Tag Archives: Amsterdam

Worldwide Weed

I’m fortunate enough to regularly travel the world researching the latest trends in cannabis use and cultivation. This lets me keep up with the latest research and trends so I can better assist New Zealand courts.

In 2013 I visited California and Colorado to witness the development of regulations for the world’s first legal cannabis market, tour grow gardens and dispensaries as part of the World Cannabis Week tour, sit a cannabis cultivation course approved by the state Department of Education, attend the first Cannabis Cup on US soil, and in the process I became the world’s first legal pot tourist.

In 2010 I traveled to Spain, Germany, Morocco and India.

In 2008 I attended the Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam and traveled through Asia:

I visited the Mardi Grass in Nimbin, Australia, and was a guest judge in their cannabis cup in 2006.

In 2002 I toured the cannabis law reform hot-spots of the world, a result of being busted for a tiny spec of weed. In June of 2001 I had been searched unlawfully by a group of police officers who claimed to smell cannabis. I was arrested and charged with possession of 0.7 grams of cannabis, but I contested the charge in court. In dismissing the charge, Judge Gittos set a precedent that will protect other people from being searched in similar circumstances. The Dominion, arguably at the time the most anti-cannabis newspaper in the country, wrongly published that I had been jailed. I settled for enough money to take me around the world to research alternatives to cannabis prohibition. Ironic, huh. My first stop would be the NORML conference in San Francisco.

Dutch Coffeeshop Pioneer – Interview with Wernard Bruining

The Dutch policy of tolerating the sale of cannabis to adults is well known. Their separation of cannabis consumers from those who sell other drugs led to one of the lowest rates of hard drug use in the world. Still controversial and subject to constant tweaking, the lowland nation remains resolutely determined their policy is the best in the world. It all began with one man in 1973.

Chris: You opened the first coffee shop in Amsterdam, the Mellow Yellow. How did it all start?

Wernard: In the old days in Holland, everybody who was smoking was a bit of a dealer. So when you had ten smokers there was always a couple of guys that knew where to get the dope from and who were the guys that were buying it and sold part of it to their friends. The whole trick was to have at the end of the day a piece for yourself that was free to smoke. Like everywhere is even today, we have the same kind of situation.

In those days there were places where there were a lot of smokers, vegetarian restaurants, foodstores, coffeeshops, cafes, things like that and that meant that were also a lot of dealers – sometimes in the coffee shops there were like twenty dealers at various stages and prices. Our idea was to end that all and to have a coffee shop with just one dealer, who is one of us of course, who is sitting in front of the bar pretending to be just a customer. In those days police couldn’t shut a shop down just because somebody was found in there dealing. So that was the big lie let’s say.

The other thing that we did was we treated hash and grass the same like you treat Bountys or Mars Bars. You go to a big store and you buy a big box and then you sell them one by one. So we brought a kilo of this, a kilo that, and then cut it up into pieces of ten and 25 gilders, put it in plastic bags and then thought that the problem was solved, and that that was the golden coffee shop formula because that made it accessible to everybody.

Now suddenly everybody could go to a coffee shop and buy hash and grass and you did not need to know a lot about hash and grass itself. You could just go to the one guy who is sitting at the bar and ask what have you got, and he mentions all these words “I’ve got Nepalese and afghan and this and that” and so on. Then you just reply just give me ten gilders of that Nepalese and then you got ten gilders of the Nepalese. Before that you needed to know what it was, what the variety was, what the price was what a good price was, you had to bargain the price, things like that – that was all over. Now suddenly everyone could come and score.

So within a couple of months we had a lot of customers. Sometimes customers lined up outside on the pavement and of course that attracted attention from a lot of our visitors and friends who saw us doing that and thought this is a good trick that these guys found we can do it also and we can do it better. So that is when coffee shops like Restaurant and The Bulldog started and they did it better, you know, because they were much more efficient than we were. We were just interesting in having a free smoke for ourselves.

Like a social club. What was the authorities reaction when you first started?

Well, in the beginning we kept a low profile.

Even with the line of customers out the door?

Yes. Because tolerance only functions when you voluntarily restrict yourselves. That is why we called our shop not a coffee shop but a tea house, so that the outside world knew that is was not just a regular shop, but that there was something fishy going on in there. Better not know! That worked fine. It was about four or five years before we had our first bust. I opened up the shop in 1973 and the first bust we had in 1976 or so.

We were prepared. We had our stash hidden and we had certain systems to prevent them from finding the stash or the motherload and things like that, and that worked. We had about 3 or 4 busts and they never found our stash. The dealer they just arrested him and kept him for a couple of hours but then he had to appear in court or whatever 6 months or a year later and we didn’t care about that.

Were you ever the dealer?

Yes sometimes. I didn’t like it that much! It always had somebody who was doing it for me. I preferred to be the bar man so I had lots more communication possibilities and more time to play football – I like table football! Whenever it was quiet, I would rush downstairs and play table football and table football is one of the things that go better when you smoke! Because you need to focus completely on the game and forget about everyone else. When you’re high it goes very well, it increases your pleasure.

What was it about the time or place that allowed the tolerance to occur?

First because nobody knew we existed, and the place was named Mellow Yellow and Mellow Yellow was the title of a song by Donavon. It was about when you had nothing to smoke you could fry banana peel and smoke those and only the insiders know what the title meant. So we figured that when we called our shop Mellow Yellow outsiders would think “its just that Donavon song” and insiders would know “oh that’s something to do with smoking”. So we kept a low profile for the first couple of years – nobody knew we existed. The phenomena of police busting coffee shops started after they busted us a couple of times. After that [busting people] became an industry.

How long did that continue and what made them stop?

Well, they busted us three of four times and then in 1978 we had a fire in our shop and I was looking for other things to do because I was getting bored. I had a friend in America who said come and see me and after the fire I suddenly had a lot of time. I booked a flight and went to the States and saw my American friend and I noticed something totally new. I saw Americans who were smoking and dealing marijuana that was grown in America. Then we realised that the marijuana the Americans were growing was better than the third world country grass. They were getting like $10,000 per kilo. If you would get maybe a dollar a gram for Dutch grass that was fantastic, and nobody was even willing to even pay that and imported grass wasn’t much better.

Our hippy idea was that marijuana growing would be successful and cannabis would never go away.

So in the beginning we just brought a couple of kilos in our bags to Holland. Nobody suspected anybody to take drugs from America to Holland so there was not chance for anybody to check. In the beginning we would smoke that and sell whatever excess we had. Now we had this huge group of expanding coffee shops now and the product needs to be smuggled in to Holland and it would be a good idea if we teach the Dutch to grow their own. So we asked an old man who was 65 at that time [“Old Ed”] who was a grower just busted in America – why don’t you come over to Holland and help us grow this marijuana? We will do two things – we will sell it to the coffee shops and then I’ll talk to the Dutch and say you can grow it yourself and if you don’t believe it you can go to the coffee shop and pay a lot of money. So that is how I convinced the Dutch that it was worthwhile to grow marijuana in Holland using the special seeds we have. We call ourselves the green team and it took us five years to convince the Dutch people – from 1980 to 1985.

In 1985 my green team was expanding constantly with foreigners who also wanted to try this successful thing that we were doing. In ‘85 we were growing 200 kilos per year and I was selling it in the coffee shops.

If the police had caught you what would have happened?

Our first bust was in 1983 – that was a policeman that came up with his bike. We had a farm in Freisland and in the front of the farm we had small fake vegetable gardens, and in the back we had a lot of tall trees, and behind the tress there was huge plants growing. We had 1000 kilo of plants that year and this policeman came up in his bicycle while we were doing our fake vegetable garden, and says “Hi guys what are you doing here?” and we said “we are just growing vegetables and enjoying the outside country life”. And he said “well, I don’t know what you are doing here and I don’t want to know it either. But I want to tell you one thing – whatever you did last year you shouldn’t try to do it again this year”. And we were like “oh what are you taking about?” and then he left. It took him maybe ten minutes, this whole conversations, but in a way he busted us because we moved maybe 1000 females that we had in the back – that weren’t that big maybe fifty centimetres – but we could never harvest at this place. So we had to find other locations and we found 10, 20, 30 different locations. We put our plants over there, we made deals with the local growers: You take care of the plants, harvest them and sell them and we’ll give them a cut of the profit. That is how we really started to expand.

Then in 1985, when we were 200 kilos a year, the green team was joined by other Americans who said we need to grow in greenhouses and the greenhouse need to be at least 5000 square metres and another voice said we need to grow in 5 greenhouse, and I thought well it’s not my cup of tea – I’m not into making money and I’m also not into becoming a criminal. It’s better these guys go out on their own and I go onto something else – I want to build the perfect football table and in order to that I needed to make money, so I started to make lights.

I was already importing lights from America. Then I got so much I decided to make my own reflectors and light systems. I had to employ a friend of mine to install these light systems, and that really was the beginning of Positronics, the first grow shop in Europe. Within seven years I had 60 people working for me, a newspaper, a restaurant. A big demand and lots of money but I wasn’t interested in money, I was interested in selling the idea of enriching your life by selling a few plants.

People came to our shop from all over Holland and all over Europe. Journalists came to our shop and it was fine for me, because I knew if I talked to a journalist for an hour they would go home and broadcast this thing and people would read about what I wanted to tell them. My record was one session with 60 minutes and it was 30 million viewers. Successful. And that is how the idea of growing your own marijuana spread really fast all around the world. Nederweit is now Euro weed. And our idea – our hippy idea – was that marijuana growing would be successful and cannabis would never go away. And that cannabis was an improvement of modern lifestyle.

