Let me be clear about what “racist” means in this context. I am a racist in the sense that I recognize the difference between racial and ethnic groups and that these differences are biological and convey unique abilities to each group. It does not mean that I sit around in my gated community in a big city and make veiled comments about those “difficult people” or speak in code words like “gentrification” to mean replacement of certain groups.
I admit that I am probably a bad candidate to write about any form of public policy. Since my youngest years, I have been a dropout from this society. I think it started around my first day of school. Other kids seemed crazy to me and adults were worse. They ran around chasing money and prestige and did so through the kind of pretentious code words that I mention above. You either became obedient, and sold your soul to external motivations, or you were stamped with the “bad kid” symbol and they did their best to ruin your life.
By the time I was in high school, I lived the life of a confirmed bad kid. I did the absolute minimum to pass my classes and spent most class periods asleep in the back. Teachers stopped calling on me because I was always asleep and had no idea what was going on in class. My only question was, “Is this on the test?” I thought most of it was crap except the history and science classes. I had no use for the kind of political literature they taught, which was either left-leaning (“To Kill a Mockingbird”) or psychotic right-wing stuff (“Atlas Shrugged”). To me they both missed the point.
History impressed me because it was practical. I had a job at the local big box store that sold computers and electronics. When I had to fix a customer’s computer, I started by asking if we had seen this kind of problem before. Then, I systematically worked backward from the problem to its causes. I remember one customer with video problems who was astounded when I identified the problem as his power supply. He had been struggling with this problem for years and thought it was strange such an unrelated component could cause his screen to fuzz out. But he never had the problem again and always asked for me when he brought in one of his computers after that. History seemed to me essential for understanding the nature of problems and how to fix them because they came up time and again. For most kids, history was a mystery, as the teacher said. They could not make the connection between events in history and its cause because, like the power supply, it was “far away” from the video card. Unlike every other class, I accidentally got an A in history. The teacher asked why I didn’t try harder in my other classes. I shrugged. How do you explain that you think society is a total screwup and on the wrong side of history in the long-term sense?
I also picked up some bad habits. It started when I was 12 or 13. I was scrounging near the dumpsters for expired food to hide in empty lockers so that the school would smell like rotting food. The best were the stale tuna sandwiches and the microwave hamburgers which would off-gas like a cemetary full of plague victims. After I hit one dumpster, I saw an open door. It led into the back of a convenience store. I nipped in and grabbed the first thing I saw, which was a carton of cigarettes by a brand associated with Egyptian animals. I hit the jackpot with that one. All the kids wanted a pack, so I asked for ten bucks a shot and made a killing. After that, I talked my best friend’s brother into buying me cartons at the local discount tobacco store. I made more money on Monday morning at school than I could have made in a week at some after-school job. The brother and I made a contract where he got a certain percentage and I got the rest.
This led to another bad habit. What do you do with all that money? I just put it in my sock drawer — my parents were divorced and each was trying to be “nicer” than the other so they let me get away with anything — because I really had nothing I wanted. But the following month, I discovered beer. Another friend’s Dad had a second fridge in the garage. I bribed him with a Pokemon to let me snag a couple of cans. They weren’t anything great in quality, and at first I thought the taste was horrible. After a few minutes, this feeling washed through me. I felt actually happy, a giddy kind of joy. I had not felt this since before I began school. I really liked beer.
I started using my other friend’s brother to buy beer when it was on sale, five cases at a time. I kept one in my room and drank a can whenever I felt bad. My mother never noticed. The rest I sold. I had an arrangement with a friend whose house was next to the school. I kept a big cooler in his backyard and would fill it with ice and beer in the morning, then stand outside the school gate and sell the cold beers in the afternoon. When he got off work in the evening, we would go down to the big grocery store just a few miles away that always had beer on sale. Whatever was cheap but not horrible I would buy. I had an eye for the balance between quality and price even then.
