Nobody will be buying recreational marijuana in Colorado Springs any time soon, so we figured it's a fine time to talk about creating it yourself, which you can legally do right now. And since the only thing I know about growing anything is that I can get away with watering my spider plant four times a year, I hit the downtown cannabis club Studio A64 one recent weeknight.
There, Kansas native Clint Cooper is helping teach around 15 people — including a buttoned-down professional smoking an e-cigarette, an elderly woman covered in necklaces, and a green-card-holding gentleman named Vladimir — how to turn a seed into sensimilla.
First, though, let me just acknowledge the many different ways there are to grow this plant. This story's about doing it at home in dirt, as simply as possible, but you can really pour as much effort and money into it as you want.
Generally, Cooper says, growing in soil is cheap, but slow; hydroponics (roots growing in nutrient-rich water) is quick, but expensive; and a method like deep water culture (roots in oxygenated water) is super fast but requires a lot of oversight. Yet even doing it the way I'm likely to — confused and overwhelmed — the marijuana plant is a hardy sucker with a will to thrive.
"Personally, on my first grow, I got six ounces a plant," says Cooper, a friendly, short-haired 23-year-old Pueblo resident wearing a blue Kansas Jayhawks shirt and new-looking Pumas. "And I've got anywhere from two ounces to four ounces a plant, consistently, with pretty minimal effort. That's what you could expect from a soil grow, with a 600-watt light, or an equivalent LED."
Do it yourself
The background on the whole thing is that Amendment 64 allows for home grows of six plants (three flowering) for over-21 adults "provided that the growing takes place in an enclosed, locked space, is not conducted openly or publicly, and is not made available for sale." You can also keep everything you produce, as long as you store it "on the premises where the plants were grown" and don't take more than an ounce out into the world.
If you're already a medical patient, you can probably go to a nearby center and grab some female clones to plant. This option likely will come to recreational stores, too, but that will obviously take a drive to Denver or the like, so it might be seeds — a grab bag of male and female — for you. There's a variety of ways to get them — distribution of limited amounts of marijuana between adults is legal as long as nobody gets paid — but online is probably easiest.
Actually, and with the full acknowledgment that buying local is always better, Craigslist and Amazon are great places to find all sorts of things for this process. At a bare minimum, you're going to need around $250 for containers of different sizes, dirt, grow lights, soil additives and other equipment. Also required is a strong sense of cleanliness, and almost anything but tap water, which contains additives and particulate matter: Let it sit out, boil it, filter it, use a reverse-osmosis filter, or ideally, buy mineral-rich Eldorado spring water, but never pour the stock stuff straight onto your babies.
"If you use tap water, it will mess [your plants] up. ... You don't ever not have water," Cooper emphasizes, joking that if you're down to your last few bucks, you don't buy lunch — you buy water.
So, use that good (warmed-up) water to wet down paper towels. Wrap your seeds in those, put them in a plastic bag, and store them for a day in a dark, warm spot. Soon, out pop their tails. Those little guys go into little spongy starter cubes from Root Riot; those go into a water tray that can be juiced with root stimulant; and ultimately you're waiting for a few "whiskers" to come poking out.
It's at this point in the four-hour class — offered for $25 every third Wednesday — when a blunt starts to make the rounds, to shouts of "Power to the people!" Everything will periodically pause as people accidentally drop it. Bowls of homegrown are also frequently proffered, turning the whole thing into a laid-back basement sesh where watts, amps and ohms meet phosphorite, langbeinite and Azomite.
Anyway, once you've got whiskers, stick that sucker in a one-gallon container, graduating it to a five when roots have filled the bottom; Cooper recommends using FoxFarm soil and cloth Smart Pots lined with a spacer like Hydroton. These will go under your light set-up, which gets as complex as you like, though generally one 600-watt, high-pressure sodium light is fine for two to three plants. You can also have different bulbs for different phases of growing, but one will technically get the job done as long as you pay attention to the on-off requirements. Don't forget to vent the heat from the bulb out of your house, either.
This is where different techniques used to maximize yield come into play, like low-stress training, circulating strong air currents, or topping the plant. But if your lights, watering and nutrients are good, and your plant breaks female instead of male, there will probably be bud. In general, says Cooper: "The best you're gonna do is about one gram per watt. That is pretty much growing as good as you can grow, from everything I've read," he says, "and I've never got that yield."
It's going to get stinky, so consider hanging a carbon filter; grow tents offer good structure for all the various apparatuses, among other benefits. Also, this whole thing will increase your utility bill, just depending on your set-up, but it quickly evens out if you were buying your marijuana before.
The last steps involve flushing, harvesting, trimming, drying and curing your plants, but there's a whole additional story on the specifics there. If you've read this far, just know that the whole process can run as short as 16 weeks and as long as 40 or more. Like growing anything, it's a labor of love.
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