I will say that cannabis is a entheogen drug which means it is a drug that enables people to sense god in themselves and in others, so instead of old fashioned religion it is a new religious kind of lifestyle in a way, and such a product should never be commercialised. It should always be accessible to society, only accessible for 10 15 percent of the population who is interested and able to confront themselves with themselves, because that is what cannabis does: it confronts you with yourself.

What are the key changes that have happened since then?

Look at me, a mature man, I don’t wear a suit and tie. When I started growing marijuana and when I started coffeeshops it was impossible for old males to go around without a suit and tie, all males have the same leather shoe. Now days everyone is clothed differently and that is one of the achievements of marijuana because marijuana was smoked by a lot of people who functioned as a role model like filmmakers, artists, famous people were all into smoking marijuana. Marijuana changed the world without most of the world knowing about it. It is much more free, liberal, much more fantasy, colour than ever before and that is due to marijuana.

Speaking of changes, the Dutch government has said it will close a lot of coffee shops in Amsterdam. Are the coffee shops a scapegoat or are there really problems?

A lot of coffee shop owners are not pioneers anymore, so they don’t know how to present their case in such a way so the public laughs and thinks “oh well let those guys go along with their thing as long as they don’t bother me”. Modern coffeeshop does bother everybody because it is a public place. Anybody can just walk into a coffee shop. That’s a scary thing for people who don’t like change, and the thing is that coffee shop owners don’t understand that they can only be tolerated when they present their business in such fashion that it is acceptable for the non smoker. That’s what they neglected to do. Because tolerance only works when you voluntarily limit yourself in presenting yourself.

Thanks Wernard! More information is at www.wernard.nl & www.cannabisconnections.nl

DNA Genetics: the best of California in Amsterdam

DNA Genetics has taken the cannabis world by storm, winning 32 prestigious prizes in their first six  years of business. Originally from California, Don and Aaron (DNA, get it?) moved to Amsterdam with the aim of presenting the best American cannabis genetics to the world.

The DNA store in the heart of Amsterdam stocks high-quality bongs, clothing, and of course regular and feminised seeds including their cup-winning strains LA Confidential and Martian Mean Green.

DNA’s philosophy is to “circulate and preserve the pool of cannabis genetics” which is carried over to their new sub-label Reserva Privada, which showcases heirloom strains from a West Coast (USA) collective of breeders who, although protected by medicinal cannabis laws, wanted to remain nameless.

INTERVIEW BY CHRIS FOWLIE

So Don and Aaron, tell us how you got started.

Aaron: Don and I had been really good friends for a long time. I guess our relationship was based around cannabis from the very get go. Don had just moved into the neighbourhood, somebody he knew through me needed some medicine and it started there – around 94 or 95. We were selling weed in the alley. It was basically the USC, University of Street Cannabis! When we moved out here Prop 215 had just started.

Don: It passed in 96 but didn’t get rolling till 2002. Those years in between, it wasn’t like you could go to a dispensary or be a vendor. Back then it had to be like cancer or AIDS or glaucoma, it was so hard core. I didn’t want to take anything away from the true medical patients, so we moved and it blossomed while we were over here.

A: We’ve been smoking since almost 13. Don’s mom is sitting right here. How long have you been smoking weed for mom?

Don’s Mom: 1974 was my first year of smoking weed.

D: I remember as a kid that mom would be smoking a bong and we didn’t know it was bad. She used to bong out in the bedroom! We went to the DARE program where they try to brainwash a kid to snitch your family or something. I remember my parents sit me down and they were like “listen their program is good but weed isn’t a drug and they are going to try and make you think it is a drug and you just know that we are telling the truth.” And I knew right then as a kid that the whole system is shit. For years I came out here to Amsterdam on vacations, smoking weed out here and I was like, we got better weed in LA. We came out to Denmark and we ended up on a couch in this little town in Belgium at some dudes house that we didn’t even know, and three weeks had gone by so we were like ‘lets go to Amsterdam and we can party for a couple of weeks and bounce out’. We ended up getting a job at a hostel, and in the end it manifested itself into this. He had seeds saved in his vault from forever, I had seeds saved from my vault forever, family members and this and that, and it all came together into this smorgasbord in Holland.

How do you come up with your new strains?

D: You have two and they have babies and you see what comes out of it. We’re real strict about our selection.

A: The bottom line is you want the best and whether you select from 100, 2000, or 10,000 finding that one that is special to you is really something. You are playing God, saying this one is going to stay alive, this one is going to die.

So what are you looking for?

A: You gotta look for the total package, you want it to put off a phenomenal smell, you want it to taste very well, put off the same kind of flavours, and hash if you can have that it is a plus. We are not so worried about yield or strength, because all of the cannabis these days has been so hybridised that everything is going to get you medicated. It really comes down to enjoying the cannabis. You don’t want to smoke it just to smoke it, you want to enjoy it. You want to savour the flavour.

D: DNA Genetics is based on two guy’s opinions. We feel that this – whatever product we’re talking about – has reached it’s level. Doesn’t mean it will be your favourite or even our favourite. We do selections and we have a taste test of whoever’s around and we’ll take a popular opinion, and maybe it’s not what we wanted but the popular opinion says we should select it.

Which are your favourites?

D: The LA Confidential we will sacrifice yield for the flavour every day of the week, and we will always have some growing indoors, because we love the flavour, and it is strong. Shark’s Breath or Cannalope Haze, we like it, it will get you high and we grew it for years but we are over it. Now it is deemed commercial in our mind. It is still really good pot but for us it is kinda like really good mediocre pot.

A: LA Confidential, I’ll never get sick of it. Yield is not the best, but who gives a fuck about yield when you are looking at your personal stash. We can grow the Cannalope Haze and it comes out phenomenal, but it is like I could grow my best crop, I’m still not saving it. I will sell it all cos I would rather smoke the LA or the Martian. Sweet Haze, originally came from Neville as a Super Silver Haze or Silver Haze grown by another really big activist in the cannabis community Todd McCormick. I had purchased some weed from Todd and I found some seeds and brought those seeds back with me to Amsterdam and grew them out. It was like a Skunk Haze, a sweet tasty hazy strain. We took that female and crossed it with our Cannaloupe and brought out the Sweet Haze.

What should the outdoor grower in NZ be growing?

D&A: Sour Cream, Connie Chong, C13 because these are sativas and perfect for outdoors.

Are any particularly resistant to mould?

A: LA Confidential is pretty resistant to the powdery white mildews you get outside. Chocoloupe and Cannaloupe does well. I would stay away from the bigger buds like the Sharks Breath, the Recon. Most of them can and will do good, depending on where you live.

Tell us about the Cannabis Cup.

A: We always put in 150% towards the Cup, seeing as how all these people travel from throughout the world to sample the best weed in Amsterdam. We smoke out over a kilo and a half of grass with people and it’s a good time for us.

The most successful winners?

D: Chocoloupe, LA Confidential, Lemon Skunk, Martian Mean Green, Cole Train, Kush Berry has won a couple. Connie Chong just won the Slovakian 10th Annual Cannabis Harvest Cup!

Are you concerned about feminised seeds?

A: Who knows what is going to happen? You might sell a feminised seed, say Chocoloupe, and then the next person down the line might say ‘I’ve got a really good breeding male’ and then they breed that into the feminised line and we don’t know what is going to happen. Whether we agree with it morally has nothing to do with it, we want to do good business and 80% are screaming for this.

D: Right now, feminised seeds go for more than regular seeds, but we’re the opposite: our feminised seeds are cheaper than our regular seeds.

Do you get any heat? Is operating in Amsterdam similar to other countries?

A: We try to keep our mouths shut and we don’t tell anybody anything. Here, it’s hard to be anonymous because people know we’re DNA and they’re smoking our weed at the coffeeshops. They know what we do but we don’t throw it in their faces. We let the guys like Arjan, Derry and Soma put their heads way out there. We like the limelight a little bit, but we’re American and those motherfuckers [Dutch authorities] could come in here and swoop us up any time they want.

DNA Genetics are available at their shop in Amsterdam, or see Attitude Seed Bank (UK)

Note: Although legal in many places, the acquisition, purchase and possession of cannabis seeds is illegal in New Zealand. Cultivation is also illegal. Check your local laws.

[Originally published in NORML News Summer 2010]

Hemp Hoodlamb

T.H.Seeds is based at Hemp Works, Europe’s first hemp store, which opened its doors in 1993. Back then founders Adam Dunn & Douglas Mignola were known as the CIA (Cannabis In Amsterdam), an early seed company that aimed to present the best American genetics to the world. They had just successfully organised the Cannabis Cup and turned their attention to creating stylish clothing people would want to wear regardless of the fact it’s made of hemp.

“When we first started there was not much hemp clothing,” says Doug. “A little bit from Germany and mostly from the States. It was really rough itchy stuff – we call it the potato sack look!”

They wanted to offer people an alternative for mass-produced and synthetic clothing. First up was the HoodLamb jacket, which was designed to warm you up quick after chilly sessions in the surf or snow. With it’s plush ‘Satifur’ fake fur lining made partly from hemp, it is “like taking the ugg boot and making it into a jacket,” said Doug.

Before moving production to China, where the hemp is grown, Doug wanted to check out their working conditions and environmental standards.

