A reader writes:
Your ongoing reporting on cannabis users is great. So I will make my confession (but because my husband has a high level security clearance, I cannot come clean to the world): I grow marijuana under the house and smoke whenever I want. We have three children, all almost grown. All are good kids, and not one has ever been in trouble. They know about me, but they are good and don't say anything to anyone. Even though it's "live and let live" around here, none of them drink or smoke. We did a good job!
Since making the decision to pursue art full time 20 years ago, I have been scraping by, hustling for money and cheap places to live. About a decade ago I acquired a large, raw warehouse in a mid-sized city and slowly built it into a studio and livespace. I kept my costs low by doing nearly all of the work myself, becoming a carpenter, plumber, electrician, welder, sheetrocker -- all while selling my art with varying success. I spent the last boom years one step ahead of bouncing checks and never knowing from where or when the money was going to come.
About two years ago I hit a wall. The sudden increase in fixed costs that accompanied the birth of my second child coupled with my unpredictable sales pattern was forcing me to reevaluate my grim financial situation. Then I got an unexpected business proposition. A friend suggested that I smooth out my cash flow problems by setting up a grow room operation in an unused portion of my warehouse. Thus, with his expert help, I began an interesting journey into the high tech world of completely controlled indoor agriculture.
This is a realm in which skill as a gardener has less to do with a green thumb and more with an ability to build and maintain the outlandishly sophisticated systems. That stuff my dad got stoned on while protesting the Vietnam war is rather different than the genetically engineered stuff I am now bringing to bloom under the glare of artificial light. According to him, mine's a whole lot better.
For obvious reasons, you cannot hire contractors to build you a space that uses more power than an average house. Among the many demands of indoor cultivation, you have to process large amounts of water, bubble out the chlorine, balance the PH, and feed, feed, feed those plants according to their needs at different stages. It takes a special set of skills and a special mindset to do all of this without outside help and entirely in secret.
Yeah, I know I am breaking the law, and I am taking quite a bit of risk. I don't plan on doing this for much longer, maybe a couple of years, but the profits are at least predictably substantial and it's a line of work that fits my variety of skills and talents. I plan on riding out this recession by growing some of the finest cannabis that can be found in this corner of the country. Though not getting rich, it is allowing me a certain freedom to pursue my true avocation while caring for my family.
I find it funny that the biggest proponents of the "free market" and "unfettered capitalism" (government was supposed to be the problem, right?) were also the drug warriors who indirectly helped cannabis attain such extraordinary leaps in quality. Put simpy, if consumer demand stays the same or increases and supply goes down, price increases, thereby incentivizing growers to improve both the quality and quantity of that supply. So I guess I have to thank the right wing for giving me both fine smoke (I do partake) and a fine living. Once pot is legal, we should name Ronald Reagan the patron saint of Kind Bud.
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