What I learned during my first year in the pot-growing business
I’ve been a pretty avid pot smoker since I moved to San Francisco from Massachusetts in 2005.
I didn’t smoke much growing up on the East Coast, but I took to NorCal weed quickly.
For the next ten years, I maintained a pretty mainstream lifestyle (by San Francisco standards) as well as a stable career in Operations-Management for a local non-profit, all while smoking massive amounts of ganja at every opportunity.
Smoking rarely got in the way of work, and work rarely got in the way of smoking.
As I entered my thirties, my career was moving along nicely but I didn’t feel any fireworks for the job. While I was making good money in a respectable position, I didn’t feel any enthusiasm for my work. Slowly, I became one of those jabronis who dreads going to work every day for a measly paycheck. In truth, the best part of my work day was the fat joint I would smoke every night on my way home.
So before settling for a job that was just barely good enough, I decided I would try to live the dream and get a job in the cannabis industry.
I started trying to pick up any work I could find around the marijuana business. I hit up friends, and friends of friends, and friendly folks who smelled like weed. My first gig was helping a buddy trim the 30 White Widow plants he had grown in his basement.
Over the course of the next few years, I worked with a variety of outdoor growers in the famous “Emerald Triangle” of pot-growing counties in Northern California. I acquired some good knowledge and made some extra cash, but struggled to find a role beyond seasonal work.
Now, I’m a cultivator and a veteran member of the team with an increasingly significant role to play. I’ve worked hard and learned on the job. I’ve thrived with the company and, while it hasn’t always been easy, I’ve loved every second of it.
I am proud to tell people what I do for work and eager to talk about the state of the business. With the groundswell of support the nation showed for marijuana in November, the conversation about cannabis has been brought into the public light more than ever. However, I’ve noticed a few recurring misconceptions which seem to come up whenever I talk about the cannabis business with outsiders.
And of course, it wasn’t that along ago when I was an “outsider” myself, and had similar misconceptions. Looking back on the journey now, these are the five most important things I’ve learned about the cannabis industry:
The business isn’t just for gangsters and degenerates anymore.
I don’t really think it ever was just for gangsters and degenerates, but you know the reputation. When I talk about the pot business, people often imagine a guy with blond dreadlocks who smells like patchouli oil, sitting in a lawn chair in the woods with a pit-bull and a shotgun.
“I’m hoping to work my way up to Head Guy Sitting In A Lawn Chair In The Woods,” I tell them. And while that description may look a bit like me in that old picture a few lines up (trading the shotgun for a ukelele), it doesn’t look much like the modern grow facilities that now dominate the marketplace.
Growers have been operating within the shifting gray areas of the law for decades around Northern California. With the passage of Prop 64, the business becomes increasingly legal, legitimate, safe, and regulated. The people that have operated at the outskirts of the law– the rogue entrepreneurs, botanists, shamans, and outlaws who dared to grow a forbidden plant (it sounds so ridiculous now, doesn’t it?)–have a year to get square with Sacramento.
Meanwhile, the early on-boarders to legalization find themselves at the vanguard of the industry. The business is an eclectic mix of outlaws and upstarts; a true meritocracy with no discrimination or prejudice. Whether you’re rich or poor, black or white, Protestant or Juggalo; the only thing that matters is how well you do your job.
And while there might still be more patchouli than your average workplace, marijuana growers are some of the greatest people on earth.
But we’re not startups either.
“I ride to work every day on a bus that’s got a smoothie bar, foosball table, and vaping lounge” one of my techie chums tells me, “But I can’t imagine the amenities your workplace must have!”
The modern pot biz, I have frequently noticed, is easily confused with that other California boom industry: tech. And while there is a lot of cross-over between the cannabis and tech industries (such as app’s and web-based delivery systems; an ever-more-perfect product line from PAX; and constantly advancing grow technology) their respective corporate atmospheres couldn’t be any more different. While tech is famed for opulent facilities and lavish spending, the pot business is lean and spartan. A good grow-op will have everything you need to grow a huge amount of great weed, and nothing else. We pride ourselves on efficiency and we measure success in inches, seconds, and cents. A successful pot operation devotes maximum resources to the plants while creating as little extra cost as possible.
