Spending your hard-earned money on marijuana seeds, grow lights, hydroponics nutrients, soil and other cannabis cultivation supplies is one of the requirements of being a serious grower.

Problem is, it’s easy to get scammed. Because our industry and culture has long been black market and unregulated, just about anybody can throw together a grow light, grow op system, dehumidifier, fertilizer products, other marijuana growing gear, or breed cannabis seeds, and market them.

You’ve also noticed that the marijuana growing industry is full of “miracle” products with claims of supernatural success, and one-of-a-kind exclusivity. All kinds of garbage has been sold to growers, such as the $3000 bizarro machine that generates low-frequency sounds to “soothe marijuana leaves,” or the poisonous Paclobutrazol “bud hardener” that allegedly makes buds mature faster and grow more densely.

Or the “very easy” one-part nutrients or “enriched soil” so all you have to do is add water and your plants are fed from start to finish, or the grow lights that are guaranteed to increase your yield 50%. If you see a product claim that sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.

The bottom line is it’s hard to figure out who’s making great marijuana growing stuff, and who’s making schwag. And because today’s marketing is ultra-sophisticated propaganda, with paid shills and fake news used in cultivation forums, Amazon reviews, cannabis magazines, review sites, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and other information venues, you can’t just trust all product claims or reviews.

So how do you find out before you spend your money if a product is worth your money?

One of the most reliable ways is to find successful growers who’ve used the product. If you see a YouTube channel promoting products, and it seems to be run by a real grower just like you, contact the grower and see how real he really is.

Remember that many people on online cultivation forums, Instagram and YouTube are bullshitters or even paid shills. Even if they post videos and pictures showing big fat buds and saying those buds are from plants grown from marijuana seeds from X seed company or using X brand of nutrients, you can’t be totally sure they’re telling the truth.

If you have the opportunity to network with growers in person, at trade shows, activist events, in hydro stores, that’s a lot better. You can also talk to hydroponics store owners and staffers, but remember that hydroponics stores have a financial interest in selling stuff to you.

More and more hydroponics stores are dominated by the Sunlight Supply, Hawthorne, Scotts Miracle-Gro consortium. They push Hawthorne brands such as General Hydroponics, Gavita, and Botanicare, “forgetting” to tell you that their store is in bed with the distributors and manufacturers of those products, and that they receive incentives for pushing those products.

Because I have Amazon Prime, which has a 30-day, no-shipping-cost return guarantee on much of the grow gear it sells, I can test products and send them back for a full refund if they’re no good.

I’ve found the best way to start investigating the legitimacy and quality of products is by first researching the manufacturer’s website and reputation. I’ve noticed that many cannabis equipment, supplies and cannabis seeds websites make fantastical claims, but provide little if any evidence to back up their claims.

If I see a cannabis seeds strain advertisement, but the breeder’s description doesn’t explain background genetics and breeding program that created the strain, I won’t even bother to keep looking at that strain.

The same is true for hydroponics systems and gear, such as aeroponics cloners, grow lights, light movers, automated dosing systems, dehumidifiers, soil, rockwool, coco coir, grow tents, carbon filters, vent fans and the many other items growers buy. If the manufacturer’s sales pitch is “Our product is great and you should buy it,” but they don’t give me detailed information about the features, benefits, and guts of the product, I walk away.

I also have another research technique. I call or otherwise contact manufacturers and marijuana seeds breeders and ask them detailed questions. I ask for third-party testing and other objective verification documentation that proves their products are great. If they can’t or won’t provide that, I won’t give them my money.

When I do that initial call, I tell the manufacturer or breeder only that I’m a grower and potential customer seeking information. I want to see how friendly and helpful they are. If a company’s employee treats me like dirt, I won’t give that company my money.

And later on, I may contact them to let them know I’m a cannabis journalist. In many cases lately, my call is then transferred to some marketing rep who wants to pay me or put advertising into a magazine I write for, or send me free marijuana growing gear or cannabis seeds…but only in return for a guaranteed favorable review.

I explain that the fact they’re offering me samples of their gear or marijuana seeds gives me at least a little reassurance that they’re legit, because they know I’m going to test their products to find out if the products live up to their marketing hype.

However, if they tell me I’m required to give a positive review even if their product sucks, which is what some of these people have stipulated, I won’t accept their freebies, and I walk away.

