Archive for January, 2010

31
Jan
10

The Ungreen Movement, or, How Green was my Chronic?

It was reasonably easy to maintain the pose of the green smoker in Los Angeles, being so far removed from the production end of the process as I was.  The top-shelf medicine my partner brought home from the dispensary to treat her crippling migraines was organic and therefore, earth friendly.  Because organic weed must be good for the planet, right?  I mean, it’s organic.  Ipso facto, green.

I may have also taken it for granted that the top shelf stuff in L.A. would have to be indoor-grown because…well…it’s L.A.  Where else would you grown a plant in a city, especially in a city whose architectural style might best be described as neo-Death Star?  Not the most inviting locale for the cultivation of a living crop requiring such esoteric conditions as soil, water and air.

I’m both happy and sad to report that living in the Emerald Triangle has, once and for all, shattered my illusion of integrity.  But city tastes rule the market, concrete or no.  In the months that I’ve lived here, I’ve heard the same story repeated by growers (both indoor and out) and buyers (both wholesale and retail):  indoor is the bomb, and that’s what commands the top prices.  Don’t believe me?  Look at the “Walmart of Weed” set to open in Oakland, CA; a 15,000 square-foot space dedicated to Operation (closet) Overgrow.  Lights, chemicals, action!

As I look out the windows of my cabin in the woods, onto an edenic scene of tall redweeds, brilliant green mosses, fairy circles ringed with mushrooms and the forest primeval, I can’t help but feel as though a horrible misjudgment has come to rule the industry that owes a big part of its existence to this place.

The Emerald Triangle didn’t rise to mythic status in the world of weedcraft because it has the best subterranean grow rooms.  The baristas in my L.A. pharmacy didn’t whisper in hushed tones about Mendo weed or Humboldt fields of green because of the lighting fixtures.  Beyond the reservoirs of knowledge, beyond the fabled genetics, the Emerald Triangle has a reputation because of what and where it is.  I hope that doesn’t get lost in the hunt for more and more wasteful high-tech highs.

It may be too late to roll back the tide, but I can’t help but be a little sad that, in place of the connoisseur’s celebration of terroir, the emphasis is on the machine-like regularity of a stony fordism.

Hey Emerald Triangle growers: I really hope you’re looking to Napa and not Modesto for your inspiration.

Hey L.A. smokers (and other urban tokers): I really hope you don’t want to celebrate  the ganja-equivalent of Thunderbird, especially at the expense of regional distinctiveness and environmental sustainability.

Because the worst part of this elevation of hothouse flowers as the pinnacle of the industry is that it rests upon a hidden foundation of electric lies.  After touring one of the pristine, state-of-the-art indoor grow-ops in my new neighborhood, I asked the owner about his PG&E bill.  Mine averages about $70-$100 – that’s for every electrical appliance in my home (lights, well pump, fridge, oven, dishwasher, water heater), as well as the 4-6 plants that my partner grows legally (indoors, mind you, using an environmentally-friendly system that she came up with all by her super-genius self – more on that later, if there’s any interest).  I expected the mid-sized grow-op to have a high electrical bill, but I was blown away when this grower said that he claims a disability to get a break on his bill (at tax-payer expense, I thought to myself but didn’t say out loud), and still pays something between $1,500-$2,000/month.  It’s easy to forget when the power magically arrives at the flip of a switch, but using that much juice ain’t green.

A big part of this enviro-problem is the result of prohibition, but tastes being what they are, I’m not sure indoor growers can be easily tempted back out into the light of day once the “all clear” sounds, at least, not without some serious pressure being imposed from the community.

If the laws in California change – and based upon the most recent reporting on proposed ballot initiatives, it looks like that’s a strong possibility – and if this hidden industry is allowed to come out of the shadows, let’s hope it comes all of way out, into the sunshine.  One way to keep the jobs associated with the Emerald Triangle’s newly-traditional industry in the Emerald Triangle is to build a market base for the product that can only grow here.  You can hang a grow light in a SoCali basement as easily as in a Humboldt grow house, but you can’t replicate a redwood forest terroir in a concrete jungle.

I guess what I’m saying is: Do you even know what you have here, stoners?  I don’t know if the Emerald Triangle’s good  reputation comes from the ground or from the culture that grew here like the weed I like, but this area is magic.  I’m not the wizard that some of the growers I’ve met are, so I don’t know where the magic comes from – some combination of history, tradition, microclimate, soil chemistry…high CEC Montmorillinite Clay?  Whatever it is, I don’t think it comes with a bill from PG&E.

29
Jan
10

Propoganda masquerading as journalism

Speaking of assaults upon rational thinking, and recalling my earlier post on the Hollywood-ization of weed culture and the L.A. Times being woefully out of touch with reality, that sad shadow of a formerly good newspaper is once-again providing a platform for the illogical and factually-unsupported view of marijuana that’s been circulating for years.  This time, under the guise of an “opinion” piece from the chairman of D.A.R.E. America.  Nothing new here, certainly nothing news worthy:  marijuana causes cancer, it’s a gateway drug, it threatens the children of America, etc., etc., etc.

