Happy "legalization day" here in Canada! It's legal here, now, and I can finally come out of the grow closet. Whew! This post will give you a bit of background about my time in the deep dark black market of Canadian cannabis.
Har har har
Yeah, I know, it's not really legal. They're only legalizing buying and owning small amounts of government weed, everything else stays illegal. What I did was punishable by large amounts of prison time - and as of today, even MORE.
Why come out, then?
I've always led the way in civil disobedience. For a decade, I've been advocating cannabis use, research, and awareness. For the past year, I've been illegally growing cannabis here in my apartment and broadcasting my results a few times a week on the open blockchain.
Since 2012 I've been warning (primarily through FB and YT) that "legalization" was coming, and that it wouldn't be what any Canadian wanted, and only favour the government and their insider buddies. It's exactly as I predicted - almost eerily so.
Within hours of me writing this, cannabis will be (in some ways) legal here for the first time in 80s years. As an activist, my decision has been made to push forward with my civil disobedience, my peaceful and public breaking of unjust cannabis laws. I'm proud to be considered black market. To me, it is the free market.
I have many reasons to hide my involvement with that world, but I also have many reasons to expose it. You may not understand, and that's okay, this is my life and my activism. My convictions, my love for my wife @MediKatie, my memory of my gentle grandparents who taught me to love plants and myself, my beliefs, my dreams, my goals.
If there are any snitches or pigs creeping on my blog:
Snitches: fuck you. Do your worst.
Pigs: As above, plus: You got nothing. If you try 'an investigation' you'll get more nothing, except humiliated. I'm smarter than you and I've got a head start. Find a crime with a victim.
Cops: Thanks for not being pigs. Still, I've thought this through and consulted clever people - don't bother yourselves. If you do have a legitimate concern about something, bring it up and I'll address it publicly.
The Grow Op
I use the term "grow op" because that's how many people know them. It's a black market term, but also used in law enforcement and sometimes the media as well. To me, it was merely my home garden. It just happened to be on the inside of the house.
It was a while ago now. I'm mid 40s. It was after my divorce. Anyone who knows the dates can do the math, but the main point is that it wasn't recently enough that there's any evidence whatsoever, and all the paperwork and files from those years has been purged. It happened, but there's no record of it.
Not even a photograph.
Did it even happen, then?
It did, yes, but if you'll only believe it if you see photos, and you need to believe it to continue reading, you can leave at this point. I simply do not have photos of it. Nobody does. That was one of the rules, get it? The black market has different ways of doing things, because of prohibition. Everything is geared around not getting caught, because getting caught is VERY messy. To avoid getting VERY messy, precautions are taken, rules are set and obeyed. Everything is memorized so there's no physical trace.
Perhaps those who only read non-fiction will be assuaged as they continue. Anyone with any background in this kind of thing is going to hear it ring true.
In the outskirts of the Vancouver area, in B.C., Canada. Different towns have different rules and punishments. Different Hydro (power) options. Different school zones. Different tapwater. Different cops. This and more has to be taken into account. (I'll go into more details in future posts. This will mostly be an overview.)
I got nothing (except some debt and an online business shipping collectibles) in the divorce, except half custody and half guardianship of our 2 awesome children. That's all I wanted. But finances have been much tougher in the years since I was married.
(I want to mention that I never involved my children. When I had them, I'd take them to movies, arcades, swimming, fishing, and so on. They were never at the place where I had my garden. I made sure of that, not because there is anything about plants that could harm them, but because I wanted to be able to honestly say they were never there. I was and still am divorced to their mother who is extremely against cannabis. Along with the legal system the way it is, and the court of public opinion, if I had ever had them "at a grow op" she would make sure she used it against me to the best of her ability. I may have other enemies as well. It was just smart to completely separate my time with them, and my involvement with the underground. Other parents made different choices and I suppose that's up to them. I'm happy I did it the way I did it.)
To avoid giving my opponents additional information, I won't say much here about the financial situation, but I had a house, I had a yard, I had a garage, and I had several extra rooms. The project began.
Of course there's no way I'll give you or anyone else information about who I was involved with. That, as you can probably guess, is also one of the VERY high up rules. Snitches get stitches. Snitches get outed, and snitches get ostracized. One of the worst things you can do to another black market cannabis participant is to inform on them (to give anyone, especially law enforcement, info that could lead to a charge or investigation).
To claim I worked alone would be silly, as anyone with any knowledge of these things would know that's not possible. A small closet grow or a bedroom on your own, sure, if you're skilled and maybe a bit lucky. But to own and run a grow the size and type I did meant there was just too much involved for me to do it all myself.
Aside from the person or people I was directly working with, there was our network. Our "in", our buyer, our guy. Our connection to the deep dark black market that nobody else even knows is there. It's there, and it's larger and more complex than almost anyone knows.
The deep dark black market
Maybe that's not it's official name, but I'm talking about the people, places, and connections that have little-to-no involvement in normal society. In many ways, black market networks are like secret societies, if you know anything about those. Lots in common. Traditions, rituals, beliefs, methods of not getting outed for fear of persecution, operating counter to mainstream society, and so on.
