Why did you start growing pot? Because I think that it can help people. I've smoked pot my whole life. I think that it's a positive thing.
Is it your full-time job? No. I work in the beer industry. I like hops, which is a cousin of marijuana, so I feel like there might be a theme there. I like plants!
Do you have a green card? No. And I will never have one.
Why never? I don't want my name on a list. It's a private thing, and it's my choice to smoke weed. I don't want people to judge me on that.
What's changed since I-502 passed? Now that it's gone legal, I hear people talking about weed more. It's everywhere. People talk about it, people smoke it—people you wouldn't think even smoked, you hear them talking about going out and smoking a joint. It's more acceptable. I think that that's a good thing, too.
Has the price gone down? Definitely. Probably in the last year, it's gone down a lot.
Has demand gone down? No, I don't think so. People love to smoke weed. That is a fact!
If you could get a license to grow it legally, would you? No, I probably wouldn't. Not because I don't think people should, I just don't know how long I'll last in this industry. I don't know if I'd want to jump through all those hoops. If someone just presented me with it and was like, "Here you go, you're legal," I probably would do it. But it's hard to get a license in Washington to grow weed.
Would you say the licensing process would prevent someone like you, who already grows, from going legal? Definitely. Why would I go get a license to grow when I'm already doing it?
For legal protection, perhaps? Yeah.
Have you ever been robbed? Me, personally? No. I've known people who have, though.
Is it pretty common for growers? Yeah. It's people who grow where they live. I think that that is a big no-no. Don't shit where you eat. And it's such a stinky plant, it's really hard to make that smell disappear.
Have you been to any of the I-502 stores yet? Have you tried any of the legal weed? No.
Why not? I don't have any desire to go stand in line and pay more money just for legal pot.
How long have you been growing pot for? This is year four, but only my second year of serious production. The first couple years I was dabbling. Just figuring out the botany side of things.
Why did you start growing pot? I have been a connoisseur since I was 15, and I just love it. I'm a high-stress guy, and it makes me not that way. As far as a medical substance, I'm 100 percent on board for that.
Do you have a green card? I, personally, do not. Last year, I was on another patient's card as a caretaker.
Which way did you vote on I-502? I'm actually a Canadian citizen, but if I could... I don't know. I-502 is a tangle for me. The thing that blows my mind is how ignorant people are to the fact that this market has been here and will always be here whether we are making it legal or not. Making it legal isn't going to make the industry grow that much, it's just going to make people a little less nervous about going to buy some. But the guys selling it in living rooms are still going to be there, and I can almost guarantee they are still going to have the better pot.
Why is it going to be better? If the legal weed is required to be mold- and pesticide-free and have the vital stats printed on it, doesn't that guarantee it's going to be good? Well, the black market growers are much more boutique. It's more of a craft market. They've been doing it longer, they've got more experience, and they don't have the same restrictions the legal growers do as far as overhead and regulation.
Have you been to any I-502 stores yet? No, I haven't. I've used some of the 21+ delivery services because I guess I'm lazy. [Laughs]
How do you think I-502 has affected the black market? As far as the underground trade goes, I don't think it has been touched. If anything, it's been boosted. The best thing that came out of I-502 was that a lot of people came out of their shell. A lot of what you would call "closet smokers" came out.
You started growing large-scale outdoors? Where was the outdoor grow you worked on? We were in unincorporated King County, over in the Sammamish area.
How do you set up an outdoor grow undetected? You don't. We got permission from the owner of the property, which was a 300-acre tree farm. Nothing on it but a well and a little work trailer for food storage and such. My buddy was sleeping in a tepee and I had a 10-person, two-room tent. We had a little tent fortress set up out in the woods. The owner was like, "Yeah, I don't give a shit, stay out there all summer for all I care. Just don't make a mess and don't have the cops come buggin' me."
None of your neighbors noticed the giant pot plants? Our closest neighbor was at least a mile from the plants. They probably knew, but they never bothered us. And the property was huge. I was out there for eight months and never saw the whole thing. You couldn't walk across the whole thing, you'd get lost in the woods.
So is this a more common thing than people would suspect? Oh, yes. Actually, the east side of King County and what they consider unincorporated King County—the more rural areas—that is basically Western Washington's pot farm, right there.
The greenbasket, so to speak? Right across that lake, it's a madhouse. Sammamish and Issaquah and that whole Redmond area... When I was working out on this farm, we actually made friends with another grower. His farm was maybe a mile and a half down a dirt road from ours. We would go down the road from our property to this little mini-suburb, and there was this random dirt road going out the other side of it straight to his property.