Read it yourself here if you need to see the same old arguments that don’t hold up under even the most cursory fact-checking.   Money quote:

One of its more pernicious effects is that it reduces inhibitions and can lead a person under its influence to try even more harmful substances…In other words, there’s a reason the federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug with a high potential for abuse. It is the most commonly abused illicit drug in the United States, and more teens are in treatment for marijuana addiction than for alcohol or any other drug.

I’m a student of the news, and since many are not I think it’s worth pointing out that we only pretend there was a time when newspapers challenged blatant inaccuracies proposed by dubious authorities.  There was, in fact, no such time – at least, not on this subject.  That knowledge, unfortunately, does little to lessen my disappointment.

28
Jan
10

A perfect day for banana kush

R.I.P. J.D. Salinger.

Visiting my local dispensary yesterday, I stumbled into a work-related dispute over the purchase of a couple of ounces of early-harvest banana kush.  I decided to help alleviate the problem, in my small way.  Good fruity nose, though maybe a bit more of an energetic buzz than I was hoping for so late at night.  And after a poor night’s sleep, I awoke this morning thinking of Salinger without being able to recall his name, until I opened my browser and discovered his obituary.

Coincidence?  Surely not.  I’m convinced that Salinger is communicating with me from beyond the grave, despite the fact that he had chosen not to communicate with anyone while amongst the living for the past 50 odd years; and odd years they were.

The charming topic alluded to in the title of Salinger’s lovely story, “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” is a fish that indulges in what it likes to the point of self-destruction.  Am I wrong to worry that a charming subculture I hardly know may be in danger of likewise gorging itself into extinction?  I’m all for the triumph of rationality over irrationality, and the drug warriors are clearly at their most irrational when it comes to their opposition to marijuana.  That irrationality is hardly a secret, and recent polls show that Californians overwhelmingly support the legalization and taxation of the marijuana industry.  But if illegality is the final hurdle to mass acceptance and mass investment, then legalization of marijuana and hemp may open the floodgates.  And floods are rarely pleasant experiences for those in their direct path.

Maybe it’s the lingering effects of the banana kush, plucked too early, or the spectral response of a recently deceased recluse, or just the insightful comment offered by Kym – the redhead behind Redheaded Blackbelt who replied to my post about the change that’s gonna come – but I hope that people who have been operating silently in the shadows for fear of legal trouble will share their stories about the fascinating culture that has grown up in those shadows.

The stories I’ve already heard from my new neighbors are fascinating – from the growers, but also from all of those people who have been affected by the central industry of the area without directly participating in it – the unemployed loggers and fishermen, the aging hippies, the even-older residents who can still recall their responses to that long-ago influx of hippies.

If, as is currently suggested by current poll numbers, the quasi-legal industry that contributes two-thirds of the income produced in the state of Jefferson becomes a fully-legal industry, I hope those stories become common knowledge.  I fear they might be lost in the gold rush to come.

To Kym (and others),  I would ask:  Who records the culture that forms in the wake of an occupation and lifestyle deemed illegal, once legalization makes that culture obsolete?  Where are the historical primary sources?  Journals?  Letters?  Photos?  Video?  Imagine California surfing culture without the memoirs from Micky Dora and the other misfits of his generation.  Imagine Rock & Roll culture without the autobiographies of frontmen and groupies.  Who’s writing down these stories – not the sanitized, mythologized generic stories, and not the gangster-fantasies that feed the underground press, but the actual experiences of people who likely haven’t been taking notes due to fear of prosecution?

Is it you?

27
Jan
10

The times they are…well, they’re doing what they always do

Mr. Nice responded to my post on wanting to find the roots of Cali weed culture:

“You came too late. 20 years ago, you could’ve seen the shootouts with CAMP and shit. Peeps coppin a squat in the woods comin up on some massive trees, growing football-sized buds, charing top dollar and buying up former timber land. You arrived right in the middle of the white boy Jah Dread indoor grow house period. Where hillbillies have turned from plastic tarp and PVC pipe to underground bunkers and diesel generators. Nothing to see here really. “

I get what he’s saying, but I’d argue that I’m still seeing what I wanted to see when I decided to move here.  Look, I’m not on the inside of this community, but I’m not completely clueless, either.  There’s still something to see, grow houses or no.  It’s true that weed will grow in a garage in the south as well as it does in the north, and I saw plenty of people getting busted in Anaheim and Inglewood and Huntington Beach for their blown-out grow houses while I was living down in SoCali, but the thing that’s different here is exactly what Mr. Nice is complaining about losing in his post – the long-standing alt-culture that established itself here in the 60s and never left.  But things change, and they’re going to change fast if the recent spate of legalization passes.

Y’know, it’s funny how getting what you want can come back to bite you on the ass.    For a while now, it seems as though all the activist energy has been going into the “legalize it” argument without much though about how that happens.  Or what happens next.   Traditional marijuana activists have been pushing ahead into the light of sunshine for so long, they might not have realized that they’re headed like lemming over a cliff, with Phillip Morris waiting down below to mop up the remains and cash in.  People, get ready.