Then one day the source of my downfall occurred. One of the seniors offered to trade me a joint for five of the beers. I was curious so I said OK. I took it home with me. My mother was out on a date with some new guy she met at her work, and she left money for pizza and movie rentals. I was halfway through the first movie when I decided to light up. I smoked that joint like a regular cigarette. Nothing happened, so I just kept on watching the movie. Then it changed. I couldn’t understand what the people were saying any more. I kept seeing parts of the plot that were not there. But I had this feeling, like the beer had caused, of being right in the world. I didn’t need anyone else. I was fine, by myself, right there. Soon I didn’t even need the movie (but I did need the pizza!).
That Monday I went back to school and found the senior who had swapped me the joint. How much for more? I wanted to know. He named a price for a small bag. I looked at it, such a tiny amount. Then he named a price for a bigger bag. I asked him how much he could sell at one time. This cracked him up but he gave me a much better price per weight for an even bigger bag. “Any more than that, and you’re a gangster.” I told him I’d buy two and he could keep one if he showed me his source. I met an older man I will call Mario. He was freaked out at first when he saw how young I was, but calmed down when he saw my business acumen. “Straight up gangster,” he said. I had a lot of money and bought a pound of the weed. Looking back, it was not the best weed, but no one at my high school knew the difference. I rode off on my ten speed and put the stuff in my mother’s garage.
If you ever need a crash course in business, buy something that everyone wants and learn the hard way about how to sell it. I bought a postal scale and began dividing it into smaller bags. Unlike the senior who sold me the first bag, I did not make small bags. I divided the weed up into ounces and then eighths of an ounce which I sold for $20. This was apparently a good price and soon I had a steady clientele. I kept a notebook full of phone numbers and called people from a phone in the school library. In a week, I made more than I had in all my previous weeks of selling cigarettes and beer. I may have had addictions to drugs, but my first addiction and the worst for me has always been the business of selling drugs.
By the time I graduated my senior year, I was selling enough weed and beer every week to buy myself a car every month if I wanted to. I got smart though and used the money instead to buy DVDs in bulk from a guy I knew who worked in an import shop. I never got a driver’s license and paid a friend of mine to drive me around. I would take ten thousand dollars in cash to this shop and buy enough DVDs to fill my friend’s truck, then set up a booth at the local weekend bazaar and sell almost all of them by Sunday afternoon. No wonder I was always asleep in class at that point, my business had taken over my life. I also had a close call with some wise guy who thought I was an easy score. At that time I started carrying the only weapon I have ever carried, a whip made of a metal spring that can break a wrist or ankle.
My mother had been bugging me to go to college. I showed up at the ACT hung over and treated it just like one of the stupid tests at school. I did OK, and the state university let me in. My mother was telling me all about how important it was to have a career, but I was thinking of expanding my business. Luckily Mario knew a guy in the city where the state university was, and he knew another guy, and soon I was in business. At this point, the new guy introduced me to “chronic.” This was a different type of marijuana. Where the other kind got you a nice buzz, this turned you on in a whole different way. The first time I smoked it the whole world looked like it was made of stained glass windows. I talked him into selling me chronic by the pound.
He let me in on another secret, which is that there were different kinds of chronic with strange names like Jack Herrer and White Widow. I went to the university library and started looking up books on marijuana. There I learned the secret, which is that these types of marijuana were the same plant but different “strains” or sub-types. I had grown up around regular houseplants where a begonia was just a begonia, but then I remembered my neighbor with a garden who grew different types of potatoes. Same plant species, but different types by flavor. He was very proud of his heirloom seeds and swore loyalty to several varieties of potatoes, cucumbers and basil. I remembered seeing him take care of his garden, watering it and fertilizing it and harvesting it. A lightbulb went on.