(Flashy cars, sneakers, and dab-rigs excluded).
The work is hard.
The work falls between agricultural and industrial. It requires a broad and diverse skill set. The gardening is peaceful, but there is also a plumbing and electrical system to operate, critical data to track, and a huge amount of routine janitorial work that comes with growing plants, which–inevitably– includes killing rats.
But, as we frequently say around the office, the plants never stop growing. The workload is heavy and unlikely to light up anytime soon as the market-demand for marijuana continues to grow. Fortunately.
We love what we do.
Imagine a workplace in which every single one of your coworkers has a deep and passionate love for the product. They use the product every day. It is deeply connected to their mental, physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual well-being. It has been more central to their identity than their race, religion, music, or favorite sports team.
They love the product so much that they may have gone to jail for it. Maybe they even have the product tattooed on their neck, which probably wasn’t a great decision in hindsight but still a meaningful testament.
No one has “fallen into” the cannabis industry. Growing pot isn’t anybodies “plan B” (unless “plan A” was seriously bonkers). The industry is populated almost entirely by people who are passionately, enthusiastically, fervently devoted to marijuana. Job satisfaction is high (*nailed it*). It’s an inspiring atmosphere, to say the least.
The future is bright, but the fight’s not done.
Many folks think that with the pending legalization of the recreational use of marijuana, the fabled Green Rush is approaching it’s peak. While the industry is certainly thriving now, the rush is just beginning. California is set to be the largest cannabis marketplace in the world when it opens in January of 2018. Additionally, the national market place is going to be available soon and even a legitimate international marketplace, eventually.
Then there are the secondary industries that will blossom in the shadow of the industry, from technology to tourism. A renaissance is beginning. Cultivators are coming together to share generations of knowledge and ground-breaking technology. Communities of cannabis-enthusiasts are forming on-line and IRL.
Knowledge is flowing more freely than ever and the young mavericks of our craft are increasingly free to explore the rich depths of the industry. What’s truly remarkable are the possibilities we haven’t even imagined yet.
2017 will be my second year in the business, and the last before fully legalized marijuana becomes the law of the land in the Bear-Flag state. Our federal government has fought a war on cannabis for decades and the good guys are finally winning but the fight is far from done.
As prosperity arrives for a select few of us, we must not forget our brothers and sisters who are still incarcerated as a result of the Drug War. According to DrugPolicy.Org, more than a half-million Americans were arrested for simple possession in 2015. I’m buying weed cooked into macaroons from a fancy boutique and 10,000 people are suffering the indignities of incarceration for having a bag? It’s not right.
It’s also not time to take it for granted that legal weed is the law of the land.
With Donald Trump on the Iron Throne, it’s hard to be sure of anything. While he has historically held a progressive stance on marijuana, he has surrounded himself with several high-profile anti-cannabis crusaders (including Chris Christie and Jeff Sessions) who have repeatedly floated insinuations that the Drug War isn’t done.
8 states (and Washington D.C.) have now legalized marijuana for recreational use, and more than 20 other states have medical marijuana laws in place. While support has been strong for marijuana, almost half of the country still lives under prohibition. It is my belief that every American deserves to have access to the medicinal benefits of marijuana, and that no government should be allowed to interfere with a citizen’s right to grow and harvest a plant on their own property for their own usage.
So until that’s the law of the land, I’m going to keep making noise about it in City Hall and on Facebook (and with some of the resources listed below).
And maybe one day the tides will turn so for as long as I can, I am going to keep trying to grow the absolute best weed that I can.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Insider.
2016 was the year I broke into the legitimate cannabis industry.
How much money can you make growing weed?
Growing weed is lucrative, as you may already know. But just how lucrative?
How much money can you for instance make with a spare room? Remember some UK police forces have pretty much claimed they are no longer pursuing small scale cannabis growers. There are even cannabis clubs operating with the agreement of progressive thinking local police.