The people involved sometimes have "day jobs" and sometimes they don't. Some don't have ID, but they're well known and connected anyway. 3-generation families, sometimes. People who look like criminals, if there is such a look... and people who certainly don't. People who feed their kids this way, people who sometimes can't go back to the default world for some reason, perhaps they've been criminalized for their involvement. Sometimes, people with little to lose. Starting to get the picture?
I'm not trying to be dramatic. That's simply how it is. There can be some 'culture shock' as you get yourself involved in such a thing. It's probably different than anything you've done before, especially if you're pretty mainstream, I'll say that much.
Handshakes have more value in that world.
Signatures have much less.
Words have more meaning. Actions have more meaning. Ideas and theories have less importance. It's more about what you say, and what you do. People listen, they watch, and they remember. Nothing is recorded, except in memory, and that is protected by the rule against snitching.
Not only would I never tell you details about the deep dark secret underground, but I simply don't have any. I made sure it worked that way, for my own protection. I basically ran the place and made the flowers grow. Once they were dried and (somewhat) cured, I had very little involvement with the process. I guess you could say that it was 'compartmentalized' for safety and efficiency.
Was it dangerous? Sure, it was dangerous. (And I don't just mean from the pigs who are always looking for a promotion, and grow-op busts are a sure way to impress the boss.)
But is one in danger from the other participants in the deep black market? It all depends on you, for the most part. Sure, luck plays a factor in anything, but generally speaking if you're not stupid and you don't take big risks, you're not going to get into a shitty situation. Most people, even in black markets, are just people. They're the EXACT same as you, except some slight difference in the way they think about things has led them to being where they are, and you being where you are. But there's no real difference.
One can choose one's level of involvement. You can get deeper, you can progress into various specialties, you can get on various teams, be involved in covert projects, and into new fields previously unknown to you. It's a very, very large world. It's just about as big as "the real world".
But I never did violence and I was never physically harmed. To be honest, I've experienced more violence as a nurse, working in psychiatry, both from the management and the patients. The black market, even as far as I went into it, was never a physical threat. Actually, I've experienced more violence as a cannabis activist than I ever did as a cannabis grower in the underworld.
There's honour and realness in that world, that sometimes isn't in the real world anymore. Loyalty, hard work, huge efforts and investments and care, in order to make progress. Most people who keep their nose clean and work hard will make it. Most people who don't, won't.
If you jerk somebody around, expect to get punished for it. Generally that means taking care of it within the community. Things have a way of being taken care of, and from what I saw, there was quite a bit of restorative justice. (Much different than vigilantism, although there is some of that as well.)
Did I meet people who have done violence, yes. But I met them in psychiatry, too. I didn't know the names of everybody I met in the underground. Or I knew their first name (or alias) only. Sometimes that's how it went. I just went by my first name.
Maybe if I'd done it for longer, I'd have developed more of a persona? We'll never know, because it was over less than two years after it began. "Why?" in another post - maybe. It ended just as we broke even and were about to 'make bank'.
To satisfy your curiosity about money, while simultaneously not giving my opponents info they don't already have, I want to touch on this briefly.
There were a lot of costs to start this from nothing. I had no capital to put forward, but I did have a green thumb and a desire to wield it to help people get cannabis. (Morally, I had no issues. Legality isn't the same as morality to me. Many things are legal but evil, and many other things are illegal but good. What I was doing was illegal and good.) I was able to secure an advance based on my reputation and known skill with gardening, which allowed me to participate without capital.
Just as we really got into the swing of things, and crops got better and better each time, we stopped. Again, I'm not going to talk about "why" here, and it doesn't actually matter. The point is that in under 2 years, it went from nothing, to full swing production, and back to nothing again (even the house reverted back to its former self). It was all quite professional.
I saw a lot of cannabis and I saw a lot of cash. I got all my bills paid off, I got my equipment upgraded, and I was ready to start turning a profit, when the end came fairly suddenly. I walked away with nothing, much like I entered it. But I gained a lot of experience, and had a lot of amazing adventures.
Ohhhh, the stories I could tell!
And, I will! This post was just to make my announcement, and to provide some information to give you a glimpse. If you think it sounds like something you'd like to hear more about, make sure you follow me. I post regularly, and before long will go into more detail about my experiences in the cannabis underground.
Something I DID get some photos of was a side project of mine from the same time period:
I'll go into that in a separate post! Got several photos of one of my batches of fun guys.
Here's one of me joking around with a large 'cola' nug, and my old double-bubbler, which I miss! (It was smashed in the lead-up to the end of the adventure.) I still have that torch though. And that shirt, but it's falling apart:
I suppose that nug would have been one I grew, since none of the weed in the house during that time period came from anywhere else, so technically, there's a little piece of illicit history. ;)
Of course, I could have got that nug anywhere. Those could be any kind of mushrooms. Maybe the cash was my grandmother's, as she was known to carry thousands at home in case anyone needed an emergency loan. Perhaps the stories told here aren't quite right, after all, it has been a while now and there are no physical records of any of it. Maybe I'm just a crazy pothead? Who knows, right?
Anyhow, welcome to every cannabis users' worst nightmare: "Legalization"! Stay out of prison, everybody. Well, that's not possible, because tens of thousands are in prison right now, and very few will be given amnesty. But TRY to stay out of prison.
But on the other side of that coin, remember: