Confession: I… am …a…pot… grower. I’ll bet, though, you and I aren’t as different as you might think. I’m a forty-something mom. I’m happily married for the second – and last - time to my best friend. We live in a smallish upscale town where old people walk their dogs. Kids ride their bikes to the park and to the Dairy Queen in the summer. After lunching with their lady friends, Cougars routinely hit the Botox clinic….you know, Middle America at it’s best.
I’m starting Tangerine Dream Diaries nearly six months into my journey as a new pot grower. There is a lot of back story that you might find interesting and which will help you context the new stuff. If you see a post beginning with a date, that post is a part of the story.
The tale begins on September 8, 2010.
Last weekend was the first annual Detroit Medical Marijuana Cannabis Cup event sponsored by High Times Magazine. Jake and I went, unsure of what we would find; but certain that we need to keep our ears open to industry news and events in our area – especially considering Schuette’s war on medical marijuana.
The event was held at Burt’s Warehouse in the Eastern Market District – a fun little hole in the wall venue known for it’s alternative music and the annual Dirty Show. Solid black walls with dim industrial lighting, Burt’s is the perfect place for a night of borderline underground fun.
A question begs to be asked, though. Was Burt’s the best place for an event designed, at least in part, to bring Michigan’s medical marijuana movement out of the closet as a legitimate, necessary and economy-building industry?
There is the distinct possibility that other, more mainstream venues refused to host an event such as this - an event in which so many individuals still perceive the typical medical marijuana proponents the fringe folks simply looking for a legal way to get high. Or, it could be that the marketing powers-that-be around the event thought it best to choose a location well known to this fringier element because as much as education was a large component, the Cup was still about entertainment, fun, and bringing in revenue; and the contingent that was attending for the fun wasn’t likely to make a trek to the ‘burbs to hang out at the Radisson for the weekend.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve spent my fair share of time at the Dirty Show, and as an aging Royal Oak punk of the eighties, like to hit an alternative concert here and there; but what I’m wondering is this: as the medical marijuana movement strives to be taken more seriously as a viable contribution to the medical wellbeing and economic health of Michigan’s citizens, if somehow separating the party from the professional might be appropriate.
We attended two informative and well organized seminars at the event. While none of the panel members were wearing suits, neither did any of them look like they had just rolled off the Burning Man bus. They fully understood the necessity of a reasonably professional image.
One of the biggest challenges we have in promoting the legitimacy of medical marijuana is moving past the stereotype of the dreadlocked, bearded stoner trying to get around the law; and since we are trying to convince THEM, guess what? It’s time to put on our grown-up clothes, remember business etiquette, and yes…..play the game.
So – Cannabis Cup? Absolutely! Medical Cannabis Cup? Perhaps an event geared specifically to medical marijuana, its politics and alternative health benefits would be a better option to truly push the movement forward.
It’s official. I never – ever – EVER want a real job again.
My last post was in May; and not long before I believed my unemployment was going to run out. To that point, I’d had moderate success with my first grow cycle. I recouped the entire investment in the grow facility build out; but it didn’t appear I was going to be able to produce as much medicine as necessary given the space I have available and I was freaking out about not bringing in enough money without the safety net of unemployment.
That nagging little voice began…”what if you can’t make this work?” “What if you got lucky with this first run and won’t be able to manage finding outlets for your overages next time?” What if, what if, what if???
So, VERY long story short, I took an early childhood Director position that was a living nightmare. I’ll spare you the ugly details; but suffice it to say I made it three months back in the real work world, wearing my Godawful-ugly corporate button down with the embroidered elephant on the chest before I ran screaming for the safety and sanctity of my basement.
While the whole experience was something I’d prefer to forget – the owner neglecting to tell me how close she was to bailing on the business, State of Michigan licensing telling me the place never should have been licensed, the incredibly underpaid staff begging for classroom supplies….the list goes on and on. There WAS, however, a perverted sense of pride that I was still growing pot in my basement as I spent my days as the wholesome Miss Lilli, chatting up parents and decorating bulletin boards.
Jake took over most of the farming when I was working since he has the summers off. After our summer harvest, since we weren’t sure what my job situation was going to be, we closed down shop temporarily.
Today was my first day back in the basement with four lovely new mothers donated by some great friends. I pruned, I cooed to the plants like they were my long-lost babies, I breathed deep of the lovely green aroma, and I felt at peace.
I’m fairly certain I’ve met enough like minded folks in my journey that I can get back into the swing of things with the comfort in knowing that I’ll be able to make it work regardless of my overages. While dispensaries have been under attack by the new and conservative Attorney General, caregiver to caregiver transfers are still workable and since the step son is heading off to the Coast Guard in three months, you can bet I’ve got plans for that empty bedroom!
