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Bruce Tries Life As a Pot Farmer

To my surprise, I became a pot farmer this year. It was an interesting experiment, but probably my last. Been there, done that.

People who know me well, and indeed regular readers of this column, may wonder: Why would a person who almost never uses cannabis grow a 9-foot plant in his yard?

I support taxing and regulating marijuana, but not necessarily the way the Legislature did it. I argued for higher tax rates and better allocation of the revenue. I think the state should take stronger actions, as it does for alcohol, to encourage a culture of moderation.

My column told cannabis users that self-discipline would be up to them. The state seems to have gone in one year from believing that pot is a killer drug to claiming cannabis is some sort of a health supplement.

So if I don’t like the new system, why did I decide to grow my own plants? Well, it’s been a long time coming.

I’ll start with the time (about 1972) when I was Busted in Barstow (sounds like a country and Western song) for “illegal possession of paraphernalia used for smoking a narcotic.” That means they didn’t find our hidden pot, but knew we were guilty because of the seeds, stems and rolling papers. I spent a few hours in jail.

But I don’t want to focus on my 20s, when I smoked pot frequently. My life moved on. I acquired responsibilities. Although I lost interest in marijuana (nobody said cannabis back then), I felt no guilt about occasionally using an illegal substance that shouldn’t have been illegal. But I also didn’t feel I had to smoke it to spite the government.

Somewhere about 1999, I became, to my surprise, an advocate for marijuana reform. I was a minor celebrity in my state (Washington) and in the national drug reform movement. I was known as one of the few advocates who wouldn’t get stoned at the drop of a hat. I was in it for the freedom, not to use that freedom.

Eventually, marijuana became legal in my former state, and there was talk of the same in my new state. In the last couple of years, I tried to revive my role as a drug reformer to influence cannabis regulations. My senator read my detailed suggestions and passed them on to a more involved senator, who ignored them. My representatives didn’t acknowledge my messages. I watched on Zoom as one representative made a hopeless case to a committee that had already decided. He could have been more effective if he had read my messages, but it wouldn’t have made a difference.

And now I’m going to confess to a minor crime. Back in 2021, the cannabis law went into effect on July 1. I planted my seeds about three weeks earlier. I transplanted tiny seedlings on legalization day — too late.

I had a promising 3-foot plant in late fall, but it died before budding when I tried to transplant it inside. My tiny green crop looked like pot, but worked like oregano.

I should have taken that as a sign, but this spring I tried again. I planted seeds in plenty of time. They grew.

After culling, I had three healthy plants. I didn’t do much to cultivate them — a little fertilizer and lots of water. They don’t call it a weed for nothing.

So here I am with what a real cultivator would consider a minuscule crop, but to me seems like a lifetime supply. I barely found time for the tedious task of trimming. I have taken self-control to an extreme — not even sampling the goods yet. I’m proud of my harvest, but will give most of it away.

I’m not alone. Most people seem to hide their gardens for security, but this fall there were certain places where you could smell something distinctive from the sidewalk.

And that raises a policy question. My cannabis crop was completely legal. I can give it to friends who don’t have to pay taxes on it.

But if every gardener in the state does what I did — many of them more productively — who will be left to pay the cannabis taxes?

Off the top of my head, I can think of eight cannabis businesses in Silver City. Have they turned our town into a haven of shiftless wastrels? No, apparently there has been an outbreak of entrepreneurial initiative.

But is this sustainable? Are those businesses successful and turning in lots of tax revenue? Or are home gardeners undermining their business model?

Maybe home grows are a tiny blip in an overflowing market. We’ll see.

“Somewhere about 1999, I became, to my surprise, an advocate for marijuana reform. I was a minor celebrity in my state (Washington) and in the national drug reform movement.”

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Southwest Word Fiesta™ or its steering committee.

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Bruce McKinney

Bruce McKinney is a Silver City business owner, close observer of local government and occasional troublemaker. In his column, which appears every other Wednesday, he tries to address big questions from a local perspective. Send comments and ideas to
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