So you pot farmers would mosey on down to the cul-de-sac with your coffee and talk shop? Basically, yeah!
How many plants were on your farm? We did about 90 plants with three people.
Was that your full-time job? Oh yeah. Twelve- to fourteen-hour days. Definitely.
What does that yield? Well, we had a cornucopia of strains. Our average plant was about six feet by six feet and yielded about three to five pounds apiece.
Each plant? Yup. I had one seed that I'd started inside but ended up transplanting outdoors when it was just a little bush. Most plants would die. At first, it was like, "Oh, this is weird," then it was like, "Oh, wait, this is sun!" The thing was about 15 feet across and the stalk at the ground was about 16 inches in diameter. We got about 15 pounds of pot from it. It was hands down the biggest cannabis plant I've ever seen anywhere, ever.
Why did you start growing pot? Uh, it's kinda materialistic, but... to make money. I wanted to be my own boss.
Do you grow for a living? Yeah.
Do you have a day job? I have a part-time job and I'm a painter. An artist. I love the grunt work [of growing], though. I fell in love with farming.
There's a lot of manual labor involved? I started because I thought I could make a ton of money. The sad truth is, you don't make that much money for how much you work. It's not, like, a fuckin' gold mine or anything.
So you don't have a pet white tiger? No, not yet. I'm working on it.
Do you have a green card? Yes.
Are you operating a "collective garden"? Yeah. It's kind of a gray area. I have more plants than I'm supposed to.
Are you sentimentally attached to your plants? Oh, yeah, totally. It was harder in the beginning. Now that I've been doing it for so long, I'm more coldhearted. Gotta make that dollar, y'know. I used to give all my plants women's names. Each one.
Give me some examples. I can't. I used to name all the plants for girls I had crushes on. I can't give you the names or that would ruin my game.
That's totally not weird. Have prices changed since pot became legal? Yeah, they've been changing pretty dramatically. They were changing before it went legal, though.
In what direction? It's been getting cheaper and cheaper on the black market.
How has legal pot changed your business? Actually, it's kind of made it better. Everyone who went to try legal pot got ripped off. They didn't get good ganja. It makes me look even better.
Which way did you vote on I-502? I voted against it. It didn't make sense.
Would you be willing to go legal if you could? Yeah, definitely. I want to be as legit as possible. I only work in the black market because I have to. But they only gave out 70 licenses, and 5,000 people tried to get them.
What's your main gripe with the law? I just wish they would let people grow their own pot. Not everyone's going to do it, it's not easy. Not everyone grows their own food even though you could. Everyone could have, like, six plants, and you could grow it in your garden in summer.
So you're thinkin', like, tomatoes, squash, pot? Totally! And if everyone did that, it would like, I dunno, it would just...
Make the world a better place? Exactly!
Have you ever been robbed? Yeah, definitely. My house was robbed, but I rigged up my house so there's a trapdoor, and they didn't find anything. I think they were there just to break in, but there's definitely evidence if they were smart. After that break-in, we thought, "Oh, they might come back because this is like a gold mine. Maybe they just weren't prepared." Sure enough, three days later, dude shows up and knocks on the door all sketchy asking for someone that doesn't live there. We fought, I ended up interrogating him, asking him what the hell he was doing there, and it was clear that he was there to come rob us again, probably for the pot.
When did you start growing pot, and why? Around 2011 is when I really started taking it seriously and moved from the closet to a full-size room and got 1,000-watt lights. I started because I saw a huge opportunity, not only to make money but to produce my own medicine.
Do you have a green card? Yes, I do.
How many plants do you have growing right now? [Laughs] No comment!
Did you vote for I-502? No. I like the medical aspect of growing. They had a bunch of stuff in the law basically trying to stop medical by saying you couldn't grow for yourself. Growing for myself was a big part.
If you could get a producer's license, would you? Actually now I would, 'cause I went through the list and I've seen the people that have got the license and they're all, how would you say it... not up to par. I don't want to be mean, but...
You don't want to name any names? That's fine. After all, we're not using your real name. Ever have any close calls with the landlord? Oh, yeah, I've had to rip full rooms down in less than an hour. Hide it all, transplant, move plants, rent a U-Haul, throw it all in the back, and wait 'til he leaves.
Has legal weed changed business for you? Actually, I've been getting a lot more phone calls from friends. The black market is starting to pick up again.
Why do you think that is? Prices. Big-time on the prices. If you go into the I-502 stores, quarter ounces are a little over $100 or more.
And your quarter ounces? Fifty to seventy dollars.
Have you bought legal pot yet? Yes. At Cannabis City.
What did you think? Horrible!
Is yours better? Way better. Ten times better. And cheaper, too.