“They wanted to live off the land and be independent. Man, you just can’t do that. It’s fucking impossible. You can make a living in farming – if you’re lucky – if you have a half a million dollar investment in farm machinery and two hundred acres of good, black Kansas land. Not in the hills up north. They starved. And they all grew pot. And they sold a little to get by, just like they had in the cities, only now they were growing their own. Sort of cut out the middle man, see. That started it.”
I said, “This doesn’t sound like what I’m looking for.”
“It isn’t. It’s how most of the pot farmers do business, and why. It isn’t how most of the pot gets grown. You follow the distinction?”
“Most of the growers are small time. They think and act like overage hippies. Or like kids who grew up with hippie parents. Most of them are pretty decent people, really, although their thinking is too damned sappy for me.
“The thing that came later and turned the whole business around was sinsemilla. That’s an improved strain of marijuana and an improved way of growing it. You separate the male and female plants and frustrate the reproduction urge. The plant responds with more of the chemicals that make it good to smoke. It gets real potent.
“Pot was already bringing some money into the back country and keeping the homesteaders afloat, but sinsemilla would sell for real money. That’s when some guys started farming it on a mass basis, with plantations of pot cared for by hired workers. It started to be a real crazy scene. Guys would bring workers out into the back country, especially around harvest time, and leave them stranded miles from nowhere. The workers would make good money, by local standards, but sometimes they got stiffed, and sometimes they were treated no better than slaves. The guys running the show, the plantation bosses and their lieutenants, weren’t your top-of-the-line folks. They had new money and lots of it, and most of them used it to spend their time smashed, sometimes on their own product or booze, but more often on coke.
“It was the money that changed everything. It was still hard work, but now you could hire people to do it, and get rich as ‘management’. It was easier still to wait until someone else had raised a crop, then swoop down at harvest time and throw five thousand dollars worth of plants in the back of your pickup. Or wait until the plants were processed and carry away fifty thousand dollars worth at gun point. So the growers started arming themselves. The big guys were first, but even some of the small time growers started to carry guns. You’d see people who went through the peace movement – who used to shove flowers down the barrels of National Guard rifles – sitting out all night among their plants with a rifle across their knees.” more tomorrow