Higher Ground: Guideless

Recently an old family friend got in contact with me because she has cancer and wanted to use cannabis to alleviate the side effects of her chemotherapy. She got her card from the state and had gone to provisioning center in Detroit to buy some items. She didn't want to smoke or get high so she bought edibles. She called me to figure out if she'd got the right stuff. Personally I thought that she had bought a little too much of the wrong stuff. She had bought a bunch of CBD-infused articles that she'd been told would bring her down from the THC oil that she'd purchased.

That's as far as I'm going to comment on the medication she bought. However, thinking about her situation made me realize the absurdity of the current medical cannabis system in Michigan. The way it's set up she either has to grow her own – which she can't – or have a caregiver grow some for her. Finding a caregiver can be difficult. And even if she gets somebody to grow for her it will probably be five to six months before she has buds.

My friend is getting chemo treatments every three weeks for the next few months. That will be followed by radiation. By the time someone could grow marijuana for her that will all be over. Even if I became her caretaker I couldn't get anything together for her sooner than that.

There needs to be accommodation for people with a medical need to walk into a store and buy medication. Which she can actually do, but the people who are selling it are under a cloud. Technically speaking, unless she is picking up medication from her nonexistent caregiver she can't buy anything.

And that's what gives legs to people who don't want to have marijuana stores in their city. The law says you can't get any marijuana unless it's from your caregiver, yet there are stores selling marijuana to patients – thankfully – who just walk in the door. Some provisioning centers are hedging their bets with the law by setting up a system where you belong to a private club. Good for them. But the state needs to accept and accommodate patients who have to get marijuana. The current system denies their need.

I've been asked to leave a fair number of provisioning centers because I walked in and started asking too many questions. It happened again last week. Nobody with a storefront really wants to answer questions about where their products come from.

By the way, as far as I'm concerned nearly all marijuana use is medical, even if it's just unwinding after a stressful day. It's far better to have that than throwing down a bunch of liquid poison every day.

A new grow

The first time I ever tried to grow marijuana was when I was in college. I dropped a seed in a flowerpot and sat it on the window ledge in my college dorm room. It grew.

I didn't know anything about light control or budding. When the plant got to be about 18 inches tall I killed it, dried it and smoked it. Back in those days homegrown weed had a reputation for not being very potent and my stuff fit the bill.

I've learned a lot about growing cannabis since then, although not nearly as much as some folks out there have figured out about how to produce powerful stuff.

My second encounter with growing marijuana was when I worked for a grower in 1989. I wasn't involved in the marijuana production, although I did trim buds for him a few times. My friend had bought a building on the east side and was setting up a growing operation in there. He needed someone to turn a really big room into several smaller rooms. I was no carpenter but I could knock a few boards together and he needed someone he could trust. So I spent a few months framing up rooms and hanging drywall. At the time it really came in handy for my finances – especially because I was paid in cash at the end of each workday.

As is not unusual in these cases, the guy I worked for got busted some years later. Then he moved to California, where they tolerated this sort of behavior better at the time.

A couple of years after I worked for the grower I got into vegetable gardening. I was living in the Brightmoor neighborhood at the time and there were a lot of empty lots in the area. One was next door to my house. As I dug in the earth and made vegetables grow I thought I'd try throwing a few marijuana seeds in the ground. Sinsemilla (seedless) marijuana was still exotic and, for me, prohibitively expensive at the time. So it wasn't hard to find a marijuana seed. And my neighbors' attitude seemed to be that whatever is growing in your garden is your business.

One thing I learned from that experience was that the offspring of a plant with a modest amount of THC in it could produce something much more potent. I figured it was the dies cast of genetics. Two people have kids and all the kids aren't exactly alike. Some might be taller or stouter than the others. Some have different colors of hair. Some might be a little smarter than the others. In the end I was able to grow some very potent pot. And the stuff that wasn't so good I could just throw away.

Actually during this time a friend of a friend came to visit from Montana or North Dakota or somewhere in that general area. He couldn't believe I had a garbage bag full of pot that I was going to throw away. He took it with him with the intention of selling it in an area where there wasn't much available.

When I moved from Brightmoor to a neighborhood without open spaces I stopped growing. Then I stayed out of it because I had a kid and I didn't want to have my family torn asunder because of marijuana – or lose my house. The 600-square-feet house I had in Brightmoor cost me $3,500; my new place is a considerably bigger investment.

I started growing again a couple of years ago since Michigan has a medical marijuana law. I have arthritis and I qualified for a medical marijuana card due to pain. I bought seeds from a mail order seed house – something I would never have done years ago. I grew a few plants in my yard. I put them in late in the season so they wouldn't get huge – a technique I found because of my vegetable gardening. There is a privacy fence along two sides of my yard, plus three garages and greenery blocking other areas. And I have a latch and lock on the garden gate. The only way it can be seen by passersby is if they fly over my yard.

Now I want to start growing indoors. I don't grow enough during the summer to last for the next year. Besides, the buds get old, dried out and powdery after a while. Growing indoors gives you a better chance to maintain a steady supply. Growing outdoors is only a little more complicated than dropping a seed in the dirt, applying water and waiting for Mother Nature to do her thing.

Indoors you have to be concerned with all kinds of factors as you try to recreate Mother Nature. You have to buy costly equipment such as lights and humidifiers and carbon dioxide generators. You have to maintain humidity and deal with pests such as mites and thrips which like to eat your leaves.

I'm working on it slowly. I've framed up a space in the corner of my basement. I've got a 400 watt metal halide light and 1,000 watt high pressure sodium light. One's better for growing and the other is better for budding. I need timers and sprayers and nutrient solutions. You need to deal with air flow in your garden. It's a lot to do and a little bewildering at first, but I hope to get it together. Part of the reason I'm slow is that you have to buy all that equipment and I am loathe to give up the cash all at once.

It's a new project and I hope to get it right. I hear it can take a year or more to get it together. Wish me luck.

About The Author

Larry Gabriel

Larry Gabriel covers cannabis for Metro Times. He also writes the Detroit Watch in the monthly Michigan Cannabis Industries Report. Larry's chapter "Rebirth of Tribe" in the book Heaven Was Detroit, from jazz to hip-hop and beyond chronicles the involvement of Marcus Belgrave, Wendell Harrison, Harold McKinney,...
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