26
Jan
10

So much for the green rush

Speaking of L.A., over 900 dispensaries that opened while the L.A. City Council waited to see if doing nothing would be better than Oakland/S.F.’s plan of careful management and regulation may be forced to close.  I wonder if the growers up here will feel the effect.  It’s been interesting to see how the growing cycle affects people’s moods and attitudes – the crop’s in, everyone’s happy; on the other hand, EVERYONE’S crop’s in, so demand has been lower than supply.  Losing  90% of the legal outlets in one of the biggest markets in the state may have a ripple-effect all the way up the coast.

Here’s the story from the L.A. Times:

Medical Marijuana: LA City Council Approves Pot Ordinance, Shuttering Hundreds Of Shops

Money quote:  “No one is exactly sure how many pot clinics there are in Los Angeles – the best estimate is somewhere between 800 and 1,000 – and getting the owners to comply with the ordinance will likely be met with resistance.”

And they intend to cap it at 70!

25
Jan
10

It’s not like the movies

Thanks to HighBoldtage for the link – my first! – and thanks to Redheaded Blackbelt for the welcome and the cookies.  To be honest, I felt a little sheepish reading those responses – sorry neighbors, but you already know what it’s like up here, and you know it’s not like the movies. And sure, nothing is like the movies, but like most people who’ve had a relationship with marijuana, I’ve been left wondering about where it comes from with nothing to satisfy me but phony Hollywood visions and the scare stories that come from today’s propaganda industry.  I know I’m not alone, there, either.

Like I said in my unwelcome notice, I moved here from L.A., in part, because I’ve been curious about where weed comes from ever since I first discovered it at the age of 14.  I spent a big part of my life out of the state of California, where the best weed I could get came from a compressed brick of ditchweed that had been smuggled across the border from Mexico in a tire or keestered up some poor mule’s ass (god, I hope that’s not true).  So I know how fortunate I am to be in the presence of California’s Gold (sorry, Huell).

I love this state, and the northern half has always been my favorite part.  Forty years ago, back when Northern Californians were trying to remind the rest of the country what wine should taste like, people in the same general area were growing weed of the same general caliber.  And even though people all over the state – and beyond – are still smoking it, no one seems to have any sort of realistic notion about its origins.  Which is surprising when you understand just how much of this local weed ends up in L.A., how many columns in newspapers (remember them?) are used to report on it, how many politicians campaign on it, and how many film and tv execs make their money off phony notions about it.  It’s maddening – these media types sell the public a bill of goods about weed so they can make enough money to buy and smoke the weed that they don’t know shit about.

And “factual” sources don’t add much to the picture – see Redheaded Blackbelt’s recent post on the explosion of magazines centered in L.A., focused more on showing pics of bikini-clad ladies covered in bud than offering real information.  Not to be outdone, the L.A. Times recently published a first-person expose of the marijuana industry in the city.  This was in 2009, a full 13 years after the passage of Prop 215, and well after the 1,000th dispensary had opened its doors in the city.  Crack reporting, right?  Anyway, in typical fashion, the writer of the piece wouldn’t cop to actually toking up.  After leading his readers through the process of looking for a sympathetic physician, procuring for a prescription, visiting a dispensary…nothing. Because it wouldn’t have been news worthy to report on the act around which the entire article was written.  Nice going, newsies.  Glad to have supported your dying industry for so long.

So you can see why I find this part of the world so fascinating.   I’m interested in finding the reality behind the mythology, but I’m going to smoke the bud that comes my way.  Because, L.A. Times reporter, that’s the point!  I bet even Huell Howser knows that.  I mean, he didn’t get that loopy by accident.

25
Jan
10

Unwelcome to the Emerald Triangle

Let me be clear:  You are not welcome here.  How do I know? Because I’ve been here for almost six months now, and I am routinely, consistently, emphatically not welcome here, and I’m about as sympathetic to the place as anyone could be.  Don’t get me wrong – by and large, I’m pretty well liked.  Almost all the people I’ve met since I’ve moved here have been nice to me.  I’ve been invited to parties, had over for dinner with family, and included in community meetings.  Growers have invited me into their secret bat caves to show me their high-tech cloning systems and their new monster hybrids and their precious, precious mothers.  And I’ve been handed a ridiculous amount of free weed – not all I want, but way more than I would have hoped before I got here.  And I’m talking the mind-blowing product that I couldn’t get for money in L.A. –  this is the shit the growers keep for themselves before selling the rest to the San Franscisco co-ops, “pharmacies,” and old-fashioned street dealers.  So, I’ve been made to feel welcome in many ways while at the same time being made to understand that I am not.  And that goes double for everyone else.  A few people I’ve met have even tackled that homegrown xenophobia head on and gone so far as to encourage me to stay.  We need good people like you, they tell me.  Right.  Those offering invitations to stay might not have recognized in themselves what the rest know, either consciously or subconsciously; which is, that I’m not wanted here.  And you aren’t either.  Don’t come.

“Did you see that MSNBC video on the Emerald Triangle?  We’ve been overrun since that show aired.  It’s awful.  You want some weed?”  –J2Bad