“I choose the factory by saying could I come and see it, and the ones that said it was OK, then I would go and see it,” said Doug. “I found at the factories I went to, that child labour was not an issue. I actually found that the working conditions were better than they are in Europe. I have been to Romania, Portugal, Italy, Holland and seen productions and China had the best, cleanest machines and the best working conditions.”

Doug says business has “grown organically, like the hemp plant!” As with T.H.Seeds, a key to the success of Hemp HoodLamb has been an absolute focus on quality.

“The jacket is super comfortable. As soon as someone tries it on they want to buy it. One of the things that is different is this is one of the few jackets that has fur in the arms. And of course we have secret pockets and paper dispensers.”

HoodLamb’s range now includes summer jackets, hoodies, skirts, pants, shirts, and hats, all made from ecofriendly, comfortable hemp, soy and bamboo. They sell tens of thousands of jackets around the world, sponsor a team of surfers, and are worn by a distinctly smokey selection of celebrities including Snoop Dogg, Flava Flav, UB40, Woody Harrelson and Tommy Chong.

“We sell a lot to Scandinavia, Italy, Canada, Japan and America. And now New Zealand too!”

The Hemp HoodLamb range is available in NZ at The Hempstore or check out www.hoodlamb.com

[Originally published in NORML News Spring 2009]

Amsterdam’s THSeeds

T.H.Seeds have given themselves an ambitious target: “to protect genetics and serve mankind”.  They’ve done a good job so far, with their strains winning multiple cannabis cups and grown throughout the world. They also have a successful hemp clothing company. CHRIS FOWLIE caught up with founders Adam Dunn and Doug Mignola in Amsterdam.

Gidday Adam, tell us about your entries for the Cannabis Cup and how it went.

It went exactly as we planned we got really good feedback from people and everyone loved it. We are not really worried about the awards. We had one old variety, MK Ultra, which is a winner from 2003 so we just thought after 5 years bring it back out of retirement. The other one is Rambo which is a Sativa entry that has got some afghan in it [with] two types of Jamaican, called Most Wanted which is the Haze, and the other is 9 Month Skunk, a purple sativa skunk from the original hippy trail vibe.

What are your concerns about feminised seeds?

There is always a big hype for a moment and right now it is feminised. I think Hank was the first company with Dutch Passion to go for it and commercialise the whole process. Not to say the seeds are bad or anything, but over the years I kind of watched to see what the reaction was and I never got the feeling that you were getting the best out of it. I’m sure he made lots of money and sold millions of packs, but when you checked with people on how these things turned out a lot of times it was weak issues: not really the most potent of genetics and a lot of times the hybrid vigor was lost or something seems to be missing. And the reality is if you grow indoors you definitely don’t need feminised because you just need a mom. You also want a plant that is really strong and can be cloned for years on end without any problems.

If you are breeding dogs or birds or fish, anything, you are looking for the best breeders and they are usually the most male of all males or the most female of all females. You don’t want something that is somewhere in between, where it has either hemaphroditic tendencies and/or not robust enough for genetics to follow.

If you take a plant that is feminised it has had stress induced on it at some point, a generation or two ago, so if plants were forced to turn into male then that next generation will all be female – it is true – but the fact that they are all female doesn’t mean that they are all good. It means that they have to be female because there is only female information on top of female information. But it also means that any problems will be amplified just as any good things may be amplified. So if you have a problem with bug resistance or THC production or any of these things, if there is not something to create vigor like what you get with a male and female, you can end up losing in the long run not gaining, which is our whole game.

Also when you are making clones from the same plant over generations if you are starting with stress there is a good chance it will go hermy on you or won’t root as well. I have just seen so many more negative results than positive.

Is there a risk that feminised seeds might contaminate the gene pool and have unintended consequences down the track?

True. It is like what Ruderalis was back in the early 90s when it was a really hot thing and everybody wanted it. I never included it in our program because I felt if this gets in there is a chance that 10% or 5 % or more could come out with these “pretendicas” – duds that don’t have any resin content or the resin is not potent. It much easier to put something into your gene pool than it is to pull something out. Once it is in, it is in, and if you’re working a few generations down the road you can’t reverse it. So for us Ruderalis was never that interesting. It was in my mind back when I was a kid – I thought it was great, these little auto-flowering plants – and some companies have based their entire existence on an auto flowering situation. But it is kind of like making it too easy for the person who is the end user, and that’s not really the goal, it is more the preservation of genetics. Yeah you’re going to get a female, and yeah it’s going to flower automatically, and yeah it’s going to stay under your waist level. It is great for that guy who doesn’t know what he is doing. But for the people who really know what they are doing, the last thing they want is to have no control over a plant where it just automatically flowers and is automatically a female so you have no chance of making any of your own seeds. It would be nicer if you could, say, take a pack of Chocolate Chunk, and a pack of SAGE, cross them together and you’ve got Chocolate SAGE or something like that. You’ve given the option to the person to produce their own, and that’s a lot more interesting

What is the philosophy or point of difference for T.H.Seeds?

We were one of the first to recognise the American gene pool which is now dominating the whole scene around the world with strains like Kush and Sour Diesel.

When we started CIA in 1993 we had already heard about Sour Diesel from our friends New York. I didn’t actually really get to try it until I got it in 1997- 98. It was one of those plants that didn’t even get to the Cup until 2001-2002, and now all of a sudden everyone knows Sour Diesel. The reality is that East Coast of America, that’s like the Don, you know, and the West Coast it is the Kush, and actually both of those strains are interrelated. The Chem Dawg is the plant that produced both of those things. So our thing was to find these isolated strains that had been proven themselves via the local population. And that is what is nice. They are our testers, the people who do that breeding make it that much easier for us -they do all the preselection, although they don’t know what they are doing half the time, that’s the other problem.

What are your favourite strains?

Our top strains are SAGE and Bubble Gum. Bubble Gum was the first plant we introduced into the whole market. That was a situation where we were forced to work with what we had. We had seven different moms that we were working with, and we had a break in at the room, and somebody did all our pre-selection for us by killing everything down to the one plant that had one branch that had been left at the bottom, so that could be re-veged and kept. So the unfortunate part of that was it wasn’t particularly the best of all the Bubblegums, it was the one that made it through. So that was our first introduction into the reality that if you have something good maybe people might like it and might really want it!

Then we did SAGE. That was our friend in California who lived here at the time. He actually did most of the pre-selection here and he did a lot of it outdoors which was cool. Like literally a whole back yard full, and not even the best conditions, but at least you can see in the worst conditions how it can work so you actually learn more than if you did it in the best conditions. That’s the thing about Holland. We live in a shitty horrible country, it’s rainy, miserable and humid. Conditions are never good so that’s why we all grow indoors. But everything that you bring from here and bring into nicer conditions always does so much better, like “oh my god, look at that!”. You go to Spain and take that same seed, all the different flavours pop out, things you didn’t even know were there.

A lot of people grow outdoors in New Zealand. Which strains would you recommend for that?

Medicino Madness is our flagship outdoor strain, that’s seven week flowering – mid September for the northern hemisphere so probably [mid-March] for the southern hemisphere. So that’s the kind of guarantee, the money maker to make sure you can get your product out on time and be the first guy smoking, which helps! Then if you have the good conditions, Sage and Sour work really well, like in Spain and California they really love it. This year I’ve have been getting good results with Zero Gravity in California. SAGE does well if you have the conditions, but not here! I’m sure the North Island and South Island are completely different from each other so it’s probably a northern one.

What about for down the bottom of the South Island which would be equivalent to Scandinavia?

That would be the Mendo. That would be the only one I would guarantee, the rest would be a little bit borderline. That’s why we did the Rambo this year because we were looking for something else outdoor, with a bit more Sativa influence. It’s big outdoor producing and quick. In NoCal if something stands out, it means something because they are growing a lot of different weed there. Usually they just keep going through different varieties, until they find one or two. They’ll go through sixty per year, so that’s a much better testing ground than anywhere, because they have the medical clubs and people testing it.

So what are the future plans for T.H.Seeds?

Well next year it is sweet 16 so big parties probably! No, we’re at a situation where we have new packaging, new energy back in. We had a couple of years with the jackets taking off, it made it hard to concentrate on everything. We’re putting more focus on getting everything tightened up so that people get the best and it’s always guaranteed. Seeds are one of those industries that have expanded so fast. There’s a new company every day, but we’re in the location where people can come to our shop any time. We also want to be available to anyone anywhere, so hopefully open a new shop, why not!

For more info see www.thseeds.com & www.hempworks.nl

[Originally published in NORML News Spring 2009]

Bubbleman: talking heads

Well known among hash connoisseurs, Bubbleman has promoted the ice water extraction process for the last ten years with his company Fresh Headies, makers of the Bubble Bag system. This is now an eight bag kit, that comes with or without a compact specialised washing machine, which lets anyone extract the active ingredients of cannabis. He’s also an accomplished pot-ographer, specialising in macro photos of mouth-watering trichomes and full-melt bubble hash.

CHRIS FOWLIE caught up with Bubbleman in Amsterdam over a lump of Shibani Amber – water hash from a Pakistani strain grown in Morocco – as they discussed the elusive search for an unadulterated high.

What’s the most important thing to understand about making great hash?

Where the medicinal values of cannabis exist are in the glandular trichome head. Not in the stalk, not the pistil hairs, not in the bud or the plant matter. Unless they have broken off and lodged into the leaf or melted onto the leaf, they don’t exist in those places. They just grow in the gland head. So if you remove as much contaminant from those heads as possible, like the plant matter, the stalks, and the seeds, the pistilate hairs and you get just these heads, upward of 90 to 98 percent pure heads under the microscope, then you are really truly experiencing the medicine of cannabis. Why would we dilute it, even it was diluted on the plant matter? Why would we dilute it at all?