How many teenagers do you know who would be mortified to admit their parents were growing medical marijuana? Most eighteen year-olds I knew when I was a kid would have thought it was awesome.
Not so with my step-son, Vance. The giggle-fit response he had to the news that we were going to start the new business – the one that threatened to dump him unceremoniously from his dinner table chair – slowly metamorphosed over the past months into barely controlled disdain, and last week developed into scarcely concealed passive -aggressive anger.
When we first told the kids we were starting a new medical marijuana business, they were both open to the idea. (See Unuseable Street Cred) Zoe has maintained her “silent cool” throughout the process and has repeatedly said she believes in the mission.
It came to our attention a few days ago Vance’s mom, who supported the law initially, decided after we told her we were growing that she vehemently opposes medical marijuana and all it stands for.
We discovered this tid-bit in a ranting email from the Ex, received by Jake after Vance’s backpack was flagged by the drug dogs at school.
That day was about as bad as it can get for two reasonably straight people just trying to make a legal living in this biz. There was, of course, the call from the school counselor, the ragingly maniacal voicemail from the ex-wife, the royally pissed off texts from the boy, and frantic “How could it have happened” texts between Jake and I as he tried to manage his day teaching and all the figurative electronic pitchforks poised to skewer him.
We still can’t figure out how or why the dogs sniffed out Vance’s backpack. I could maybe understand it if the dogs had lifted a scent from his shoes since he’s walked through the kitchen when I’ve been preparing batches of arthritis rub and tinctures; but neither Jake nor I use recreationally, and other than when I’m cooking, everything is kept in the basement. PLUS – the kid is unbelievably lazy and getting Cs and Ds. I haven’t even seen that damn backpack in months. We know he’s not using because he’s had a full physical with drug test lately; but suddenly, it’s out of the question that any of his “friends” who use were anywhere near his backpack.
That night we were the recipients of barely concealed hostility. The next morning I awoke to the equivalent of a dog pissing all over something to mark his territory. Vance had demolished the kitchen during his morning battle with the toaster and intentionally had left an enormous mess. No passive aggressive behavior there! The weekend brought plenty of pouting and reasons to NOT be at home. Thankfully, the following week we were kid-free and weren’t subjected to his ire.
We’re not going to win this battle – and we’re not going to stop growing medicine. Vance’s mom isn’t going to suddenly stop undermining, and Vance probably won’t be thinking for himself until he’s out of the house. So – for now – the best we can do is ignore the silent treatment and hope that someday the kid comes to his senses and realizes he’s been manipulated by the best of them.
She’d hate this analogy; but my sixteen year-old daughter, Zoe, is like a stray dog. Exuberantly run toward her waving a bone in hand and she’ll bolt around the corner before you can say rawhide. Sit quietly, though, with that bone at your feet and chances are fuzzy little pup-dog will come sniffing around on her own.
Sitting with that bone at my feet is how I learn about both the inconsequential teenage drama and the big events in Zoe’s world. Given the right conditions to bring the pup-dog to me, say an hour in the car or a lazy Saturday over coffee, Zoe does a stream of consciousness thing. She’ll share conversations she’s had with teachers, friends, schoolmates, etc. and as she talks, she’ll pause occasionally as if she’s waiting for a comment or question. I can almost see the thoughts forming – shifting like multi-colored smoke in a gentle breeze. She’s trying to figure out who she’s going to be, what she believes, how she’s going to live, and what’s important to her – and as much as she’s pushing for independence - how to keep at least a finger tied to home, adults, and limitations.
This is how I learned what kind of guy she is attracted to, how she feels about abortion, and recently…that she’s smoked pot.
I’ve always been honest with Zoe when she’s asked the inevitable questions about my past. Did I drink in high school? How old was I when I lost my virginity? Did I ever do drugs?
My thought process has been that by being honest with her, I may be able to prevent her from making some of the same mistakes I made. Yes, I drank like a maniac in high school. There are times I didn’t remember driving home and it’s a wonder I’m not a car crash statistic. Yep – did my share of drugs too; and man – o – man was I ever stupid.
I settled down far before I was married and spent a great number of years after that as a working wife and mother, figuratively cloistered in a Catholic school as Director of their early childhood program; but those early experiences are a part of my past I’m not going to deny.
SO – following her newest revelation, what could I possibly say that wouldn’t be completely hypocritical? I have a less than lily-white history and I’m growing medical marijuana in my basement for Pete’s sake. Yelling at her would be ridiculous. Telling her I condone the behavior would be untrue and enabling. I simply told her I’d rather she didn’t; but that if she chooses to take a hit at a party or eat a brownie a friend made, I hope she’s smart and safe.
