"The ganja guru," Ed Rosenthal, is an international authority on cannabis horticulture, as well as an author, educator, social activist and legalization pioneer.
Co-founder of High Times magazine, Ed is a professor at Oaksterdam University in Oakland, California, and author of "Ed Rosenthal's Marijuana Grower's Handbook," a book that, since 1978, has inspired millions of people to learn the best marijuana growing techniques.
In 2002, Ed was prosecuted and his case influenced public opinion in favor of state medical marijuana laws. At the age of 77, the professor and author puts into perspective the advances of the home cultivation movement, raises some questions inherent to the industry and offers a few clues to think about the future of legalization.
Everyone should have the right to grow their own marijuana
Since Ed began championing the cause of home cultivation, 50 years ago, the movement has achieved some degrees of freedom in terms of where we can grow our cannabis and under what rules. However, he believes this is an incomplete revolution and that there are still many rights to conquer.
The horticulturist explains that there are several state laws in the United States that allow people to consume and buy, but not grow on their own cannabis. For example, in the state of Washington, where people cannot currently grow, but can buy cannabis in licensed dispensaries.
Why home cultivation?
First of all, home cultivation is about reclaiming pleasure, collective and individual enjoyment. "Growing a plant is a pleasure," says Rosenthal.
Another reason to support home cultivation is a question of health: "When we grow we know what we are consuming and thus we can avoid consuming pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers".
And, finally, there are reasons for social justice. "It is much cheaper (and therefore more accessible to everyone) to grow cannabis naturally, rather than going out and buying it," Ed adds.
"Marijuana use may not be addictive, but growing it is. There are people who don't use marijuana anymore, but they still like to cultivate the plant. Growing is very addictive, and probably, the reason is that of anthropomorphism: marijuana has stages of growth: a vegetative stage, a reproductive stage, like human beings."
From 'marijuana' to 'cannabis': the resignification of a plant
Since the late 1970s, the U.S. has seen an explosion of home cultivation and the cannabis culture has spread around the world. In part, thanks to the work of people like Ed.
Since then, the meaning of marijuana has mutated: stepping from being a countercultural revolutionary flag to being a commodity, a lifestyle, and a life-enhancing medicine, that stimulates productive, relaxed, and happy individuals who abide by the dominant social rules.
Ed finds it very interesting that cannabis has gone from being a pariah to being considered an essential product during the pandemic. And believes that, in part, this was due to a question of social control: if people were going to stay at home, the government understood that it would be much healthier for them to consume marijuana rather than alcohol.
Ed describes the expansion of cannabis culture internationally as a driver of global change. “Something similar to what is happening in the music industry”.
"Like with Seth Rogen smoking a joint on TV, how do you know where that kid can travel with his message? Everywhere, of course! There's an international aspect to the expansion of our movement and there's also a strong regional aspect."
The experienced horticulturist states that a particular gene pool can be grown in different areas because of its resistance to disease or other environmental conditions.
Varieties and cultivation techniques differ in yield by zone, and yields vary according to latitudes. All these aspects influence each region to develop different ways of relating to the plant and different cannabis cultures that contribute to legalizing the plant.
Legalization in perspective
Ed Rosenthal believes that the advance of legalization in California progressed as a matter of racial justice, on the one hand; and, on the other, as a cultural change that swept the entire country, starting in 1973 when marijuana was decriminalized for the first time in Oregon.
According to Ed, once marijuana was presented as a medical issue, "more and more people became familiar with it because more people were using it." General acceptance of marijuana grew and "reached the majority of voters sometime in the late 1990s in California."
And he clarifies that "in Northern California, growers were notably absent in the push for legalization, a good portion of them wanted it to remain illegal to continue to have a market with inflated prices because of the risk of getting caught."
"It was a long-term process, with tipping points, it took 50 years, but society went from being two-thirds against it to maybe two-thirds in favor …