High Perspectives - An Interview With a Weed Grower in London, England
With November's ballot a resounding success for green campaigners throughout the US, it's worth looking at the state of the weed legalization and the on-going debate around the world in the wake of Proposition 64. For many nations around the world, similar notions remain a long way from realization. With this in mind, GreenRush has been in contact with a cultivator from a country which remains firmly against a policy makeover: Great Britain.
So what does a London-based weed grower make of the debate? How did he get into the ‘illegal’ activity in the first place? And what difficulties has he faced along the way?
So, let’s jump right in: how long have you been growing your own cannabis?
Since 2012. It was actually all my son’s idea. He and his university housemates grew a couple of plants in their flat. After graduation he brought the equipment home and showed me the various bits and bobs. There was a lamp and reflector, some pots, soil and some seeds. He suggested we give it a go over the summer and I thought ‘why not?’.
That’s very chilled of you. Many parents might have had a different reaction.
True. But then he knows what a keen gardener I am. That was the driving force behind the project, not making money or turning into a real-life Heisenberg or anything. I spend a lot of time in my greenhouse anyway, with my two tortoises, watering and worrying-over tomato plants, herbs, chili plants and the like. This was just a brand new ballgame. It was exciting.
Would you say all that green-fingered expertise transferred easily to cananbis cultivation?
Well I’m certainly no expert on plants. Just enthusiastic. I have a couple of friends that really know their stuff when it comes to gardening in general and they’ve been a great help when I’ve needed some advice. I speak to them before starting each new grow and usually run any wacky ideas by them. Without them I’d be responsible for several massacres.
There were certainly some new experiences; I’d never grown under lamps before, which is how we started out. But honestly, like any plant, it’s just a simple case of managing the light, humidity and water. I prefer not to use too many nutrients as yield is less important. What I’m aiming for is healthy, natural plants.
What were the biggest problems or learning curves you experienced?
I might be nothing like Heisenberg but there was definitely an element of Walter White in the early days. Minus the underpants and moustache. My son painted the inside of an old cupboard matt-white - very poorly, I might add - and we hung the lights up inside it. We had endless issues with aphids, the cupboard lacked air-flow and it was hard to manage the temperature during the summer. We only used auto-flowering seeds, so the plants took the lead there. It was a little unstructured and we were learning on our feet but it was a lot of fun.
[caption id="attachment_1952" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Our grower cultivates cannabis in the heart of the UK's capital city, London.[/caption]
And how has your set-up changed over time?
These days, I keep it simple and let nature do the hard work. I start a grow in the greenhouse in late-spring and make the most of the sunshine and long days throughout the summer. I don’t use auto-flowering plants anymore as I prefer to control the entire process myself. Once the plants are the right size, usually around three to four-feet tall, I transfer them to a grow-cupboard. It has enough room for four or five plants with three lights, each with a 400w output, and a carbon filter to mitigate the smell. I used to use just one 1000w bulb but I found this less effective and actually capable of burning the plants.
I still use a minimal amount of nutrients as I’d rather have more plants with a low yield than fewer with a high yield, if you get what I mean. It’s just more natural that way. Though I have found tomato feed to be effective in the past and would recommend it to anyone starting out that has no idea about which nutes to buy. I’d also recommend practising the valuable art of cloning; it gives you an opportunity to be a little more experimental, without the worry of wasting costly seeds.
The legalization of cannabis for medical purposes is a hot topic in the UK right now. What’s your opinion on the debate?
Let me just say that my knowledge of the medical advantages and dangers of marijuana is seriously limited. I’m not a doctor or an expert on the plant for that matter. But what I will say is that, since I started growing it, it has benefited me a great deal.
I suffer with mild arthritis in my hands and cannabis helps with the stiffness and discomfort. I’ve also read that over exposure to the effects of THC can cause long-term psychological issues, such as paranoia and isolation, but I’ve found it to be relaxing and socially liberating. I smoke a small amount with family and friends at Christmas and other occasions and it’s always been a positive addition, socially speaking.
I think more needs to be done to educate people about the drug and its effects because, if we are going to replicate the changes made in the US, then we’re going to need the public to demand that change. I would certainly be behind it, though.
Personal opinion aside, do you expect to see a change soon?
Listen, if things can change in America, a country with an enormous, passionate conservative population, then they can change anywhere. But, like I said, it will take pressure from voters for things to change.
The Green Party have been growing in prominence over the past decade and, as the main party in favor of a policy change, maybe they can continue to influence things from their soapbox. Who knows? Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs are also coming around to the idea but I don’t expect to see a change anytime soon.
Would a change make you stop what you’re doing?
Probably not. It’s a hobby that I enjoy; I’m not harming anybody as I would never sell what I produce. That’s entering a much darker world and, as I’ve said, I’m not doing it for the money anyway. I would much sooner grow and smoke my own than buy it legally too. It’s a natural, relaxing and far healthier habit than sinking ten pints of lager on a Friday night.
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