The stories of cannabis
One of the most enjoyable things about living amongst OG cannabis growers are the stories they tell.
The cannabis tradition has amassed an extraordinary collection of legends, tall tales and folklore along the way, from high tragedy to low comedy and everything in between. That story has been hijacked as of late by those who simply don’t understand what makes the plant special. It’s time to take it back.
Because let’s face it, what sort of story speaks to you: a boring tale of corporate conformity, where cannabis is transformed into another cheap, faceless ingredient, or an daring epic where cannabis saves the day with its abilities to heal the body and mind? If we’re not careful, the rest of the world may only get the former. That’s why the stories we tell ourselves about cannabis matter: they shape our society’s vision and values, and show us what we can shoot for. With that, I present to you some of the stories that have shaped me and have set Medicine Box on its path. Throw it up on a big screen, and I’m pretty sure this could bring plenty of people out on a Saturday night.
The good, the bad, and the ugly
Up here in Nevada County, most of the stories we have about the weed trade center around North San Juan Ridge, which is where you went to disappear if Jack Walsh had just done a segment on you on America’s Most Wanted. Whether you were that, a Hell’s Angel or a back-to-the-lander, no one was going to bother you up there. It’s hardly like that anymore — these days you’re more likely to see Mercedes and BMWs crawling around the S-turns towards their homesteads. But the stories about the weed these guys grew reflected the pride and care these growers took in their product. Rumor has it that Ricky Williams holed up in a Grass Valley farm after he left football, and a group of growers up here grew a strain of OG Kush that ended up in Snoop Dogg’s personal stash.
Of course, these are more the sorts of tales told around the campfire. When I think about the sorts of larger vision of cannabis people should plug into, I’d say the work of Ed Rosenthal and Jorge Cervantes really shaped me, since I began my career as a grower before the days of IG and YouTube instructional videos. In addition, the book Too High To Fail, which documents the author Doug Fine’s experience in Mendocino County during its experimental “zip-tie” program, an early pre-track-and-trace cannabis registration program, shaped my perspective on what my business could be. Last week, I mentioned the Grow Sisters — their Know Your Farmer webisode series captures the essence of DIY cannabis homesteading with style and authenticity. And Narcos S4 is a great Netflix-and-chill option.
However, these stories are being stifled — and the national media hasn’t been helping much with this, let’s face it — by the greedy corporates I have previously mentioned. Recently, the Beard Bros Pharms, two pre-64 cultivators who recently shifted into media, comprehensively unpacked many of the grievances most of the vets have with these guys in the podcast Propagating Purpose, number one being the flashy inauthenticity of their products. Placing substandard products in gaudy gilt-foil packaging and selling it for outrageous prices has become the rule; one could claim that it set the stage for the vaping crisis. Well, we’re seeing a lot of these companies, many of them co-opted with Canadian cash, fail. And I’m pretty sure it’s because we’ve let Series A financing and spreadsheets trump the lived experience and generational wisdom of our OG growers.
Short of redoing Prop 64, I figure the best way out of this is to be vocal about the sort of cannabis industry everyone wishes to see. Ultimately, I believe everybody can use this plant, and when the business that surrounds it truly reflects its community’s values, then there’s not a person alive that can argue with it. I’d personally recommend that anyone who wants to authentically sell the plant should grow it themselves. While it’s not against the law to do so, the failure to walk the walk should be a red flag for any consumer out there. The stories we tell people should be legitimate, first and foremost.
The last cannabis picture show
It’s highly doubtful anybody’s gonna give me a few million to make a motion picture. But in case anybody’s looking for a sure thing, I’d probably make a cross between the Coen Brothers’ quirky Hollywood pastiches and the Wachowski Brother/Sister’s cyberpunk fantasies, crossed with some Todd Phillips, Christopher Nolan and of course with some Tolkien thrown in there for good measure. The first act, which we’re living through now, would be a tragedy, but the entire movie would be improvised — because that’s basically how we’re doing it now. The bad guys, of course, would be the carpetbagging investor class, and they would be portrayed by zombies, out to devour the flesh of the communities who created cannabis as we know it today. Outgunned and outnumbered, the OGs would head to the hills, where they had survived many a siege before this one, and clinging to tarps and plastic of a greenhouse, they are buoyed towards the heavens by the spirits of their now-departed ancestors. Without us to dine on, the zombies devour themselves, and from their remains, a gigantic cannabis plant emerges, and after a brief interdimensional hoedown, we cover this yggdrasil with a protective forcefield, just to prevent it from being used in such a way ever again.
You say it will never happen. Well, no, it won’t — not like this at any rate. But you can’t be too literal about the stories you tell yourself. When I came up with this bad boy one day farming, I was thinking about the circumstances I was going through and imagined how my community could overcome. And that’s what’s needed now – to think BIG about the story we want to see in the world, and to make it happen. Whether it’s a movie, a business, or some cannabis-infused fantasy, it’s still just a story you tell yourself until you go out and make it real.