At this point, Jake and I have no intention of altering our business plan. We’re working well within the limits of the law and firmly believe in the service we’re providing. I suppose the only thing I CAN do is continue watching and talking with Zoe as she tests, grows, learns, and makes mistakes – and make sure she knows that if she ever goes too far, I’m here.
In addition to all the knowledge I’ve gained about the mechanics of growing marijuana in the past months, I’ve learned a few things about myself. As much as I’ve enjoyed living under the self-delusion that I’m laid back, centered, and downright oozing mellow, I’ve come to terms with the fact I’ve been fooling myself. I’ve discovered that sometimes I miss the routine and regularity of a traditional job; occasionally I find myself missing the high that came with tackling a huge project and knocking it out of the park; and….although I hate to come clean on this one… I miss having people to boss around!
Admitting you have a problem is the first step, right?
So sue me, it’s true. I spent over eighteen years in managerial positions where there were always multiple people hard at work doing what I told them to do. I like to think I was a good boss – mostly reasonable, fun when possible, an advocate for my teams, etc. Nevertheless, they worked for me.
These days I’m sadly lacking employees. There’s my fish, Keith….who doesn’t say much. There are the kids; but I try not to take my power-trips out on them, and there’s Jake – who is so easy going it’s hardly worth the trouble bossing him around…and thank God for that little fact! Two of me would be a recipe for disaster.
Additionally, I’ve noticed I’m addicted to a particularly frenetic life-pace. Slowing down to enjoy the benefits of working at home and having no deadlines has been wayyyy harder – I mean infinitely more difficult -than I ever thought it would be.
Somewhat unsuccessfully, I’ve been trying to take my foot off the gas and enjoy the fact that my primary responsibility right now is learning to grow amazing medicine. The time spent buried in my plants is fantastic but I’m still struggling to just enjoy the ride. Now that I’m in the growing groove, the time on task is really quite manageable. I could be taking time to meditate or read a novel. I could be writing more or even, gasp, doing absolutely nothing on occasion.
Somehow, though, I haven’t been able to shake the messed-up perception that because I’m not working a “real job,” I’m doing nothing of value. I’ve been more productive than I ever was when I worked in a traditional setting. I’m publishing and publicizing my food, health and wellness blog like a maniac. I’m cooking for family and blog constantly, exercising regularly, and feeling more stressed than ever. That’s just messed up.
The plan is to get this business off the ground before my unemployment runs out, and here’s hoping – because if I have to go back to some sucky traditional job, how ticked off will I be at myself that I didn’t enjoy my time in jeans and flip flops?
It’s been, and I suspect will continue to be, an interesting journey from Miss Bossy-Pants toward Mellow Marijuana Mama. No, I can’t say I’ve been successful leaving behind the life of wand waving and people jumping, where I’m financially rewarded for a job well done, and where my ego is stroked with titles; but I can say it has been – and continues to be – an exercise in letting go of the hyperactivity, of the type-A traits, and most of all, of the ego. I’ll keep you abreast of my progress….ohmmmmm.
What will it take to get the average guy on the medical marijuana bandwagon? Maybe it’ll be education. Perhaps it’s simply a matter of time; or maybe it’ll take some sort of clear-cut division between the stereotypical pot culture and the medical marijuana community. Regardless, if you’re seeking an interesting sociological interaction, casually bring up the topic of medical marijuana in a conservative small town then sit back and listen.
Jake teaches high school in a place where the school board will pay the salary of a full-time athletic director but will allow the library go un-staffed for an entire school year due to budgetary restraints. If teachers want to use the library, they should feel free; but the school district damn well isn’t going to waste money on a Librarian if they have to choose between literacy and sports. You get the idea.
The people living in this town are good folks for the most part; but open minded they’re not. Many have been there for generations, working in the local factory or driving to more civilized areas for automotive jobs. By all accounts these are the quintessential Middle-American folks of the heartland. They drive Chevys, they love their casseroles, and they vote with God and the USA.
Although he’s been there over twenty years, Jake is still an outsider. As the liberal from the big city, some kids, co-workers, and parents love him for the perspective he brings to their small town school; but there is most definitely a contingent of folks who just don’t quite know what to think.
Last year news of a possible local dispensary was teacher’s lounge lunch-table fodder for weeks. The dispensary was eventually granted permission to operate by unanimous City Council vote. Many members listed the financial boost to the local economy that often results from new business as the primary reason for their vote. They were literally “all for it.”
