as the plant reaches maturity.

Feminized: Seeds that only produce the flowering part of the cannabis plant i.e. the female part.

Aside from the type of seed, seeds differ genetically. This means that breeders have grown them into distinct stains that can produce a wide variety of effects. This is where the real value in cannabis seeds lies.

Why genetics matter.

Anyone who has ever consumed cannabis in any of its forms knows that strain matters. This goes beyond sativa vs. indica. Strains can be bred to produce a variety of effects and serve purposes that go way beyond flavor. For example:

High-CBD hemp seeds are ideal for creating potent cannabis oil.

Strains can be bred for pain management and other medical purposes.

Plants can be genetically altered for shorter, better yields.

Specific types of hemp create stronger, longer lasting fiber.

Not only is the ability to create products with distinct terpene flavor profile a great way to appeal to consumers, but the right genetics can produce vastly different effects with medical and economic advantages. And the more the medical and recreational markets grow, the more demanding consumers are of their weed products and the more competition there is when starting a cannabis dispensary or another type of business.

Who sells cannabis seeds.

Anyone can sell cannabis seeds but not all vendors are legal. International drug laws do not strictly regulate cannabis seeds because they have a variety of uses — animal feed, oil production, clothing material — but some countries are stricter about their importation than others.

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Like the sale of growing equipment, cannabis seeds are adjacent to the weed industry but not strictly apart of it. This makes controlling or even studying the market difficult.

Different types of vendors.

According to one scientific paper published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, there are three different components to this business:

1. Seed companies: Seed companies produce the seeds. The majority are based on the Netherlands or Spain due to their more lenient laws. There are around 122 large scale seed companies in Europe, according to the UN’s research.

2. Breeders: Breeder cross-breed strains to create new ones. They can work for seed companies or conduct their own experimentation.

3. Resellers: There are many more resellers than either of the above two categories. Resellers will often sell product from a variety of companies and can inhabit a legal grey area, catering to black market weed vendors as well.

Marijuana law remains hazy. Today, an increasing number of companies are patenting weed technology, seeds, and the hottest cannabis products. But whether those patents are enforceable, and where they are enforceable within the U.S., remains to be seen.

Plant breeders’ rights

Since the 1960s, plant breeders can have exclusive control over a new variety of a plant they create for twenty years following a submission to the plant variety office. Control over everything from seeds to cuttings is given to that breeder for that period of time if that office decides that their plant is genetically or physically distinct. As a result, plant breeders’ can technically have unique rights to the cannabis seeds they breed.

In the U.S., you can also patent genetic varieties of any plant. This includes cannabis seeds. Though the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is federal, it operates independently of other government agencies. This means that you can patent weed strains, and many companies have done so already.

However, even if someone does rightfully own a patent of a certain type of seed, that doesn’t mean that their patent is enforceable nationwide.

According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, you can patent asexually reproduced plants if they possess certain characteristics due to their genetics or if they’re a hybrid version of a different plant. According to one Reuters report, 39 cannabinoid-related patents were filed in 2018. Cannabinoids are the compounds found in weed that vary from strain-to-strain.

The vast majority of these patents went to drug companies. A few went to universities and other entities.

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Another industry that will boom post-legalization.

Cannabis law is still under development. However, entrepreneurs and big companies alike are increasingly patenting a major element that can set their product apart from the rest: cannabis seeds. With the rights to a signature strain, there are two things that can be done:

Sell them over the internet or in stores to the increasing number of growers and individuals looking to produce their own weed

Today, people all over the internet are selling cannabis seeds with little to no oversight but, seemingly in anticipation of legalization, corporations are striving to control everything from plant genetics to technology. This could help certain ahead of their time companies could control major industries like CBD — all thanks to seed patents they’ve filed today.

Legal Issues in Selling Cannabis Seeds in California

Last month marked the start of the typical marijuana grow season, which runs March through November, which meant individuals and large cannabis firms in California were on the hunt for high-quality seeds for purchase on the legal market. Cannabis seeds are at the core of the California marijuana industry, and the internet can connect farmers from San Diego to San Francisco and beyond to the growing demand.

But are sales of cannabis seeds legal? Some growers serve both the grey and legal market marijuana seeds.

As the legal cannabis market has expanded, selling cannabis seeds has become more commonplace, especially as consumers’ tastes become more refined. Still not all cannabis seed sales are lawful.

Genetic Seed Variations Can Be Protected Intellectual Property

Los Angeles marijuana lawyers recognize there is great diversity in seed genetics, and advise companies to seek counsel before arranging any kind of retail sale or transport.

Many marijuana growers pride themselves on their extensive knowledge of marijuana growth, which obviously begins with the seed. The three basic types of cannabis seeds are regular, autoflowering and female, with each containing broad subtypes, often referred to as “strains.” Many cannabis cultivators pride themselves on various elements of the strains they grow, as the effects can vary widely depending on seed properties. Certain strains are better for those seeking medicinal relief, while others are better for creating various degrees of intoxication and still others for a distinct taste. Growers are increasingly asserting intellectual property rights, something all cultivators should discuss with their cannabis business attorney.

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Cannabis Seed Sales and California Law

Laws pertaining to sales of marijuana seeds or associated products vary a great deal in the U.S. and beyond, in part because there is a general lack of understanding on how they should be defined. Some consider seed sales ancillary to the cannabis market, but the reality is because these are part of the cannabis plant (or rather, its origins) these too are controlled.

Generally speaking, cannabis seeds can be lawfully purchased by adults states with legal adult recreational use (like California) either at a dispensary or online intrastate (meaning not purchased from another state – even one that has also legalized the drug). The reason for this restriction is that interstate sales fall under the purview of federal law, which still considers marijuana a dangerous narcotic.

Los Angeles marijuana dispensaries routinely sell pot seeds over-the-counter, and cost is roughly $12 for a pack of 10, though higher-end strains can run several hundred dollars. Dispensary options are limited compared to what one might find online at a California cannabis seed bank.

The California Cannabis Control Board in accordance with Prop. 64 caps the maximum number of cannabis plants that can be grown by an individual at any given time at six. That assumes you’re over 21 and aren’t doing so in a community that has a local ordinance banning or further restricting such cultivation.

Those selling cannabis seeds in California, either in-store or online, need to be certain procedures are in place to prevent sales to restricted buyers (mostly minors).

Buying, selling or transporting those seeds out-of-state though is where things can get dicey.

International Weed Seed Sales

Internationally, many countries don’t restrict or regulate cannabis seed sales, as the seeds have a myriad of benign uses. These can include production of clothing material, oils and food for animals/fishing bait.

However, other countries are much more strict about what can be imported and for what purpose. Los Angeles cannabis lawyers strongly advise anyone conducting international sales of any cannabis product to consult with an attorney. Failure to do so could affect your pocketbook (if customs in another country refuses to allow your shipment to reach its final destination). However, it can also draw the attention of U.S. law enforcement agents, with the possibility of criminal charges.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 949-375-4734.