This bud’s for you

A marijuana cultivator’s view of California’s changing legal landscape

Have you noticed the amount of attention? marijuana is getting lately It might as well be called the new state flower. What a difference and economic crisis makes!

I have been an underground cannabis cultivator for 26 years; for obvious reasons, I’m writing under a pseudonym. My older cousins were all guerrilla growers in the 1980s, and I served as their personal slave laborer for years before I was allowed to grow something of my own. Needless to say, I have pretty much figured it out and have not looked back since, producing some pretty amazing smoke throughout the years.

Despite pot’s recent popularity as a potential source for tax revenue, most of the mainstream media continue to demonize marijuana use, for medical purposes or otherwise. Anyone even remotely familiar with cannabis knows the media’s fear-based campaign is bunk. When was the last time you heard of anyone dying from medical complications caused by marijuana? Most of the plant’s ill effects are due to its criminalization: the risk involved with buying and selling on the street.

I’m not talking just about dope deals gone bad. Recently a man named Eddy Lepp was sentenced to 10 years for cultivation of more than 37,000 plants, even though he had all the medical recommendations for the amount he was cultivating. His sentence is what our government calls a “mandatory minimum,” first offense or not. And Lepp is just one of countless victims in the ruthless war waged against mostly nonviolent people by our government for decades.

But let’s flip the script. Let’s say pot becomes fully legal. Things could go any number of different ways, not all of them good.

Suppose we allow everyone 18 and over to buy a pack of joints or whatever. Philip Morris sells pot nationally, Budweiser offers their own brand of schwag, as do Miller, Coors, Camel and so on. Nevermind the poor grower who just finally stabilized a strain and is now ready to produce some amazing shit. Budweiser has cornered the market and driven the price through the floor. Now he can barely cover the electricity bill.

Meanwhile, Bud extends the shelf life of its genetically modified cannabis crop through the use of preservatives; Joe the Plummer becomes its best customer. Pipes clog, water heaters explode, your insurance company sues Joe. Sooner or later, the government steps in to “regulate” the market, setting limits on potency and interstate commerce. This bud—and only this bud—is for you.

However, let’s say pot is fully decriminalized, and individuals are free to cultivate as much as they want, free from government regulation. If corporate weed becomes a homogenous, uniform product, ordinary citizens will have an alternative: They can grow their own marijuana for personal use, or go into business for themselves and perhaps even challenge the majors with their own blend of GMO- and preservative-free weed.

Growing good cannabis is both a science and an art, with a lot of personal technique. Ask any one who grows, it takes years of trial and error to get to a marketable point. It’s an expensive hobby for a lot of people, but when you perfect that one special strain and it just blows your mind, the sense of satisfaction is priceless.

Despite what opponents of full legalization claim, if it should come to pass, nothing will change except the crime rate, which will almost certainly go down. The risks older generations of marijuana smokers have taken for granted will become a thing of the past.

California needs to stop treating marijuana users like second-class citizens, criminals in the eyes of the law. Decriminalization is the only answer.