When you look at so-called third-party review sites for grow lights, marijuana seeds, soil, hydroponics systems and other marijuana growing gear, just know that many of those sites are bought off.

They’re not like Growing Marijuana Perfectly, which is run by real growers just like you, people who want to share useful info with other growers.

One thing you learn to judge is the tone and transparency of the people you’re talking to. Authentically professional companies who breed marijuana seeds or make grow supplies will be eager to talk to you at trade shows, on the phone, via email or whatever, telling you facts you need so you can believer their products are worth buying.

I’ve had many experiences when as a grower or having identified myself as a journalist, I was stonewalled, lied to, given the run-around, put off, and otherwise treated like shit. I asked a well-known soil company to prove their product claims that their soil is “the best, cleanest, most reliable, with the highest quality ingredients,” after buying some of their soil and finding it loaded with root aphids and at a totally wrong pH.

They were instantly hostile to me–but promised to give the information I sought. They never did, and also insulted me and this magazine. They’re lucky I don’t write an article titled “Scam Companies & Products Marijuana Growers Should Avoid,” and name them as the number one scammer.

For highly technical products such as grow lights and hydroponics nutrients, the quality and availability of tech support and customer service is paramount for growers and marijuana journalists.

For example, growers using Fluence LED grow lights complained to us that Fluence makes inferior gear and treats customers like dirt. We contacted Fluence numerous times, asking for technical data. The company’s representatives were so arrogant, evasive and dishonest that we could easily see why they have so many complaints.

In contrast is an ethical company like Hortilux USA, where you can easily reach helpful media reps or technical support people, and they give you 100% candid advice about their impressive line of HID ballasts, reflectors and LED grow lights.

Other types of scams are seen in the marijuana seeds industry. Unethical seed companies take original heritage strains, make sloppy crosses and unreliable copies of them, then sell them using the same strain names as the original strain names.

Another name scam is seen in the situation of a marijuana seeds company that falsely claims to be based in Humboldt County, California, the epicenter of guerrilla, connoisseur, and pioneering marijuana growing in the United States.

Not only that, they copied the name of one of the top seed companies in the world. The scam company is called Humboldt Seeds Organization, and they’re based in Spain. They copied the name of the actual Humboldt-based, superlative seed breeders, Humboldt Seed Company. Growers mistakenly order from Humboldt Seed Organization, instead of from Humboldt Seed Company, and get trash seeds.

We contacted Humboldt Seeds Organization and they were evasive, pathetic, and dishonest. DO NOT BUY SEEDS FROM HUMBOLDT SEEDS ORGANIZATION!

On the other hand, read here about Humboldt Seed Company, and you’ll want to get their tasty, one-of-a-kind strains right away.

Another example: several years ago before it was commonly known that General Hydroponics is owned by Scotts Miracle-Gro via a front company called Hawthorne Gardening, I called the General Hydroponics tech support line–but the person who answered said, “Hawthorne Gardening.”

I thought I had dialed the wrong number. It took several calls to even reach a tech support person for General Hydroponics. Sad thing is, the person didn’t know anything useful about professional marijuana growing, so it was all a waste of my time.

Sometimes, an ethical cannabis-related company makes an honest mistake. I bought an $855 rosin press that was dead on arrival. The seller sent FedEx to my house to pick up the defective unit, and deliver a new, working unit, two days later. When a company gives you that kind of customer-centered rapid response, it gives you faith in them.

The bottom line is just like with any other industry, the marijuana seeds, equipment, hydroponics supplies, grow shop, and hydroponics nutrients industries have some good people, and some greedy, dishonest scammers.

If you contact a cannabis seeds seller or breeder, or a marijuana grow gear manufacturer or retailer, and they refuse to give you friendly and honest answers to your product questions, go somewhere else. Also, be sure to ask about product guarantees, warranties, and return policies.

If their policies are restrictively unfriendly to you the customer, that’s a sign that they lack confidence in their products, and are trying to sell you schwag.

Trust your intuition, be extra cautious, ask a whole lot of questions, talk to other growers, and don’t spend your money until you’re sure it’s worth it.

The old saying “let the buyer beware” is one to always have in mind. Using the tactics in this article, you’re going to be much more empowered to spend your hard-earned money on quality marijuana seeds, clones, grow gear and hydroponics supplies.