A flower of the Wedding Cake strain, a week away from harvest.  (Jessica Nelson)

The seeds of a problem

A lack of variety offered by cannabis shops is sending growers
who want variety to the black market
By Jessica Nelson

THERE ARE four cannabis dispensaries in the City Centre neighbourhood, but only one sells seeds. Nova Cannabis offers one brand that has only two varieties: an Indica and a hybrid. These are the only seeds legally available for home growers in the province, under Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis rules.

Brothers Michael and Steve are experienced cannabis home growers. (They asked their last names be withheld … for obvious reasons.) They say they have experimented with various methods of growing over the course of a decade. Right now, they grow their plants in Michael’s walk-in closet.

“My system is an aeroponic system, which is a style of hydroponics,” Michael says. “The plants grow in air and I have a pump that blasts the roots with water every minute or two. They grow under some lights – in a tent – with a fan to pull hot air out and maintain humidity.” 

Despite the fact that homeowners are only legally allowed to grow AGLC seeds, neither Michael nor Steve have bought the seeds the

A newly sprouted plant grown from seed swap seeds. (Jessica Nelson)

agency distributes to various dispensaries across Alberta. They say there is a lack of consistency with AGLC’s stock, as well as high prices, and level of variety.

“For the most part, people who are interested in growing weed are interested in smoking it or consuming it in some way,” Steve says.

“They’re interested in variety, the potential of different strains and chemicals and flavours – the things that you can get from growing different strains.”

The brothers – like many home growers – rely on seeds from the grey market, and attend events such as “seed and clone swaps.” They say these seeds produce better plants, with better bud, and at a more reasonable price.

The black and grey-market seeds, they add, come from people who have experience with, and a passion for, growing and consuming cannabis.

“To have only one or two strains – which might not be very effective for the people who actually need it – is prohibiting them from being able to enter and start taking care of their needs in their own way,” Steve says. “In addition to being economical, it’s a lot of fun and it’s joyous, too.”

Michael currently has two plants and a seedling. One of the seeds came from a bag of black-market weed, which would not happen with government grown bud, because of the legal requirement for cannabis to be sold seed-free. His other seeds came from a grey-market website and a seed swap.

Michael is passionate about growing and interacting with his plants. By doing so, he says he has better control over the quality of his products. 

“They’re just not able to produce bud of the same quality. It’s expensive as fuck when you’re spending between $15 to $17 a gram for stuff that is dry as fuck, and grown who knows where and with who knows what, and with what kind of care and attention. So that’s why I started growing.

“I like the flavour of a nice joint or toke, and that’s something that the government just can’t deliver. It’s like a Cuban cigar versus cigarettes; they are both tobacco.

“But one is infinitely better than the other.”

Purple grow lights help mimic natural conditions allowing the plants to grow to their full potential. (Jessica Nelson)

 

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