Can I get in trouble for ordering a grow light online?
July 31, 2007 5:11 PM   Subscribe

Can I get in trouble for ordering a grow light online?

I want to order an HPS ballast, reflector and light bulb set on the internet, so that I can grow herbs, tomatoes, flowers and other such things in my basement. The only sites that I can find seem to have some connection with growing marijuana.

What happens if I purchase one? Does my name go on some sort of watch list? What if I sell it on craigslist or ebay in the future? Am I accountable if someone uses it to grow weed?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
the lamp itself is not illegal, nothing will happen. i suppose there is a small chance that your name will end up on a big brother's list somewhere, but if you are not using the lamp in any illegal way, then what difference does that make.
posted by Flood at 5:16 PM on July 31, 2007

umm, just google for 'grow light'. There are hundreds of hits and only 1 site on the first page is a weed site.
posted by T.D. Strange at 5:21 PM on July 31, 2007

Go for the Son-T-Agro HPS lamp, as it has a spectrum better suited to herbs, tomatoes, flowers and other such things than the standard streetlight model (there's a bit more blue in it).
posted by flabdablet at 5:21 PM on July 31, 2007

My dad grows produce in his basement in Vermont, and has a couple grow lights. He's never been bothered about them.
posted by routergirl at 5:26 PM on July 31, 2007

Only thing I could think you may be notified about would be if you had quite a few grow lights and started to use far more electricity than the average home. That might make the electricity company a little suspicious.
posted by rancidchickn at 5:34 PM on July 31, 2007

it's certainly not paranoid to fear this. I remember an odd mini-story buried in the back of the A section sometime ca ~2005 about the Feds busting a pot growing operation by data-mining and finding their suspicious purchases at gardening stores.

Seemed like a gross violation of present understanding of constitutional rights to privacy . . .
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 5:38 PM on July 31, 2007

This article is about a man whose house was raided for growing tomatoes in his home.
posted by rancidchickn at 5:54 PM on July 31, 2007

Lamps are not regulated in the sense a lot of precursor chemicals are. So to directly answer your question your name isn't sent to a federal database that monitors purchases.

That does not mean you can't get in trouble. Realistically, there are too many people who use high wattage lamps to discriminate based on that. In fact during "Operation Green Merchant" the DEA tried to do what you described. That is go after indoor grow operations by making the entire industry illegal. This included subpoenas on shipping records and customer information from grow companies themselves. This could happen again but is doubtful due to the size of the industry. I would imagine your records would be used as evidence if they were trying to convict you but it would probably be a small part of a larger case.

That said, I lived next to a hydroponics store for some time. It was an independent store and the guy who ran it was a total, for the lack of a better word, asshole. He would frequently kick people out of it they looked alternative and would call the police and provide information if he thought customers were being suspicious. I saw more than a few ominous SUVs parked outside or right down the street and there would inevitably be some customer in the parking lot loading up on expensive, high wattage lamps. The owner explained that the cops took down information and would use it to "keep an eye on" whomever was making the purchase. This was in a conservative, upscale town with their own bored police force.

If you are truly not growing for marijuana you won't be using 40,000 watts of lighting as it just uneconomical. I doubt you'd show up anywhere, even if records were sequesters. It is a valid thing to be paranoid about, I don't think your question is out of line. You're more likely to get harassed locally than a national bust as the DEA just doesn't have the weight to swing after "Operation Market Garden", which ended with the infamous ruling that police can't monitor houses for abnormal IR heat.
posted by geoff. at 5:56 PM on July 31, 2007

The stories linked aren't dealing with police harassing people based on records, but on people suspecting marijuana grows and tipping of the police anonymously. That's a completely different can of worms.
posted by geoff. at 5:58 PM on July 31, 2007

There are dozens of orchid supply shops here in Vancouver. Interpret as you will.
posted by acoutu at 6:14 PM on July 31, 2007

My brother (16 at the time) bought a grow light from the classifieds of the Oregonian. About 6 weeks later while my brother was home alone, 4 uniformed officers from different local jurisdictions knocked on our door and told my brother our address was found in a drug dealer's phone book.

Is that straight out of the cop handbook or what? "We found this address in a drug dealer's phone book." How does a person say that with a straight face?

My brother was growing tomatoes & [legal] herbs in his bedroom closet.

Lesson: never buy grow lights from the classifieds.
posted by peep at 6:23 PM on July 31, 2007

Geoff: I've read an account where to the best of anyone's knowledge, the police showed up based on records. The guy wasn't growing pot, but he declined to let them search his place, so they assumed he was guilty and started harassing and following him.

How much more effort would be involved in finding a brick&mortor place where you can buy it with cash? And how does that extra effort compare against your penchant for worry? Maybe it's worth doing it that way just to make the question irrelevant?
posted by -harlequin- at 6:38 PM on July 31, 2007

I have purchased a grow lamp from a police auction, but that was some years ago. As the property was being released to me, one of the officers joked that they'd be checking up on me, to make sure "we don't have to sell this thing again".

But to your question... I wouldn't consider it unreasonable to avoid sketchy mail-order hydroponics shops, or to make my purchases in cash and in person.

If you do decide to mail order, I've got nothing but good things to say about Worm's Way and about San Francisco's Plant It Earth. Both do a substantial amount of business with non-shady non-illegal growers, and aren't likely to attract attention from law enforcement.

Am I accountable if someone uses it to grow weed?
You are accountable if you use it to grow weed, or if you give it to someone to grow weed on your behalf. But if you sell it on craigslist? No.
posted by toxic at 6:57 PM on July 31, 2007

Look on any saltwater fish forum. There are thousands of people out there using the same grow lights on their fish tanks, and I bet it's never crossed their mind that the hundreds of watts they use to illuminate their coral are just as commonly used to grow weed. There are a lot of legitimate reasons to use a high powered light. What about people who install security lamps on their house? I've seen 400w HPS lamps at Home Depot for that purpose.

I wouldn't worry about it.
posted by bradbane at 8:00 PM on July 31, 2007

LED grow lights would be much cheaper to run.
posted by jamjam at 8:20 PM on July 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

No, but don't forget to donate $10 to NORML so that we can one day purchase light bulbs without fear.

No joke. Sad, really.
posted by unixrat at 8:38 PM on July 31, 2007 [2 favorites]

The size of the grow-op industry is such that, unless you are actually stealing power from the utilities, and your house smells like a skunk, there is no way anyone is going to look twice at you buying grow lights for your indoor tomato plants.

Unless you happen to live in the United States, that is.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:02 PM on July 31, 2007

Nearly all of the people I know who grown garden vegetables here in Vermont have grow lights to start tomatoes, etc. Unless they are true farmers in which case they have greenhouses. Our growing season is just to short not to have some sort of help.

But definitely use a reputable store so you don't get hassled for something you aren't doing. Try Planet Natural
posted by terrapin at 2:57 PM on August 1, 2007

« Older How to clean up after a shedding ape?   |   Which musicians and bands care about ALS? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.