Everyone always says when the have a hit of the full melt, the high is incredibly clear. Compared to smoking a blunt or some other method of smoking, it is an incredibly clear, up, high.

Getting these heads into at pure state is to acquire the best possible hash. Obviously at one point you will realise you can go through the cannabis strains to find where the really best is for one for you, depending on what you use it for recreational or medicinal. But what the water does is it allows the laymen, Joe Blow, everyday citizen Joe, to make a quality of hash that is unparalleled to anything that they would have ever tried to make before. The use and the ease, with the transfer chamber of the water keeping everything floating, while the resin breaks and sinks. The glandular trichome head secretes these cannabinoids and terpenes and turpeniods inside the head and the outside is a wax membrane, so when we freeze this wax membrane with the ice and the water it becomes brittle, and when we mix it up in the machine, in the Bubble Now my little washing machine, it washes the resin off. It breaks it off the plant and then it falls through this screen bag that is holding all the leaf together. They sink in the water. That transfer chamber of water really makes it so people can make a pure form of hash, whereas dry sifting – the same technique with dry screens – it is one in a thousand people who can make a melty product with dry sifting screens. It is an art form. When you do a sift and you get this gold powder, unless you are using a microscope, you are not going to get a pure product. You are going to end up getting capitate stalks and cystolith hairs. They can make up 60 to 70% of the hash, non-active material. And if you don’t understand that they are non active and you don’t understand that only the head is active then you realise, well that’s the best you can make it and that is what most people think.

Other people, very far and few between, realise that you can use tighter screens to gently with a card slide back and forth the resin – in a cold environment – and those stalks will become brittle. Walking them back and forth over the screen will push those stalks and cystolith hairs through and leave the heads on top. It is very labour intensive. It takes a long time to do a small amount that way.

There are other methods to acquire full melt dry sift, like putting a bunch of bud in a silver bowl and putting it into your freezer. Just give it a couple of swirls. The resin that will stick to the outside of that, if you put your finger and gooped it all up, will be a full melt hit. But that is not making an ounce, that is not making ten grams and the bubble bags do.

How do people get the most from their bags?

Listen to the directions. Following the directions is definitely the way for people to get the most from their bags. At the least, it’s the way to get their bearings with the bags. It’s where you get your starting point. Even if you fuck it up and do it all wrong, you can still make an incredibly strong water hash compared to what you know. But the point is that if you do it all right and you use the right material and you don’t make these mistakes, you can make exceptional hash. It’s a very different quality of high.

The key instruction is not to over mix. Since I’ve been selling the BubbleNow that’s really improved. Anyone who’s thinking to get the most, they want to get more. All they’re really doing is cutting their hash. You’re not getting more, you’re lowering the quality of your hash There is a lot to learn from using all the bags and separating all the grades because you can actually separate the different highs. You can separate out the munchies from the knockouts.

I figure if the plant wanted us to get high, and we are humans, we would want it do it in the purest form.

What difference has the ice hash products made to global hash making and appreciation?

It has put hash back in the hands of the every day Joe. Back in the day you had to know someone who knew someone. He doesn’t have to go down to the pool hall and try and buy it. Dudes all over the place are making their own bubble, even if it is from compressed Mexican weed that they are buying, or if it is from their own little crop that they have people are making it themselves. It is really quick and clean and easy.

Are there any tricks to cleaning it up?

The biggest trick is having a spray bottle of ice cold water. Then you take the bag, and I usually flip them inside out over a smaller bowl and tighten the screen, so I can scrape it all up. I’ll push down the screen a tiny little bit into the bowl, and then I will spray. It will create a pool and I’ll scoop it up with a spoon and put it in the pressing screen.

The most important trick is to dry it properly. It needs to be dabbed gently with the pressing screen – which really isn’t a good name. I’m going to start calling it the dabbing screen, because I don’t want people pressing the resin wet. It is the worst thing to do because the heads tend to breach. They’re popping and they’re mixing with the moisture and the oil’s trapping the water molecules and not allowing it to release and when that happens the hash never dries properly. It‘s weird and sticky. Gently dab water out with the pressing screen with a towel on either side so you can get it into a paddy that you can scoop up onto cardboard and chop real thin and spread over the cardboard. The cardboard acts as a desiccant.

Which of the screens produce the best bubble hash?

It’s hard to say, I hear a lot of people say 45, most people say 90 and 73, I like the 90 first almost exclusively. It tends to be the meltiest, it tends to be the strongest, it tends to be the tastiest. I don’t know if it is just the mid grade generalized head for the majority of strains that were growing in North America and Holland. I know that in places like New Zealand and Australia people really appreciate the 25 and 45 microns for the outdoor sativas that have just been blazed in the sun. The trichomes are not huge monsters, they are real tiny pinheads that are wicked strong and unique profiles and they get trapped in the smaller bags more often than not. It is a generalisation, doesn’t mean you wont find an indica that has super tiny heads and maybe you will find a sativa that has big ones but in general people from Australia and New Zealand have told me when they run their outdoor plants, that they get really nice in the 25 and 45 and that doesn’t surprise me at all.

What are the hallmarks of great hash?

It is hard because there is full melt out there, people do make butane oil and mix it with dry sift and lower quality hashes and make these really good looking hashes that can fool even the best. But the perceived high is too intense and it is not a positive vibe in the end. A lot of people enjoy smoking butane extractions but it is not worth the dangers of the ethyl mercaptan and the sulphides they put in the butane. By law butane is an odorless gas. They need to put smell into it so they add this ethyl mercaptan and it is oil soluble and it ends up in the oil. It is accumulative in the body and effects the central nervous system. People say they do a purge but when something when something is oil soluble and it bonds in a molecular level I highly doubt you are getting that out.

Truly great hash for me is hash that melts. Right off the bat. If I can hold the lighter up to it and it starts bubbling and melting and creating these clear domes, that is an exceptional quality of hash. If it is a nice light colour golden or blondish and when you hold a lighter to it goes yellow or amber really quick and melts, that is a pretty good sign. If it has been pressed, it should be hard. It shouldn’t be too, too soft. A too, too soft hash, like this hash here we’re smoking from the Dampkring, it‘s got a little bit of moisture. It should be hard. But still, I wouldn’t kick it out of bed for eating crackers! It’s pretty nice hash.

Ideally if you have done it right and you haven’t pressed it, it should be bone dry powder that you would be worried it would blow right off the table if you sneezed. But often bubble won’t, it just sticks.

Why did you get into macro photography?

Macro photography has opened up a world of doors for me, just in terms of the message I’m trying  to get out to people about seeking an unadulterated high. Pictures are worth a thousand words. When I show them a photo of melting hash on the screen or trichomes with big bulbous heads or smaller heads you can just see it. It is teaching us. Being able to see, to get down at those smaller levels, is something we are all interested in, to know what is going on.

I use a Canon 40D but I have just ordered the 5D Mk2 which is supposed to be exceptional. I’m shooting with a specialised macro Canon lens called the MPE, it is 65mm and I shoot with the 24EXMT dual flash and that’s also from Canon. You need the dual flash with the macro lens or it is just not happening.

I’ve looked throughout the plant and photographed at different weeks. Trichome development starts pretty early and they grow pretty fast. There’s always all sizes. You’ll never find a plant with one size trichome. All the variety, and they’re always at different maturity states, never all clear or all amber. I find amber is directly related to the death of the leaf or the plant matter. As it starts to decay the resin itself starts to decay. Maybe the cell membrane is breached and oxygen starts to get to it. So macro photography is good for knowing what is going on at a small level. Seeing how good your hash is. And what better way?

A big thanks to Bubbleman for sharing his wisdom with readers of Norml News. Anyone who wants to know more should check out www.fullmeltbubble.com where there are forums on dry sift, import hash and bubble hash, plus heaps of macro photos and photo essays on using the bags, the machine, and do it yourself methods.

[Originally published in NORML News Winter 2009]

 

Amsterdam Special Report: “It’s just so civilised!”

Norml News editor CHRIS FOWLIE recently went to Amsterdam for the 21st annual High Times Cannabis Cup, where Kiwiseeds won Best Indica for their strain Mt Cook. Hash parties, reggae royalty, medical grows, magic mushrooms, dodgy shit and overblown egos, Cup week had it all. But as the largely American crowd were partying hard, local activists were fighting Government plans to crack down on coffeeshops.

Amsterdam is three flights and 30 hours away, but it is well worth the effort. Stepping off the plane feels like a weight being lifted. Freedom, at last! I was staying with Rob Clarke, legendary breeder and author of books such as Marijuana Botany and Hashish! He lives in a typical Dutch apartment – small yet comfy – conveniently located round the corner from the first Green House coffeeshop and with several others located nearby. But like most locals Rob had never ventured inside. Instead, there is better and cheaper stuff to be found direct from dealers, smugglers and growers, just like back home. He handed me an egg of Maroccan brown hash, “shaped for smuggling”. It soon softened and I set to work rolling my first legal joint since I was last here.