The dispensary was successful – too successful. It began to draw the attention of the local conservatives. Residents began grumbling. Complaints of “illegal” activities began to swirl around the unassuming small business and eventually, after three police raids, the doors were locked. In October, the Village Council reworked its ordinance making it illegal to operate dispensaries within the commercial district. Interestingly, although there were an abundance of those purportedly “illegal” activities taking place, to date no charges have been brought against anyone. Hmmmm.
When I first decided to jump into the medical marijuana business, Jake needed a little tempering in terms of learning not to share our new endeavor with all of his co-workers. I finally got him to understand that the fewer people who know what we’re doing, even though we’re TOTALLY legal, the better off we are – if for no other reason than he’s a public school teacher in a conservative district.
Since our conversation, he’s been much more discreet. Of the few people with whom he shared, Connie and her husband Brad, although fitting the mold of the typical local resident, appeared very supportive of the endeavor. Suffering from constant, debilitating back pain as the result of a car accident years ago, Connie even indicated she’d be willing to become a patient if and when we get to that point.
A few weeks ago, excited about an arthritis balm I’d made that worked well on his knee pain and back pain, Jake took a small container of it to school for Connie to try. Suddenly, the blush had faded from the proverbial rose. Connie now claimed her husband was uncomfortable with the “whole thing.” When Jake asked Brad what was going on, he, in turn, pawned off the blame on Connie, “You know,” he whispered conspiratorially, “she’s not really comfortable with this.”
You’d think Jake was offering her a new designer drug or at the very least a hit off a giant doobie at lunch time rather than some smelly old medicinal arthritis balm. Interestingly, this is coming from a woman who drinks excessively, and due to her back pain, takes highly addictive prescription pain killers on a regular basis. Obviously her objection isn’t to being intoxicated.
We’ll probably never know the real story. All we can be reasonably sure of is that they, like so many others, have been conditioned to believe that marijuana is wrong, illegal, and used only by pot heads, hippies, and drug dealers. They’ve probably never been exposed to the legitimate benefits of this natural medicine – a medicine Connie wouldn’t have to worry would damage her liver or set her up for the horrors of addiction. Hopefully, one day someone will figure out how to lend the proper air of legitimacy to the medical marijuana movement. Until then ignorance, social bias, and simple misinformation will keep the lunchroom conversation lively.
Like all busy couples, Jake and I have to make time for one another to keep our relationship fresh, so when we were first exploring the new biz we often made “date-night” into an exploratory trip to a grow store or other such establishment. One gorgeous sunny morning last summer we left the sleeping teenage zombies in bed, put the top down on my little convertible, and headed out for brunch and our first field trip to a hydroponics store.
There have been quietly operated hydro stores in Michigan since the sixties. Advertisements for these shops touted the benefits of highly knowledgeable staff to help the new gardener grow bigger and better vegetables and flowers right inside their homes. These little shops had benign, non-committal names like Wholesale Garden Supply, Sun City or Rain Oasis. Even the racier names such as Harvest Moon or Hops & Harvest barely raised an eyebrow. Now, though, the tide has changed. The metro-area alternative ads make no pretenses whatsoever. One print ad in particular made me laugh out loud. Two blurry-eyed, wizard costume-wearing, dreadlock-adorned guys brandishing sparkly magic wands, shout at the readers from the page: WANT BIGGER BUDS? Yes, indeed, there are a lot of would be entrepreneurs trying to make their mark at this frightening time in Michigan’s economic history. No more hiding behind cryptic phrasing and enigmatic code words. Those once operating unlawfully are gleefully getting legal and lots of laid off professionals are ready to replenish their 401ks.
Apparently, though, for our first foray into the world of grow stores and hydroponics, I managed to choose a throw-back to the earlier, more conservative days. Based on their advertisement, the store we chose appeared to be among the most professional and business-like. No pot leaves, no magic wands, and nary a mention of Big Buds. Soon after entering the store we were greeted by a tall thin guy in his twenties wearing baggy, but neatly pressed jean shorts, high-top tennis shoes and the store’s “uniform” – an un-tucked, button down shirt with the store logo embroidered on the pocket. He had a warm smile and showed absolutely infinite patience for a couple of obviously ignorant folks trying to appear nonchalant. We asked the few questions we knew to ask and let him lead us through the sales spiel for a variety of products that would help us grow the bigger and better “Roses” he referred to repeatedly. Thinking I was taking the cue, I started to talk about growing… potatoes. It wasn’t until the ride home when I looked at the complimentary grower’s magazine he had given us that I got the reference….and understood why he giggled when I referred to growing Ireland’s best. Potatoes…what was I thinking? The magazine whose cover sported a great head shot of Mary-Louise Parker, star of the hit cable series Weeds, was of course Rosebud…code word you Dork! Ahhh, I get it.