From The LA Times.
Reporting from Arcata, Calif. —
About the time the wholesale price of pot hit $4,000 a pound, Tony Sasso bought a bulldozer and an excavator and dug a massive hole on his ranch in eastern Mendocino County.
Then he bought four metal shipping containers and buried them in the hole. Inside the containers, Sasso installed 32 1,000-watt lights, a ventilation system and plumbing – all of it powered by a 60-kilowatt generator. His subterranean plantation produced 60 pounds of pot every 56 days, the time it took to turn a crop. They were popular strains, with names like Blueberry, Herojuana, White Widow and Big Red.
He’d begun growing pot as a teenager in the mid-1980s, when police helicopters forced growers to hide their plants indoors. Going underground was the next logical step, to shield the lights from the infrared sensors of law enforcement.
“I grew up believing that the only way to make money was to grow marijuana, and I was good at it,” said Sasso, now 42 and serving a 14-year sentence at the federal penitentiary in Atwater.
His career as a pot entrepreneur, drawn from interviews with Sasso and from court records, mirrors the arc of the marijuana business in California.
Today, indoor-grown pot is king. A weed that grows naturally in the sun has been tamed into an industrial product that is branded like soda pop and as subject to fashion as women’s shoes. Pot raised indoors or underground commands up to $3,000 a wholesale pound, twice the price of outdoor varieties.
A Nov. 2 ballot measure to legalize limited cultivation and use of marijuana is the talk of Northern California’s “Emerald Triangle,” where indoor pot is an economic mainstay. The effect that legalization would have on the marijuana market is unclear. Much would depend on the policies enacted by cities and counties, which would have power to regulate and tax production and sales. Oakland is making plans to allow cultivation in warehouses, which could affect prices.
What is clear is that consumers now harbor a powerful fetish for indoor weed. A potent bud is no longer enough. Like connoisseurs of wine or coffee, pot smokers want cachet: an exotic look, a distinctive smell of cheese or lemon. This requires growing indoors, where plants can be coddled, protected from the elements and blasted with nutrients.
The spread of medical marijuana dispensaries has contributed to demand for indoor varieties. The dispensaries need a year-round flow of identical product that only indoor grows can produce.
Time for a much needed update. These fidgety electro basslines will destroy your speakers!
Evilpig – I Love Weed Mix #8 (MP3 link, right click and save)
Lady Sovereign – Love Me Or Hate Me (SpWN Council House Treats Mix)
Sick Boy – Energy Blast (Tom Deluxx Remix)
Alex Kidd – Move Over (Lucky Date Remix)
Utku S. – Equilibrium (Alex Mind Remix)
Far East Movement – Like A G6 (Disco Fries Remix)
Aspin & Dipace – Rave! (Original Mix)
Alex Mind vs Far Too Loud – Bring Back Boogie (Original Mix)
Fractal System Feat. Nate Monoxide – If I Die (Original Mix)
Dopefish – Belgium is Dead (Wobble Crisis Mix)
Skrillex – My Name is Skrillex
Clockwork – Airflow (Valerna Remix)
Feed Me – Mordez Moi
Aerospace – Simple Words (Dirtyloud Remix)
Cold Blank – The Flying Cat (Original Mix)
Kid Komas – Raving Buck (Filthy Rehab Remix)
Noize Generation – Get The Fuck Up (Haezer Remix)
In addition to picking a new governor, Californians next month will also decide if their state will be the first to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Even if Proposition 19 passes, the federal government almost certainly will challenge it.
Oakland’s Oaksterdam University is all about one thing: marijuana. For students learning the finer points of pot production and cultivation, the timing couldn’t be better.
“I have high aspirations for this industry and where it’s going to go,” says student Pete Dimopoulos.
Proposition 19 would allow adults 21 and older to grow marijuana at home and possess up to an ounce for personal use. Individual cities would be free to regulate and tax sales.
“We have a whole new economy that can flourish here in California around cannabis,” says Dale Sky Jones, executive chancellor of Oaksterdam University.
That’s a major reason why one of the state’s largest unions has endorsed legalization. The California chapter of the NAACP is behind it too, along with at least two former big city police chiefs.
Former San Jose police chief Joseph McNamara says, “It diverts the police from their primary duties to protect life and property. People are not terrified about pot smoking in their neighborhood.”
California has long been on the cutting edge when it comes to pot. Fourteen years ago, voters approved the use of medical marijuana and recently, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger relaxed penalties for pot possession.
Even though he famously inhaled as a body builder, Schwarzenegger says Proposition 19 would turn the state into a laughingstock.
Believe it or not, the measure has sparked high anxiety at some medical marijuana shops.
“We are not sure what our business will look like post-Prop 19,” says Daniel Bornstein from Medithrive Medical Marijuana Provider.
For employers, the law could create a giant headache. Employees couldn’t be fired for smoking pot unless employers prove that the drug impaired job performance.
“So it does open the door for the ability of employees to smoke pot at work,” says Denise Davis of the California Chamber of Commerce.
Even if it passes, pot would still be illegal under federal drug laws, so it’s likely Prop 19 will be challenged in court. That means the whole controversial issue could just go up in smoke.
Dustin Moskovitz confirmed tonight that he has recently given $50,000 in support of Proposition 19, which is seeking to legalize marijuana in California this November. He had previously donated $20,000 to supporters of the act, which would allow people 21 years old or older to possess, cultivate or transport cannabis for personal use and would permit local governments to regulate and tax commercial production and sale of the substance. (Update: Dustin explains why he backs Prop 19.)
Not too many other billionaires have come out in favor of legalizing pot but one who has is Peter Lewis, who donated $12,800 to Oregon’s medical marijuana ballot this November, according to my colleague Clare O’Connor. (Read her September post). Lewis, who was arrested for drug possession in New Zealand a decade ago, has been a longtime supporter of the issue; he apparently smoked marijuana for pain relief after his left leg was amputated.
Moskovitz, who is now the America’s youngest billionaire and who is played by actor Joseph Mazzello in the just released Facebook movie “The Social Network,” had no other comment at this time. Moskovitz left Facebook in 2008 and started Asana, a software company that allows individuals and small companies to better collaborate. The company, which has several of the same early backers as Facebook, lists some of its values as pragmatism, chill-ness and being a mensch. For now, we estimate that his entire $1.4 billion fortune comes from his 6% stake in Facebook
Ralphie May is an “idiot” — his word, not ours — because he got caught carrying pot through customs in Guam … after he approached a drug-sniffing dog because he thought it was cute.
May was busted for weed last week, but only had to pay a small fine because he was carrying less than an ounce. The comedian tells us he didn’t realize the pot was in his bag when, on his way through customs, he went up to the dog and started petting it.
May, who has a medical marijuana card, explains: “When I got to baggage claim, I actually walked up to the dog. I love dogs and petted Nickey, the beautiful shepherd mix, and she sat down. That indicates to the handler that I had marijuana on me. I didn’t know that, I just thought that dog loved me. Then another dog came over and it sat down as well and I petted that dog too. I was thinking these dogs love me they can tell I’m a dog person.”
May dealt with some very nice customs agents and he explained the mix-up. May says, “The customs agents said they knew I didn’t mean to smuggle drugs into Guam cause no drug smuggler would be stupid enough to walk up to the dogs and pet them.”