Rob briefed me on what to expect. Strictly speaking, cannabis is not actually legal in the Netherlands, but it is tolerated by authorities. Each local municipality is different, and the rules sometimes change depending on who is elected. Most cities including Amsterdam allow the sale of small amounts of cannabis to adults in coffeeshops. The is intended to break any link with hard drugs and minimise youth access, and has been remarkably successful. And it’s just so civilised to walk into a cannabis cafe selling all sorts of marijuana and hash from all around the world, after coming from New Zealand, the country with the highest cannabis arrest rate in the world. But things were going backward under a new conservative government. “You’ll see,” he warned.

Smoking tobacco in venues, bars and restaurants was banned last June. The Amsterdam city council hired over 100 inspectors to check that joints were pure marijuana, which may still be smoked inside. But many traditional ‘brown’ bars and cafes were rebelling against this and had put their ashtrays back out. Bartenders and coffeeshop dealers often told me it was not their job to check what I put in my joint. There was widespread resentment at the new law, even among people who did not smoke tobacco, but the irony of being allowed to smoke marijuana inside while not allowed tobacco was impossible to ignore.

While I was there the government announced 43 Amsterdam coffeeshops within 250m of a school would have to close by 2011, including the original Bulldog Cafe and the Mellow Yellow. Local police and school principals opposed the plan, arguing the coffeeshops checked for ID and kids could not be served. The coffeeshops would be replaced by street dealers, they said. The issue dominated the media for several days and the coverage was a lot more intelligent and rational than what we would get in New Zealand. After all, Dutch journalists, like the rest of the country, have lived with this policy for thirty years and they know it works better than anything else.

Coffeeshop CRACKDOWN

The sale of marijuana is not actually legal in the Netherlands, but tolerated according to rules set down by local councils. Amsterdam’s coffeeshops follow the “AHOYG” rules: No Alcohol, No Hard drugs, No “Overlast” (nuisance), No Youth (R18), and a Gram limit (5g per sale, 500g allowed on premises). Added to this is a new rule: no tobacco. The Council has employed inspectors to make sure joints have no tobacco in them. During Cannabis Cup week, the Government announced another rule that Amsterdam coffeeshops may not be within 250m of a school. This will cause the closure of 43 of the city’s 220-odd coffeeshops, as the council will not allow them to move. The sale of magic mushrooms was banned on December 1, even though locals noted the only problems are with tourists from oppressive countries. The city council has also been purchasing prostitute’s windows in the red light district and replacing them with artist’s studios and fashion stores in an effort to ‘clean up’ the area, which is actually cleaner and safer than most other cities including here in NZ.

Even though cannabis is legally on sale to adults in over 200 outlets across the city, Dutch teenagers seem to have little interest in it or any other drug. They have some of the lowest use rates in the world. I didn’t see a single one even peek into a coffeeshop, let alone try to be served, and I spent a lot of time in them (for research purposes, of course).

And the timing of this step backwards? It was opening day of the 21st High Times Cannabis Cup. As local marijuana activists were scrambling to conduct media interviews and mobilise whatever support they could get, 2500 excited ganja tourists arrived in town for the cup.

Cup fever

Cup week starts at an expo centre on the outskirts of town called the Powerzone, and from there judges visit the various coffeeshops that have entered strains. I had been loaned a bike by Bret and Jackie of Ganja Tours, who show people around the city in a ganja friendly way. Bret offered to show me the way to the cup. There really is nothing quite like biking around the beautiful streets of Amsterdam while high as a kite, even if it was snowing at the time!

Hundreds of cold but excited judges were huddling in the snow outside the expo hall as they waited for the doors to open. A friend of Rob’s got us some backstage passes and we headed inside.

The hall was filled with stalls run by seed companies, coffeeshops and related businesses. THSeeds had a contest called the Trichome Challenge, which involved a six-foot glass bong, a teaspoon of trichome crystals, a large video screen and a close-up on red boggling eyes. Only a few people kept the lungful of potent vapours down without coughing. Both THSeeds and DNA Genetics had potent cannabis mouth sprays. THSeeds called their spray, made from ice hash of their cup-winning strain MK Ultra dissolved in alcohol, ‘M-Spray Ultra’. The DNA spray, dubbed Pocket Alchemy, was made in California and brought over on the plane. In fact it seemed many people brought weed with them, especially medical users from California, and a lot of people were buying seeds to take back home. THSeeds even entered some outdoor Cali weed called Rambo in the Sativa Cup. The 500 gram entry was sent by regular mail, but was intercepted by Dutch customs, who then let it through anyway. Maybe they were coming to the cup too.

One table at the cup featured a row of 3-foot high quality custom RooR bongs, valued at several hundred euros each. A Volcano Vaporizer filled huge 15-foot balloon which were was passed round. There was even a Canadian guy by the door doing spots! He was promoting a spotting bong that he had produced called the Hooter. Soma held court upstairs, with samples of his Lavender strain while accomplice Wax rolled huge trumpet joints that were wrapped with a snake of fresh ice hash. Seed companies such as Kiwiseeds, Green Life, Dutch Passion, DNA Genetics, Delta-9 Labs, Green House and Barney’s all gave away copious amounts of marijuana to entice the judges to vote for them.

There was certainly a great party atmosphere at the expo. The room quickly filled smoke from many potent and aromatic strains, and the chatter of excited first timers, joyful anticipation from seasoned hands, and reunions of old friends. It was certainly an honour and a privilege for me to meet so many cannabis activists and entrepreneurs, including grow guru Jorge Cervantes, Sadhu Sam the Skunk man, pot photographer Barge, the Kiwiseeds crew, Arjan from the Green House, Simon from Serious Seeds, Mila, Bubbleman, Arthur from Cones, Martin from Roor bongs, as well as their friendly, intelligent staff and all the keen judges from around the world. As more than one remarked, they weren’t really there for the cup but for the other people who come for the cup.

I wandered over to talk to Bubbleman and he asked me to find him some ice so he could make some hash. At the bar they pointed backstage. Here’s my chance, I thought. That’s where the huge piles of weed will be, and my ‘backstage’ pass can get me there! But there was no security, just a curtain and beyond that a dark concrete room with broken stacked chairs and an old ice machine under a pile of junk. After watching Bubbleman’s demonstration, involving weed, ice, a small washing machine and silk screen filters, it was time for the official opening ceremony. This was as you’d expect: a very hippy affair, complete with chakra opening, weird horn blowing and the
lighting of candles.

The theme for this year was reggae, and cup week was filled with great parties. The Green House had Bob Marley’s youngest son Ky-Mani performing in the Melkweg, one of the city’s first coffeeshops. The next night THSeeds held an underground party, while rivals DNA Genetics had the official cup party featuring LA-based hip hop outfit Dilated Peoples. Barney’s sponsored a party at the Melkweg featuring legendary reggae band Steel Pulse, and Peter Tosh was honoured into the High Times Counter Culture Hall of Fame. With his son Andrew performing alongside Ky-Mani Marley and Bunny Wailer’s daughter CenC Love, all the original Wailers were represented.

Winning strains

The award ceremony was held at the cup expo centre, backed up by Andrew Tosh, Bushman and Cannabis Cup regular Rocker T, who one wry observer noted, was “killing reggae one song at a time”. He was so bad you had to be there to believe it. One of the first cups awarded was the Indica Cup. This is a seed company category, which means a blind taste test by a panel of judges, as opposed to the coffeeshop cups which are decided by popular vote. These are thought to be more open to bribery and are dominated by whichever company spends the most money on promoting themselves and giving away the most marijuana. The seed company Indica and Sativa cups are therefore held in higher esteem. It was an honour to be there to witness Kiwiseeds winning the Indica Cup for their strain Mt Cook. While some rivals disputed the result, one of the judging panel later told me it really was a clear winner. It had the best flavour, they came back to it first and they consumed it first. The other cups were dominated by Barney’s and Green House, who were rumoured to spend something like 250,000 euros on their cup campaigns. I think they did have really nice marijuana and hashes, just not the best that I saw that week!

WINNING STRAINS – 2008 CANNABIS CUP RESULTS
Overall Cannabis Cup
1st: The Greenhouse – Super Lemon Haze
2nd: Barney’s – Utopia Haze
3rd: The Green Place – Chocolope
Indica Cup
1st: Kiwiseeds – Mt. Cook
2nd: Homegrown Fantaseeds – Cheese
3rd: Amnesia Seeds – LSD
Sativa Cup
1st: Barney’s Farm – Utopia Haze
2nd: Paradise Seeds – De La Haze
3rd: Resin Seeds – Cannatonic
Import Hash Cup
1st: Barney’s – Triple Zero
2nd: Greenhouse – Super Polm
3rd: Amnesia – Shiraz
Dutch Hash Cup
1st: Barney’s – Royal Jelly
2nd: The Greenhouse – Greenhouse Ice
3rd: Grey Area – Grey Crystal
Product Cup
1st=: Barney’s – BC Chillum / DNA – Pocket Alchemy Spray
2nd: Bubbleman – Bubble Bags
3rd: Herborizer – Glass Vaporizer
Best Booth
Barney’s
Glass Cup
1st: DNA Genetics – AK
2nd: Roor – Mr. Nice
3rd: Green Devil – MOE

Local activism

Cup week also marked the 10th anniversary of the Cannabis College, an educational facility supported by several of the ‘good guys’ of the Amsterdam scene such as Ben Dronkers from Sensi Seeds and Eddie from Flying Dutchmen. They organised a full program of events including a film festival, hemp gallery opening, a parade as well as a symposium at the national parliament in the Hague, but Cup organisers would not let them promote it in their events. I couldn’t quite understand this, as the visiting judges would surely enjoy experiencing this side of Amsterdam, and both sides seemed worse off by not working together. The gallery opening in particular was impressive and interesting. Ben Dronkers has assembled a wonderful collection of cannabis and hemp artefacts, worthy of any museum, including original old masters, old medicine bottles, antique hemp processing equipment, as well as modern plastics and composites made from hemp (I hope to be able to bring you photos and a story in an future issue).

