Notes From The Underground Part 2: Hard Lessons

In my last piece, “Notes From the Underground: Marijuana in the UK”, I wrote a bit about my experiences as a grower. I would like to regale you all with tall tales about being on the run from the law, having face-offs with police officers and just generally being a badass rebel.

However, I don’t have any such stories. In fact, I am actually rather grateful that I don’t have any crazy stories. I like the peaceful life, and the fact is I only want to grow a plant, keep my head down and just get on with my life. If anything, not having any “I fought the law” moments shows that the way I’ve been doing things is a success. We know how the lyrics end: “… and the law won.”

When it comes to growing marijuana in the UK, pretty much only greedy profit-seekers get caught and put in jail. Those who grow a few plants for personal use tend to be able to get away with it, as long as they don’t tell too many people and take precautions with regard to the smell and sight of their grow space. (Basically, use carbon scrubbers/filters, pick low-odor strains and keep your tent out of plain sight.)

I will, however, admit that growing your own marijuana tends to put you in contact with some rather interesting people. Much of this is down to cannabis’s illegal status, but also because such a wide cross-section of society uses marijuana.

I have met cocaine dealers who provided blow for judges, journalists and politicians. I have been to speakeasies where I had chats with high-powered CEOs off their heads on MDMA and insisted that free hugs would make life better for all (a view I can sympathize with, if not outright agree). I have been given the opportunity to DJ at parties that have descended – or perhaps ascended – into wild orgies. Oh, and naturally I’ve dropped acid and rolled joints with all sorts of engineers, computer scientists, doctors and architects “looking for a new way of doing things”.

I personally stay away from opiates and anything amphetamine or cocaine-based, and recommend everyone do the same. I will also reiterate that this blog is specifically about medical marijuana and it’s uses, and you should not see this as a recommendation to take other substances, including alcohol.

alcohol bar
Almost every group and social strata uses drugs of some sort.

The thing that always stood out for me is this: almost every group and social strata uses drugs of some sort. Rich or poor, black or white, man or woman … You’ll often find they all take some sort of substance. Of course, I include alcohol and prescription drugs in that list of substances where many don’t, but that’s by-the-by.

The only difference I’ve usually found is that one group often maligns another group for a specific set of behaviors, despite indulging in the same behavior themselves. Some groups are also prone to saying something along the lines of, “the drugs I use are OK – it’s the drugs that other person/group use that are bad.”

I’m sure many of us have similar stories. The drunkard ranting off about “lazy stoners”. The legal-pill-popping-maniac who refuses to see their own prescription as “drugs”. The immensely wealthy person who destructively abuses substances licit or otherwise, but remains judgmental of even responsible use by those who aren’t anywhere near as wealthy. When confronted by this reality, you find that most drug users aren’t at all the stereotypical semi-homeless/homeless bum wandering the streets and finding their next hit.

Of course, this depends on the drug the person is using – opiate, amphetamine and cocaine addiction certainly do fit certain stereotypes, but some of these problems are at least in part due to such drugs’ criminalization. I am sure if we made alcohol and prescription painkillers illegal tomorrow, we’d see a massive jump in the number of homeless “functioning addicts”.

Interestingly enough, though, is that marijuana is illegal and has been for many decades now. Yet, most marijuana users are functioning members of society – you just tend not to see it. This leads me to think that, even when marijuana is illegal, it is still less of a health and social problem than alcohol and tobacco.

If anything, growing marijuana has taught me several things about drugs:

1) That marijuana is not a “drug” in the way cocaine or heroin is; and, unlike most drugs with a high addiction potential, it has a positive effect on many people’s lives. Marijuana has a huge number of medical benefits and applications – more than most prescription drugs, even. If I am to put unprocessed marijuana flowers on an arbitrary medicine to drug scale, I would put it closer to “medicine”. Certain products, like CBD oil, are definitely medicinal.

2) That cannabis is not a “gateway drug” – alcohol is more deserving of that title. If anything, marijuana has taught me to educate myself about other drugs and how to stay safe on them should I ever decide to use them – which is pretty much never (anymore), as marijuana gives me all the effects I need!

3) That there is an absolute ton of hypocrisy and double standards with regards to substance usage – it is entirely logical and scientifically accurate to say that it is safer for many to use marijuana than to get fall-over drunk every weekend or at the end of a hard day’s work.

We rarely talk about problems like workaholicism.

4) That there is a huge problem of “hidden addiction” in many societies. This includes not only drugs and alcohol, but also over/under eating, gambling and lots of other things besides. The pale-skinned painkiller addict is just one of the easier ones to spot.

We rarely talk about the problems, say, addiction to work can cause. Yet we get surprised when pilots break down, mathematicians and physicists burn out, or doctors & nurses become depressed wrecks. Hardly ever are we thinking of the pressure cooker environments and mentalities such people put themselves through. In some instances, we may even see such addictions as “positive” or “socially desirable”, as they may benefit others.

5) That the person who grows pot for personal use, keeps good relations with their friends and family and works a job (i.e. most marijuana users) is seen as a bit of a “ghetto superstar”! Cocaine dealers face a life of violence that contributes to the ravaging of communities. Those who don’t become rich or find a way to sell to superstars and VIPs tend to spend a lifetime in and out of prison battling addiction and/or personal demons, or they die young. Heck, even those that do make the Scarface-style dream come true end up hounded by law enforcement and being the target of other power-seekers.

People who grow their own marijuana for personal use rarely face such risks, and it could be argued that they even combat the need to go to exploitative gangsters.  Not everyone wants a coke dealer DJing their party/orgy. The peace-loving, pot-growing non-dealer on the other hand is a far safer bet, and probably has an excellent selection of tunes!

However, even peaceful growers can be the target of gang violence, especially while the plant is illegal. Such people are not only seen as “easy arrests” by police officers, but also “easy pickings” by organized crime and opportunity criminals.

They often see personal growers as competition and a target to steal grows and small-to-medium amounts of cash and equipment from.

After all, who is a pot grower in an illegal state or country going to complain to? In fact, this very thing happened to a friend of mine. He had two excellent plants – one White Russian and one Lemon Haze – which were stolen by people who broke into his flat while he was on holiday. When he came back, the police had informed him of what had happened, and issued him with a “Penalty Notice Disorder” (PND) after seeing his leftover growing equipment. (See this link for more info on what a PND  and how it is applied. But basically, a PND is an on-the-spot fine issued for low-level crimes and disturbances.)

Funnily enough, friends told me that Lemon Haze would be found being sold on the streets London-wide just several weeks later. The product was a shadow of its former self, suggesting that the Lemon Haze and the cuttings that were stolen from us were being grown by a bunch of hacks who didn’t know what they were doing, perhaps even being mass-produced in a house by a gang. This is conjecture, though, so I’m not putting too much weight behind the theory.

Why am I telling you all of this? Quite simply, it’s because I want everyone who uses marijuana to start growing their own if at all possible. In fact, I’d recommend growing a cannabis plant even if you don’t use marijuana and want to see an end on the war on drugs (and hemp/cannabis in particular) – the government can’t control nature, after all.

In the meantime, read our other blogs, and don’t forget to tune in to Elevate the Conversation every Thursday at 9 pm PST. We would also love to read your stories of growing, whether in legal states or not (we promise to keep your info confidential). So why not email and tell us all about your crazy stories?


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