West indian culture

Cannabis cultivation: what does it mean for you?

These days, you’re likely to hear the words “cannabis culture” in casual conversation, and especially at cannabis conventions. It got me thinking, “What is growing cannabis today, now that weed is legal? How is it different from the underground culture we created in the 60s? »

The most obvious difference is that at the time, because of the war on drugs, the cultivation of cannabis was secret. Yet that was also part of the thrill, getting away with something forbidden that felt so good. As Kitty Green, a former grower who served time for pot, said, “It was a way of life, connecting nature, business and spirit.”

Either you were there or you weren’t. Whether you were a farmer, smuggler, dealer, driver or consumer, you were part of this hidden society where the risk was shared. You could get the same penalty for a joint or 50 pounds. Of course, being in the United States of the 50s, 60s, 70s and even today, people of color are arrested more often and punished more severely. But the city and mountain hippies also took their pieces.

black market paranoia

As such, cannabis culture at this time bred quite a bit of paranoia, real and imagined, like seeing flashing red lights in your rear view mirror or hearing the roar of helicopter propeller blades overhead. You always had to be on your guard for undercover narcs, scams, snitches, and marijuana thieves, so you developed a sort of sixth sense for knowing who you could trust.

In the Emerald Triangle mountains, thieves were such a problem that growers set up shotguns and lights with tripwires around their crops and had dogs on patrol. In the fall, as the weed bloomed to maturity, the paranoia quotient skyrocketed.

Whether you were a grower, dealer or smoker, you never talked about pot in public, although you could always talk to a “brother” or “sister” who was in the business. You also didn’t use your own phone (land line) because you thought it was probably tapped. On Humboldt County’s Mail Ridge, there was a large oak tree designated as some sort of drop box. People left messages, poetry – even money – and it was safe.

The magic of the basement

In many ways, the underground, or “counterculture” as it was called, was a magical world. I like to compare it to the world of Harry Potter, in that we were a separate, secret society of “stoners” living in and among “straight” society without them knowing it. We were their children, their colleagues, their teachers, their favorite uncles and aunts, or this incredible musician, the incredible artist.

Back then, we joked that we were the ones our parents warned us about. There were secret codes and a whole new vocabulary of slang developed. We felt like wizards because the weed, along with the acid, gave us hints of higher consciousness and glimpses of telepathy and apparently the ability to read minds.

PHOTO Swami Select

In this clandestine cannabis culture, there was a sense of community, of looking out for each other. It was partly because of the shared risk, partly because there was a lot of money to be won, and partly because being a member of the secret pot world was so far away.

Tim Blake, Emerald Cup founder and longtime grower, put it this way: “At the heart of the Emerald Triangle, there was a tribe full of love, integrity and outlaws. rebellious, with an unrelenting love for weed…a free-spirited bunch. rebels.

Tim Blake and Mickey the Clown. PHOTO Nikki Lastro

A family culture

If there was a police raid, word got out through community radio and neighbors. When someone was arrested, friends took care of the kids and gave the family their shake so they could make and sell hash. If someone had their tender shoots eaten by mice or some other disaster, the neighbors would give fresh starts.

As Johnny Casali of Huckleberry Hill Farms in Humboldt, who spent nearly 10 years in prison for a few plants, says of growing cannabis: in how we support each other through all of life – we are always there for each other.

On the day he returned home, 30 people gathered at his ranch bringing food, marijuana, and his cannabis genetics that they had kept alive for a decade.

In the many mountainous regions of California, where cannabis is still grown, farmers were sharing growing tips, genetics, pest control techniques, how to make compost teas, and more. Also in the mountains, “hill witches” made their potions, salves, tinctures, edibles and topicals, and trade formulas, while others experimented with extractions, concentrates, and hash making. People were always giving seeds, seeds, flowers, hash, medicine and ideas.

Ganja Training Camp

But it was really hard work – we called it “Ganja Boot Camp”. Because of the police raids, everyone grew up in the woods under the cover of the canopy, preferably under the bright green manzanita bushes. You had to carry 50 pound dirt bags on your back up the mountain, crawling under the bushes, trying to hide your trail. The typical plant would only yield six to eight ounces because it wasn’t grown in full sun, but at $5,000 a pound you could still make a good living.

Harvesting and pruning was a kind of work/party scene, with cutters who were family and friends, living in the house for five or six weeks, being paid by the pound, listening to music, chatting, staying awake until midnight. Once the cut was complete, you contacted your dealer via a remote payphone and used code words to tell him how much you had to sell. They would come in with “suitcases full of cash”, as my friend Maggie tells me, smoke a joint and take the whole harvest, maybe 50 or 100 pounds. Alternatively, you can “run the gauntlet” from the Emerald Triangle to the Bay Area on Hwy 101, with a few pounds of trimmed grass for your contact in “the city”.

Nikki and I moved to the Emerald Triangle in the early 2000s, but we had known Mendocino growers for years. We had been dealers in San Francisco since the 60’s and when possible we marked the Emerald Triangle primo sinsemilla to bring it back to town and sell it. Occasionally we came to help prune the fall crop. Synchronously, we met people living and growing up in the mountains who had also lived in India and hiked the “Hippie Trail” as we did.

Regarding the cultivation of cannabis, Lindsay MacEwan, Director of Sourcing and Product Development at Grassdoor Delivery, says, “The cultivation I witnessed is buried deep in the Emerald Triangle among tight-knit communities. who paved the way to bring the cannabis industry to where it is today.”

Now, all of this is admittedly “romanticized” the outlaw hero of the cannabis counterculture, but that’s how we saw ourselves – as family and as stoner warriors, and we were all over the place. the world. With some cannabis connections, you could travel to almost any city in the United States or any country in the world and find drugs and other smokers.

Above ground

In the transition from an illegal underground economy to a legal, taxed and hyped commodity, a lot is changing in the world of cannabis. More and more internationals are entering the industry and multi-state operators have dozens of dispensaries in vertical operations in many states. Big Tobacco and Big Pharma are maneuvering to take advantage. The shares are traded on the Canadian stock exchange. Cannabis brands advertise in glossy magazines. Retailers spend millions on in-store displays. It’s certainly different, and most of us who have opted for the legal market yearn for the “good old days” of the cannabis underworld.

People still recognize the sense of community that united us back then, but since secrecy is no longer necessary, we are forming trade organizations and opening farmers’ markets. Growers and manufacturers are beginning to brand their products and launch advertising campaigns.

PHOTO Swami Select

There is a divide in the cannabis community of old between those who went the legal route and those who remained in the underground or “mainstream” market. We’re still neighbors, but we don’t hang around like we used to. If my neighbor has decided to continue working in the traditional market, that’s his business and I don’t care, but I’d rather not know. That is, unless they blew it up big and thereby caused environmental damage to our beautiful mountains, meadows and streams. So I don’t care.

For me, in today’s cannabis world, community and inclusivity are the key words. People realize that it’s not just about smoking a joint and getting high. It’s about all the hundreds of ways cannabis is a healing medicine for all ages and is part of all cultures, ages, religions and sexual beliefs.

As Moses Flickinger, Founder and CEO of Africali Culture says, “Cannabis cultivation is the legacy of farmers, generations of farmers who grow, cultivate, build and respect the land. It’s the mountain life that takes you away from loneliness. It’s the international travelers who connect culture across the world, working the California seasons and sowing more freedom, friendships and communities. It was the single mother who cultivated medicine to provide sustenance and stability for her children when there was no other way, the Brown people who are the origin of the name marijuana, but who are left out, or black people criminalized.

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