After the hazy crazy times of cup week abated, I headed to Den Hague to visit the Dutch parliament and attend the ‘Cannabis Tribunaal’ organised by local activists. Ben Dronkers had put up 250,000 euros as a prize for anyone who could prove cannabis has more negative effects than positive effects. Needless to say, the prize was not won. Speaker after speaker attested to the harms of cannabis prohibition and the benefits of the Dutch approach. Vaporisers were handily set up in the foyer, with a balcony allocated for smoking joints. It was truly refreshing to openly consume cannabis inside the Dutch Parliament, especially as the Tweed Kamer (upper house) was in session upstairs.

The fun times were short-lived. The following week a ban on the sale of magic mushrooms came into place. Dutch drug policy, like in other countries, is often not based on evidence but can also be political in nature. The advantage of their policy of ‘tolerance’ is that the rules can be altered by authorities in response to changing circumstances; the disadvantage is that policy can be held captive by small extremist coalition partners, as is currently the case. Having said that, the Netherlands is still the best place to see sensible drug policies in action. I can’t imagine anyone visiting Holland with an open mind and return still supporting our insane drug laws.

For the worldwide marijuana culture, Amsterdam is our marijuana Mecca, and every proud consumer – or doubting prohibitionist – should make the pilgrimage at least once in their life.

As for me, I can’t wait to go back.

In upcoming issues I’ll bring you interviews with Kiwiseeds, DNA Genetics, Serious Seeds, THSeeds, Bubble Man, Mila from the Pollinator, Wernard Brunning who pioneered the first coffeeshop, Marco from Treating Yourself magazine, the Cannabis College, and more!

[Originally published in NORML News Autumn 2009]

 

Interview with Kiwiseeds

The boys from up north have done it again. Kiwiseeds recently won Best Indica at the High Times Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam, so CHRIS FOWLIE sat down for a session with founder Tim A’Court.

Chris: Congratulations for winning your second Cannabis Cup! Could you take us through what happened, what you entered and why?

Tim: We entered the Mt Cook this year which is a plant that didn’t come from anywhere near Mt Cook, it is just the beautiful name that we gave it. It is a true Indica, one of the first when we were bringing Indica seeds back from overseas in the late 80s early 90s. We started playing round with them and this was something we came up with. Since then we brought it back to Amsterdam, and have crossed it, bettered it and made it into the hybrid kind of bigger plant. It is a fat leaved Indica with lots of crystals and grows in nice short seasons and has that typical Indica quality which is lots of strength.

Unfortunately we didn’t have a lot of it. This was a selection from a group of seeds that we have grown out. It happened to be much better than the last one we had. For the cup we have to enter nearly 100 grams of weed and it took up everything we had. I know people were not happy they didn’t get a change to taste it or have any of it!

Me included! Speaking of taste, the High Times judging crew said they all agreed Mt Cook was the best and said it was a clear winner.

Yep, I’ve heard that as well from the lady who fills the jars for the judges. She came in and got her packet of Mt Cook seeds before she left and she said the same thing. I’m absolutely rapt. I mean the seed cup is always great. We don’t have a coffeeshop so I don’t win coffeeshop prizes but the seed cup is the real one. The samples are there and people vote on what they see and taste. It is a blind test so there is no buying of votes or persuasion from other people. So we are absolutely rapt and there are a whole lot of seed companies who are astounded that we’ve taken not just the Sativa Cup two years ago but now we’ve got the Indica Cup. We have never really been known as Indica-type people. Our idea was originally to be the Sativa varieties that we grew in New Zealand in the early days; to capture some of the genetics that we were rapidly losing in New Zealand due to skunk varieties and other various things coming in.

Before you got to Amsterdam what were you getting up to in New Zealand?

Ever since I was a kid, the whole family was a horticulture family and we still are. Over the years my crazy mum who I guess I should blame everything on has grown everything from sweet peas to boysenberries and loganberries. We have always had glass houses, open ground market gardening kind of thing. When I was 15 I left school – stupidly, but not stupidly. The marijuana thing was just a sideline. It was just another herb in the garden in those days. Of course we realised we could grow it and we had friends who all wanted it so it became something that we were good at, a young age. I think my brother and I had our first plants when we were 13 years old. I’m the first one to say it is not a complicated plant. It’s not a hard plant to grow. Breeding is a different story. It is really easy for anyone to grow in so many different ways. It’s a fantastic medicine.

I hear in those days you were a member of Norml in Whangarei and did a bit of activism.

We were all big members of Norml. I realized that is wasn’t fair that a lot of friends were in court for having a roach in there pocket. It was destroying young peoples lives. I joined Norml and every Thursday we would go to the court house with pockets full of joints and smoke them on the steps and we would try and get in. On several occasions we had these sessions going in the middle of the court house. There were often police coming up from Auckland and they would just go nuts – grabbing people, absolute chaos and violence. It made the whole thing look stupid.

What sort of growing did you get up to in New Zealand?

The typical guerrilla growing – cages in the bush. Then we got a little bit sneaky and realised that putting it right under peoples noses was actually the best way. We actually ended up night time gardening right on the edges of towns. After that we moved to the Hawkes Bay and down there was huge demand for this stuff but the price was incredibly high compared to up North. We ended up going back up north and putting our patches out and feeding the people of Hawkes Bay with our produce. The last couple of years we went back to Northland and tried pretty unsuccessfully to pull off the big one – we didn’t pull it off but at the end we had just enough to come back to the UK. The rest is history.

What do you put your success down to?

Just being humble kiwis not being full of bullshit. We have stuck to the really basic old varieties crossed with some things we have brought in from NZ. We haven’t gone too far off, we have kept the hybrid vigour, we haven’t bred and bred into some strange little thing. It can get all too complicated. We need to get back to the basics. I like to keep it really simple when people come into the grow shop and need advice. I don’t want to sell them every bottle of potion in the shop which is how it comes in a grow shop in the end.

What is your top tip for growing the best marijuana around – from the Kiwiseeds catalogue of course!

Keep it simple – you can get carried away with additives. Stick to what is known. Marijuana requires a lot of food. It is a very fast growing annual – the growing and nutrition of it is very important.

If people want to recapture that old style Kiwi taste what should they be going for?

There are couple of strains we have that are typical kiwi weeds. One of them is “2 Pounder” which was really famous up north when I was a kid. We brought it back into Holland and we have made it into more of a super hybrid that really can produce a lot of weed if people have got a bit more room. It really is that classic big old kiwi sativa with that lovely sativa taste and high. The other one would be Mako Haze. We had a plant that we nicknamed Mako in the north and we brought this back in clone form and crossed it with the Haze. We managed to capture the spice and taste of the New Zealand bush weed.

Have you kept that original cutting alive?

Yes – we have to keep it all going, and we do rely a lot on original stock that we’ve still got going. You have to keep it not just in one place but two or three places, just to make sure. If one goes down or we get busted, they take everything. One of my biggest nightmares is to keep it going. Every 3 or 4 weeks the clones are replenished in each place. I think we have got about 150 different things in vegetation all the time, just for the mothers and fathers for all those different things. You can always go back to seed but there is nothing like the original stock. I know a few people in town, different seed breeders, quite famous ones, who have lost everything at one stage and they have tried to bring it back from nothing. That is a big shame but it is also something that happens in an illegal situation.

The perception from people outside Holland is often that it is very liberal, that it is legal and that you can do anything, but the reality seems a lot different.

It has been going backwards, but even when it was at its peak, all it meant is that the Dutch people are pragmatic people, and the Dutch always saw this as a personal liberty. Rather than go in all guns blazing they decided it was better to try have some control but also at the same time try and separate the soft drugs from the hard drugs. All they did was say that personal use of drugs should not be a criminal offence, so coffee shops were allowed. The idea was to take it out of residential areas and put it where it could be controlled. But the problem is the supply to the coffeeshops is illegal, and the coffeeshops are only allowed to have 500 grams. The “backdoor” as we call it is totally illegal. As a grower it is completely illegal.

What can New Zealand learn from the Dutch scene?

It has always been such a shame that we couldn’t do something like the Dutch. I still see New Zealand as having the opportunity to be an eco-paradise. If we said in New Zealand tomorrow that we would decriminalise marijuana we would have hordes of tourists wanting to come and lie down and smoke a joint, because people say it is so far away and when you get there you can’t score anything! Give people their weed and let them have a holiday in paradise.

So what does the future hold for you and kiwi seeds?

We have won the cup again this year and I was almost looking to take a break but the race is on to get out all the seeds that are in the catalogue this year. We are doing some feminised seeds this year, purely through pressure to do that. I really don’t like the idea of spreading genetically modified seeds round the world and ruining our stocks of plants.

When people buy feminised seeds what would you caution them about?

If they have any love for marijuana and the species as a whole, if you buy feminised seeds you should grow them, clone them and flower them but don’t try and seed them. If you grow a plant and it is a couple of months old and a couple of feet high you can sex it there and then. Just take a gauze bag, stick it over the very lower branch. Doesn’t have to be perfectly 12/12. Give it a lot of darkness and a little bit of air as well and that branch will sex and you can pull it out or keep growing it. It means that you don’t need to have feminised seeds.