It took me a few months of mooching around but I found a guy who could get me some seeds. He hooked me up with White Widow and Skunk #5 seeds. I went to the local head shop — a place to buy smoking paraphrenalia — and bought a book on growing marijuana. I read more in that book than I read in all of high school. Then I hit the university library again and found more good stuff. I stated photocopying pages and pasted them onto lined paper which I put in a big three-ring binder. I started making notes where the different books disagreed with one another. Eventually I was pretty sure I knew what I was doing.
My university was in a town which had once been more prosperous as a vacation spot but now was basically vacant. One of the old water slide places had become overgrown with brambles. These made it impossible to get in or out without getting cut to hell, so no one went there. I found a spot in the brambles where I could hide as many plants as I wanted. Covered in blood, I bought a spade at a 24-hour hardware store and went there in the dead of night. Each time I went in I got cut to hell, but I was so excited I didn’t care. I brought in fertilizer, potting soil, water and the seeds I sprouted on my windowsill in old Coke cans. I planted them in a spacious ring and dug a little ditch from the river to the center so that water seeped into the soil. Then I piled fertilizer around them and left.
The next morning my phone would not shut up so I answered it. It turned out my grandmother had gone missing on vacation in Jamaica. My mother wanted me back at home so I packed up and took one of those student busses into the city where I was born. They found my grandmother after three or four days. She had washed out to sea and finally floated back ashore. Her money and jewelry were gone but she was too decomposed for them to tell if it was a crime or not. I had not seen her since I was 11 — she was a jet-setter who found a second youth in travel — and so I puttered around for another few days then went back to school.
I wanted to check on my plants but I had to keep my C average so I went around to different professors and got them to allow me a few more weeks to hand in any work (regurgitated memorization) that I missed. They were more suspicious of my dead grandmother “excuse” than of my constant tardiness, sub-par work and perpetual state of being loaded. I got a good laugh out of that but wanted to check on my plants. I got on my trusty bike, since I had still not bothered to get a driver’s license or car, and rode out to the nettle patch. My plants were doing really well, about a foot and a half high in just a week. We were heading into the spring at that point so there was plenty of sun. The book told me to kill the male plants, but I saved one of each seed-type and took them back to my dorm. Between my desk and the wall next to the window was a space where I could keep them without anyone really noticing. My roommate had just discovered that he was gay and so he was gone most nights anyway and when he was back it was just to sleep. Our floor had a student advisor who was supposed to keep an eye on us but she had just found a boyfriend at another school. I probably could have grown the plants in my dorm room but I had learned early on that most of society works on the principle of “out of sight, out of mind.”
My dozen plants grew huge and I could smell them from the road a half mile away. I met a girl whose parents had a cabin nearby. We both knew there was no longevity in the relationship but we enjoyed each other the same. I had never actually been with a girl before for more than a few days so this was new. She let me use the living room in her cabin to dry and “cure” the plants. I had read in one book that I could keep the plants going all season and by cutting them back to a foot high and taking the tops (about five to six feet) away to cure. I rented a U-haul truck and spent all night pulling out the plants and then hanging them upside down in the cabin. It had nice wood walls and let them cure in a slow and mellow way. I also had to trim off the excess leaves. I had a couple bushels of these which I boiled in two big soup pots, then took out the leaves. I cooked down the rest and melted butter into it, then made brownies which I sold for five bucks apiece.
When I took the weed to school in the same little bags I had been selling for a few years at this point, interest was high. No pun intended. We were a couple weeks out from finals and people were stressed out of their minds. Soon they were stoned out of their minds as well. I sold everything I had within a couple days. At this point, I met someone who would serve me very well. He was a kid from the inner city but his father was an important political figure who was connected with the university. He basically had a “get out of jail free” card. I started selling him the big bags of a quarter ounce at a steep discount, but he took care of selling them to kids on the campus. Since he had dreadlocks and dressed like Bob Marley, he was the perfect self-advertising. He wanted more and I wanted to sell it to him.