A program on the BBC ‘hash in the attic‘ revealed all. This is quite an old program now so you can probably add a little to the projected income figures.
You could have 3 or 4 plants in a wardrobe, generating £2-300 every 3 or 4 months.
Using a spare room you can generate £10-15k ($16-24k) ever year.
You could generate 1 kilo every ten weeks, selling a little to friends (that’s what the program said!)
If you used a whole house you could have 5 crops per year at around £15k per crop – adding up to a pretty massive £70k ($116k) per year.
Industrial operations can easily make £400k ($663k) per year. That would be generating 30-50 kilos per crop. Each crop could be worth around £120k.
Another interesting fact the program brought up was that 1900 cannabis plants can make a huge £500k ($829k) every eight weeks!
And it’s so easy to buy your own cannabis seeds! Maybe they are trying to tell us something.
Indepth Autoflowering Cannabis FAQ
Discover 12 of The Best Seed Banks that Ship to the US. 
Are you looking for cannabis seeds for cold climates? Here are the best
is this a joke? this is more illegal than rape.
I’m not quite sure how one thing is more illegal than another – it is either legal or it is not.
I think if you look at the harm caused to people from either one rape is a whole lot worse than growing some weed.
It’s a plant, and if you have some space I would encourage you to grow some. It can save you having to come into contact with those ‘criminal elements’ that the government force us to go to by making a plant unlawful.
So no, it’s not a joke, it’s quite useful information actually.
And obviously, growing it is one thing. Moving it all, in such large amounts is a completely different affair (though certainly not impossible).
very nice blog DP
soon to come a website for activism – incredible how slow we all got politically here in the uk. look at norml in the US… – Nu labour has betrayed the pot people
true shit, I like to save my weed seeds and put them in the dirt at random places I go. I’m kind of like a modern day Jonny Appleseed, if you will.
Thanks anon, I’m ready to help fight the good fight!
I grew some hydroponicly (6 plant crops a few times in my cupboard)
the cuttings were from a top quality Big Bud mother plant and those fuckers yielded huge returns.
Kept them small and compact via pruning/cutting back and they ended up as 1 massive bud
bout 2 oz a plant 😀
Hydropnics is easy to set up and maintain.real anal growers will say you have to have the PH at exactly 7,you must clean and re-feed the water every few days and have temprature control & fans etc
Yes this is true but for a small scale operation in a cupboard then it really isnt an issue.
Afterall weed and most variants are actually weeds and will thrive as long as they have light/CO2 and nutrients (either via hydroponics or the old fashioned potted with compost type)
Illegal does not = wrong, Legal does not = Right
Never a truer word (or two) spoken.
Is it still good bud thou?
And if they made the wardrobe legal, problem solved, everyones happy. 😀
arrrrrrrrr the romance. i think most smokers like to ponder the idea of growing, but sit and think carefully, have u a loose tong, do u like showing off, have u got warrants, have u got gas/electric checks, do u have a private landlord? the list is endless, growing in this economic climate is risky stuff, also there are plenty of random events that can bring your grow to the attention of the law. what im saying is just flirt with the idea of doing a bit of jail, cause dude u gotta be prepared to do the crime and do the time (like me)and to finish this little chapter of realism if u own your home and have alott of STUFF they can confiscate the Lot under proceeds of crime(twats leave u with nothing)in it great growing, wait theres some one banging on my door……………………………………
Haha that’s funny u can make 12.grand every 3 months from just 2md100 trays and 2 600 watt lite in a decent size bedroom.
It’s such an established illegal market now, thanks to prohibition.
If you have a big private back garden you could probably do the same with virtually no costs..
More illegal than rape….I don’t think you would be spouting that if your sister, mother, or wife was brutally raped. Nothing to joke about a-hole.
I think he means that you would get more jail time if you were caught growing than you would if you actually raped somebody. Yes our priorities and justice system are pretty screwed up when growing or selling weed is considered more serious and more deserving of jail time than raping somebody.
How much money can you make growing weed? Growing weed is lucrative, as you may already know. But just how lucrative? How much money can you for instance make with a spare room? Remember some