Are you looking for new strains if people back home have the meanest weed around and want to get that to you?

Absolutely. Just give us an email or ring or put it in a video case. We actually supply little containers if people want to send a clone. We would be absolutely honoured to grow those things
out.

Maybe we could get the Mako Haze back and enter the Auckland Cup! Are there official overseas sites that people can go to to buy your seeds?

We sell to distributors and some of those take the risk for selling overseas, mainly everyonedoesit.co.uk. There is no problem with it at the moment but as a producer we have to be careful. England seems to have no problems sending anywhere in the world.

So there you have it, go for the English sites. Thanks to Tim, Dave and all the crew at Kiwiseeds, and here’s to winning your third Cup!

[originally published in NORML News Autumn 2009]

Legends of Hashish

The best party of cup week was not part of the Cup. Legends of Hashish is an invite-only private party held at a Lebanese Restaurant. Everyone there is a cannabis legend in their own right, and everyone brings a piece to show off.

It was astounding.

The worst piece in the room was better than anything at the cup or in any coffeeshop.

Pipes and bongs filled with all sorts of hashes were continually passed around the room and the nice thing about smoking hash is that you don’t get sleepy.

To really set the scene, videos taken in Afghanistan in the 1980’s were playing on a large television screen. They showed mullahs and very traditional looking Afghan dudes crumbling about 50 grams of hash into these huge stand-up water bongs they call Chillums. These are ornately beaded and feature a large sculpted cone called a sarcona. The guys were very serious about the task before them and wanted to talk to god, which they apparently did. Many fell over and started spasming or vomiting then going into a trance dance.

After a while I could tell the whole room was thinking the same thing: “and I thought I was hard. How do these guys do it?”

Then two of these huge waterpipes were wheeled out. Rob handed me a lump of vintage Afghani hash and asked me to break it up. Barge set to work on the Maroccan. The Chairman sat by the chillum, pouring a fresh spoon full of 1988 Hindu Kush ice hash on top for every person. As he explained to me, in the 1980’s they selected the original Hindu Kush and Skunk #1 mother plants from a kilo of seeds they had smuggled out of Afghanistan. They grew the lot out and selected only those two plants, which they have kept alive as mothers ever since.

The sarcona cones were filled with about 25 grams of hash each: Maroccan layered over Nepali layered over Afghan, with that magic 20-year-old Hindu Kush ice hash on top. Several people fell over after taking a hit, and everyone agreed it was the most high they had ever been – me included!

It was such an amazing night that it would be impossible for the cup to compare, no matter what they pulled out of the bag.

Judging great hash

Assessing the quality of great hashish is not as simple as marijuana. You can use a loupé or magnifying glass but you can’t always tell what you are looking at. Adulterants are commonly added. But there are a few simple tricks.

Unfortunately “is it hard or soft” is no longer one of them, because dodgy suppliers have worked out how to add whatever it takes to make a hard hash soft or vice versa. There are labs in Amsterdam that boast they can take a hash from anywhere in the world and turn it into whatever type you want it to be. That means coffeeshops can still sell popular types even if they can’t get any! If you come across some hash, check how it sounds when you drop it.

Has it got “clack”? That’s how good hash sounds. Not click or clunk or dink or donk.

The next question is, has it got snap? When you pull it apart does the hash ‘snap’ leaving a tail? Poor quality hard hash cannot be pulled apart, while mediocre soft hash will stretch and crumble.

Finally, does it bubble? When you put a flame to it, does it fizz, melt and bubble? That’s what the best hash should do.

As I found, there are very few hashes these days that pass all of these tests, even in Amsterdam and even at the Cannabis Cup. I was lucky enough to check out all the entries for the Import Hash Cup.

After the cup was over, our inside lady in the Temple Dragon Crew, the cup organising committee, took me and Rob to check out what was left of the entries. Surprisingly, there was a lot left, although all of the local ice hashes had been consumed. The hotel was littered with ashtrays overflowing with roaches bigger than thumbs.

Of the 20 or so import hashes, we picked 5 that we thought would be worth smoking and took away hefty lumps of each. Only one passed the all the tests, and it was very tasty indeed (‘Aalin Grano Cru’ from Boerejonens Coffeeshop). It had snap, clack and bubble and oh my gosh did it do the business.

Rob and I raced to finish it, but the others – and these were the best of the cup entries – were a bit disappointing. A couple fizzed slightly but after half a toke just tasted of carbon.

The best hash finished nowhere in the cup, probably not helped by being entered by an little-known coffeeshop. The winners were rather predictably Barney’s Farm and Green House Seeds, the two most-promoted brands in Amsterdam.

Disclaimer: This post like others on this site is for information and education only. Marijuana and hashish are legal in Amsterdam but not in New Zealand. Check your local laws.

Amsterdam Legalize Parade, Netherlands

By Chris Fowlie, President, NORML New Zealand, 2002

The Dutch do not celebrate J Day with the rest of the world, partly because they have already achieved what the rest of us want, but mostly because the first Saturday in May is also the Dutch independence day. Marijuana festivities were instead held Saturday June 8 with a Legalize! parade through the city to a waterfront party involving about a dozen sound systems on trucks.

Legalize parade Legalize parade

The parade grew to thousands of people from all walks of life dancing their way through the streets in a celebration of all things cannabis. When we finally reached the empty lot by the waterfront the trucks spread out in a circle and the techno, trance, dub and house sound systems competed for the crowd.

Jan and the De Verdamper crew from the Dordrect Weed Cup were there with what is quite possibly the world’s largest vaporiser. It features a heat gun that filled an excessively-large glass water bong with THC vapour and yes, it does deliver a tasty and healthy hit.

Legalize parade portable battery powered vaporiser
Legalize parade Chris Fowlie tries the worlds largest vaporiser

After the Amsterdam parade I traveled through France to Spain.

Dordrect Weed Cup, Netherlands

By Chris Fowlie, President, NORML New Zealand, 2002

I decided to celebrate passing the Haarlem Coffeeshop College course with a trip to Dordrect for the annual Weed Cup.

Dordrect Weed Cup

The 8th Annual Dordrect Weed Cup was held on a large boat that cruised for six hours through more than 100km of ports and waterways from Dordrect to Rotterdam and back. Unlike the High Times Cannabis Cup, this is a grower’s cup so no coffeeshops or seed companies can enter. It is a test of the grower’s skills more than the genetics, and a very laid-back and sociable occasion.

Jan on board the Weed Cup boatThe sun was shining, bands and djs played on the three levels of the boat and there was lots of weed to smoke. The Dutch marijuana community was well represented, with people from Pollinator, Hemperium, Gypsey Nirvana, KC Brains, Sensi Seeds, High Life and Mountain High all relaxing and enjoying the good weather and great ganga.

Judges at the Weed CupThe judging was by a lucky panel who got to examine all the anonymous samples and grade them for smell, taste, appearance, trimming and effect. Rather than smoking all forty entries, samples were vaporised and the air sniffed and snorted so the judges didn’t get incapacitated by cannabinoid overload.

Eagle Bill on board the Weed Cup boatNext to the judge’s table the crew from De Verdamper were offering hits on their vaporisers. On the upper deck chief judge and veteran vaporiser Eagle Bill was using a machine with a heat gun to inflate a large balloon with THC vapour and induce said cannabinoid overload in as many people as possible.

Gypsey Nirvana buds at the Weed CupAt the end of the day, the winner was a Mexican Haze, a sativa grown organically by a non-smoking and heavily pregnant mother who wasn’t even there in case she went into labour on the boat. Congratulations to her, and thanks to Jan from the Dordrect Grow Shop for organising the Weed Cup.

After the cup I stayed with my friend Arjan, who I first met at Auckland University through the Norml club and over many shared joints in the Upper Common Room. Dutch tolerance for personal cultivation extends to five plants, and Arjan had waited until I arrived to harvest his crop of Snow White and Jack Widow. We could see through the loupé that the trichome cells were bursting with resin. After a night stored next to some silica gel it was ready to smoke.

The cuttings had been organised through the local grow store, and if he had grown too much for himself, Arjan could always sell the excess to the local coffeeshop for a little pocket money. It is estimated that around 75% of the Dutch supply is small-scale home growers supplementing their income, but before the coffeeshops there was only the hash smuggled by drug cartels.

Back to Amsterdam for the Legalize Parade.

Haarlem Coffeeshop College, Netherlands

By Chris Fowlie, President, NORML New Zealand, 2002

Just ten minutes by train from Amsterdam, the quiet town of Haarlem is providing a model example to the rest of the world of how coffeeshops can best be run.

Nol van Schaik runs Haarlem’s three Willie Wortel coffeeshops and Maruska der Blaauw the Global Hemp Museum. Together with Wernard Brunning, who opened the very first coffeeshop in 1972, they have started a coffeeshop training course. As soon as I heard, I knew I had to go.

Haarlem Cannabizness

Chris Fowlie with Nol van SchaikThe Coffeeshop College “cannabizness” course aims to export the successful Dutch coffeeshop model around the world. It was started after Nol co-founded the Dutch Experience coffeeshop in Stockport UK with medical marijuana advocate Colin Davies and sparked huge interest all around the world.

Courses are scheduled for the last week of each month, but this time I was the only student to turn up which meant I had personal one-on-one tuition and the opportunity to structure classes to teach me exactly what I needed to know.