Back at the briar patch the little detour I made to the river was doing its job well. As waves rippled through the river, from wind or a passing boat, the water pulsed down the little channel and into a sandy patch of earth. This wicked the moisture straight to my plants who were about ten feet away. The foot-tall plants I had left became three-footers in the three weeks, and so I cut those down for a smaller harvest. But the plants had become bushier, so I had more weed although it was in smaller buds. The part of the marijuana you sell are the unfertilized female flowers known as “sinsemilla” (Spanish for without seeds). That whole summer I had a harvest every month and a half. I would run down there with bags of cow dung and Miracle Grow For Flowers and dump it next to the plants. Of all the ways that I have seen of growing marijuana since, this was the lowest effort and highest yield method.
Fast forward a few years. I made it through university with better grades than I thought I was have in part because I had to spent so much less time selling weed to people, since I had only to sell to my friend and he did the hard work. We were tight, we had a really good partnership. He never asked the wrong questions and I never got involved with his business. I ended up with a business degree. The classes made it very clear what you had to know, which you could learn by reading the books a few times. I had a history of business class that again I made an A in. The girl and I drifted apart, and by drifted I mean she moved on to the husband material kind of guy both she and her parents could like. It was a business negotiation and I understood that.
I realized that my cover in the university town was perfect. There was no crime, so the police focused mostly on speed traps, parking tickets and busting loud parties. Everyone expects college students to have drugs. I rented the cabin next to the one I had been using and got a do-nothing job at a non-profit organization. I could do the work in a few hours and was then free to tend to my business. I now had four patches going alongside the river, two in abandoned camps, one on floodland, and another in a property about ten miles away that I bought as a hunting lease. I would lease it to my friends and give them the money to pay for it, then they would throw raves out there on the flat part about a half-mile from the woods near the river where the pot grew. A couple times someone stole the crop but I would move it.
I had killed my original plants but not before seeding them with the males. I tried all the combinations by putting the plants in an armoire with a fluorescent light. The White Widow bred with the White Widow turned into White Widow; the Skunk #5 bred with the Skunk #5 turned into Skunk #5; the two different White Widow/Skunk #5 crosses turned out different. Their seeds developed a striped look because they were two crossed types. One plant would be really strong, and the next not as much. It was harder to sell too because these plants did not have the distinctive character that the whole strains did. It was like mix and matched parts that when in balance were really good, like with the original White Widow or Skunk #5, but when mixed did not seem to fit together right. I killed the hybrids after a year.
By seeding the plants, I gained the ability to start new ones whenever I needed to. Every February I started the little plants on my windowsill in Coke cans and by April they were potted plants ready to go into the ground. I then grew them for two months at a time with natural irrigation, natural and commercial fertilizers, and a cayenne pepper spray to keep bugs and deer (the worst plague ever for pot growers) off the plants. In October, my grow season ended. This gave me three and a half grow cycles with a pound or more of marijuana per plant at a time.
This high-quality marijuana sold for about $5000 a pound, give or take. With over a hundred plants, you can see how this turned out well for me. I passed it to my friend who by now had his own network of people re-selling at the university but had only a limited market because the number of students did not change. Anything he could not buy I took in my trunk wrapped in cellophane to a city of about a half-million that was only a couple hours away. Eventually I found someone else willing to buy from me and re-sell it there for only a few thousand less of my profit, but a lot less risk. He started doing the same in two other nearby big towns or small cities and soon I had more demand than I could meet.
Eventually I saw the writing on the wall. My friend at the university got a gentle caution from someone. His father had just retired and the university was getting nervous about a student who took seven years to complete his music degree while appearing to major in marijuana full-time. He retired, and I sold everything I had to the other cities instead. In his place came a network of people with connections to organized crime and they also brought in more cocaine, ecstasy, acid and shrooms than I had ever seen. The game went pro and I felt like I was going nowhere. Luckily I had the movie business still going. I had hired my friend’s brother to run it while I was gone and while he picked some crappy movies, he had a good nose for the kind of crappy movies that people liked to buy.