First came the theory and the development of the Dutch policy. There is a common perception that the Dutch Government must have thought of the idea but actually the first moves were from brave and principled people acting in defiance of the law.

The Lowland Seed Company started it all in 1969 when they sold and gave away thousands of cannabis seedlings from a barge near the centre of Amsterdam, in order to convince people to grow their own.

Then in 1972, Wernard and his friends opened the Mellow Yellow, with one house dealer sitting in front of the bar like a customer. Less than ten grams in pre-bagged deals was kept in an old jacket hanging on the wall and nearby a sign read “The management is not responsible for people’s belongings left on the premises”. If the jacket was ever found it had nothing to do with the cafe and there was nothing the police could do.

After five attempts the police gave up raiding the Mellow Yellow and it was followed by the Bulldog, the Milkyweg and others. Eventually the government, police and health authorities all agreed that the coffeeshops were a good thing, and formalised the tolerance policy with licenses, regulations and regular inspections. The point is that if the Dutch pot pioneers had waited for coffeeshops to happen, they may still have been waiting.

Dutch cannabis policy was designed primarily to separate the markets for pot and hard drugs and best protect young people. The Mayor sets the rules and so they vary slightly in each municipality. Haarlem’s 16 cannabis cafes have worked closely with the council and the police and their AHOYG rules have since been widely copied by other municipalities: The A is for no Alcohol, H for no Hard drugs, O means no Overlast or nuisance, Y is no Youth, meaning those under 18 (it used to be 16, and now those youth who are potentially the most vulnerable in society go to criminals to get their cannabis), and the G is for the Gram limit. Coffeeshops are supposed to hold no more than 500 grams in total and limit individual sales to less than 5 grams.

Dealer at Willie Wortels Vending machine at Willie Wortels

Amsterdam gives coffeeshops the option of selling alcohol if they want, while Haarlem, like most towns, does not. Amsterdam also has a policy of wanting to reduce the number of coffeeshops over time by revoking their permits for even the tiniest infraction. This certainly keeps the coffeeshops on their toes and following the rules. If the rules are not followed, the coffeeshops are given yellow cards like in football. Finding an underage person on the premises brings one card, and possibly being forced to close for a week, while hard drugs will attract three cards and instant closure.

One of the oddest aspects of the Dutch tolerance policy is that it does not apply to commercial growers. Coffeeshops can sell out the front door, but there is no lawful way for them to get supplies in the back door. Seeds are legal, and so the coffeeshops work with the grow stores to develop ’grow circles’, where home growers share tips and expertise and coordinate their grow cycles and varieties so the coffeeshop is kept in a constant supply. All this must be done in secret just like in New Zealand, although the grow stores are very social places and there’s no pretending that all the gear is for tomatoes.

Chris at the microscope Hash by Nol

After the theory we got on with the practical. Lessons in judging and inspecting cannabis were done with the help of a loupé and digital microscope, and a smoke or two. It was fascinating to compare Nepalese temple balls with Maroccan hash and local keif, and to see the increased trichome density in a sativa haze compared to an indica skunk. I was taught a battery of tests for judging the quality of hash, none of which involved actually smoking it.

Then we covered the practical aspects of running a cafe and bar, with job schedules, storage control, hygiene, and guidelines for staff and management. I did two practical shifts, one behind the coffee bar and the other in the dealer’s booth.

Chris Dealing Chris making coffee

It was a wonderful experience to legally sell the world’s finest marijuana and hash to more than fifty consenting adults. Willie Wortels sells 13 types of grass (most popular: Power Plant and Sage), 10 types of hash and 9 types of machine-rolled joints. The grass is mostly locally grown Nederweit while the hash is mostly imported from the far corners of the world, although locals are increasingly making water hash and compressed “polm” from their crystal-coated bud trimmings.

Dutch coffeeshops have protected the health of their customers by ensuring only quality (mostly organic) produce are sold. All coffeeshops want a good reputation and they cannot get away with selling inferior hash or marijuana because their customers will come back and complain, unlike with an illegal dealer.

Mediweed PotchocWillie Wortel’s participates in the Medi Weit programme that offers half price cannabis to medical users. Growers are also encouraged to donate 10% of their crop or even just the leaves to be pollinated or made into canna-chocolate. About 400 Dutch pharmacies also sell medical marijuana provided by the company Maripharm.

On a field trip to the Interpolm grow store in Haarlem we found a group of growers sharing stories around a Pollinator machine. This Dutch invention is a silk-screen drum that you fill with marijuana and as it spins the THC-containing trichomes fall through the screen to be collected underneath. A thick layer lined the tray and to my delight I was given a big bag to try. It doesn’t get much better – or healthier – than smoking pure trichomes with absolutely no plant matter. They can even be added to your bedtime cocoa or sprinkled on your cornflakes.

Trichome hot chocolate Close up of some trichomes

I had earlier met the inventor of the Pollinator, Mila, in Amsterdam. She showed me a ten foot-long model called the Pollinator Forever (“you shovel, it tumbles”) which some German researchers had ordered. The German government allowed them to work with THC for the medical research they were conducting, but would not let them import it or grow any plants to get it. They had worked out a way of turning CBD, which still occurs in low-THC hemp, into THC. They needed a lot, so they had ordered the biggest Pollinator in order to process a field of hemp into the THC they wanted. Just like the pot smokers, scientists too must find devious ways to get around the absurd prohibition on cannabis.

Our field trip continued to Amsterdam, where I put my new knowledge to use evaluating the coffeeshops. We also happened to meet the inventor of the joint rolling machine, which churns out 120 conical joints in 20 minutes with no saliva, a minimum of paper and the option of your store logo printed on them. It’s just so civilised here.

Chris takes the test Trying out the ROOR bong

Finally the end of the week came and it was time to sit the test. I passed with 93% correct, which was the highest score so far and probably makes me the most suitably qualified person to start a coffeeshop in New Zealand.

I decided to celebrate the occasion with a trip to Dordrect for the annual Weed Cup. >>
More Photos of the Wilie Wortel Coffeeshop in Haarlem

Dealer at Willie Wortels Machine at Willie Wortels
Tony the dealer at Willie Wortels Inside Willie Wortels
Jointjars at Willie Wortels Jointjars at Willie Wortels

Dealer at Willie Wortels

Amsterdam, Netherlands

By Chris Fowlie, President, NORML New Zealand, 2002

The Dutch constitution protects the right to “rush” so the use and possession of cannabis is not punishable, but contrary to appearances, coffeeshops are not actually legal in the Netherlands. They are tolerated, which means as long as they follow the rules the law against supply is not enforced. After thirty years of tolerating this blatant open dealing, the Dutch now have lower rates of using cannabis than the rest of Europe or New Zealand.

The coffeeshop policy has also achieved an excellent separation of the drug markets, with cannabis buyers no longer coming into contact with hard drug sellers, and this has put the Netherlands far ahead of the rest of the world with very low rates of hard drug use.

The Dutch are sensible and pragmatic, and say that society rests upon “pillars” of people and each, although different, supports society in their own way. If any are removed it weakens society as a whole. Dutch people recognise that cannabis consumers do not harm society in any way, so users are accepted and treated normally, although they don’t particularly like obnoxious tourists smoking up a storm in public. There are coffeeshops for that, and the Dutch social code of conduct says you’re supposed to use them. With that advice in mind I set out to visit as many coffeeshops as I could to sample their delectable delights, all in the name of research.

There are around 250 coffeeshops in Amsterdam and they cater to just about every taste. The better ones such as De Dampkring, Abraxas, Greenhouse and the Rockerij put a lot of effort into their decor, creating fantasy environments in which to while away the time. Better coffeeshops sell “over the scales”, meaning they sell exactly how much you want, and weigh it in front of you. This takes more time, so the tourist places that just want your money sell pre-bagged grass in fixed denominations, similar to a regular dealer.

Amsterdam Red Light DistrictMost tourists head for the red light area, which has the highest concentration of coffeeshops and is certainly worth visiting, but most coffeeshops there just want your money. Like McDonalds, the seats are not comfortable enough for you to want to stay long. As well as the tourist-orientated coffeeshops like the Grasshopper and the Bulldog, I would recommend heading to where the locals go, so look for ones named in Dutch instead of English; the prices and selection will be better, and you’ll get to sample some real Dutch culture. The Spui, Leidseplein and Waterloo areas are all nice, but get a map because you will get lost amongst all those canals. Everyone speaks English which makes life a lot easier when you’re really high.

There are also many smart shops and grow shops to check out. As well as advanced lighting and horticultural equipment, grow shops also sell cannabis seeds and you can smoke the end product in the store. Smart shops sell pipes, bongs, cannabis seeds, magic mushrooms and a huge variety of legal herbal highs, which are a much better alternative for someone who wants something other than cannabis than buying hard drugs off the street. The dosage is known and consistent, there is always a lot of information available and the stores are run by people who want to inform and educate their customers rather than rip them off.

Despite the neon signs, blatant open dealing, and freedom to choose your own drug, Amsterdam seemed a lot more civilised to me than Queen Street on a Friday night. There is certainly less public wastedness and much safer streets.

Just ten minutes by train from Amsterdam, the quiet town of Haarlem is providing a model example to the rest of the world of how coffeeshops can best be run.

Nol van Schaik runs Haarlem’s three Willie Wortel coffeeshops and Maruska der Blaauw the Global Hemp Museum. Together with Wernard Brunning, who opened the very first coffeeshop in 1972, they have started a coffeeshop training course. As soon as I heard, I knew I had to go. >>