I was proud of my business. I wasted nothing. When I trimmed leaves, I boiled them off to make brownies. Any parts of the plant that I could not use went into a compost heap on one of the properties. I never carried a gun or bribed a police officer. But it was time to leave. I sold off the business to the guy who was doing the car deliveries, put the hunting lease on the market, and transferred my job to another city. What I took with me was almost seven million dollars in a bank account belonging to the movie-reselling business, whose paperwork was entirely legitimate except for the cash we used which was pure drug money.
During my years as a high-flying drug grower, I learned a lot about the genetics of marijuana. Specifically, there are three races of marijuana: Cannabis Sativa, Cannabis Indica, and Cannabis Ruderalis. Each one has well-known characteristics. Sativa is more of a body buzz; Indica is more of a head buzz; Ruderalis I never smoked because it almost exclusively grows in Africa but it is supposed to be more physical, like ketamine or PCP. Within each of these races however there were different ethnicities of marijuana. For example, White Widow is a cross of Indian and Brazilian Indicas. Skunk #5 is a potent Indica. Your average high school style weed is a generic sativa.
These properties are inherent to the strain however. If I took a high school weed style sativa and grew it like I grew the Indicas, it would still not be as powerful. If I mixed one of my Indicas with regular high school weed, as happened by accident once thanks to a flowering plant someone else planted nearby, I got something like the mix of the Skunk and White Widow. It wasn’t consistent, and it wasn’t balanced. The strains I used eventually expanded beyond the two I started with but I found the best results with Indicas that were pure and rare. Just about any idiot can grow powerful weed but if it is unbalanced it provides a jarring or weird experience that buyers do not like. This is why pot breeding is a multi-billion dollar industry now.
Marijuana made me a racist by showing me that although all pot plants are from the same species, there are huge variations within that species (Indica, Sativa, Ruderalis) and even within those sub-species there are huge variations for different strains like Skunk #5, Northern Lights, Jack Herrer or White Widow. When you mix the strains, you end up with something closer to the generic stuff that they sell as high school weed. By racist I do not mean I dislike people of other races. I have had people of other races as business partners and friends and probably always will, unless a big race war happens. But I mean that each strain does best when it is kept pure. Further, while you can mix different sub-species like Indica and Sativa, the best strains come from the pure Indica which is rarest, less than 10% of the marijuana grown worldwide.
No matter how well you treat it, generic weed never becomes great. On the other hand, even if you just toss the seeds into a sunny backyard where it rains, great weed always becomes great. This truth snapped me out of the mindset that all plants are the same and you just need to grow marijuana by the pound. Quality of weed is more important than quantity alone. Buyers love it and they have a better time with the good weed. You could just go on selling $20 bags if you wanted to but you would not end up with everyone in the region wanting your weed, as happened with me.
I got really lucky. I never paid attention to adults because I thought (and still think) they’re all crazy, their government doesn’t work, their families are broken, their jobs are for show and they have no activities they truly like in life. For many years, I truly liked getting high and selling drugs. It made me happy in a way that nothing else could. Since that time I have calmed down. I took the money and moved in to a neighborhood next door to the one where I grew up. I bought a dry-cleaning place and a gas station and live off the income from those.
Another thing I learned from marijuana was the importance of breeding. When I went back home, I found that a girl I had crushed on in elementary school was just ending her first marriage. She had married someone who looked good on paper, but he was from another country. They split and I took up with her. We are now married with two daughters. She and I were out one day and another friend remarked how similar we look. It’s true that we look like we could be cousins. Our daughters are better looking than either of us alone.
On the other hand, my sister married a guy from a totally different place; he was a Sativa to her Indica. Their kids are strange looking and while they are bigger for their age than the other Indica kids, they are unbalanced. Some things that kids naturally just understand have not come to them yet. They also have strange tantrums which seem weird for their age. She ended up divorcing him recently. I was tempted to tell her how marijuana made me a racist, but there is just too much to explain so I’ll put it here instead.