Pubdate: Thu, 19 Apr 2012
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2012 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Mark Haskell Smith
Note: Excerpted from Heart of Dankness (c) 2012 by Mark Haskell 
Smith. Published by Signal, a division of Random House of Canada 
Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.


In a new book, Mark Haskell Smith explores our relationship with the 
cannabis plant

Franco walked into the coffee shop dressed head to toe in yellow and 
black motorcycle racing leathers. He had asked me to meet him for 
lunch at the Green House United Coffeeshop on Haarlemmerstraat. It's 
one of several coffeeshops owned by Green House and Green House 
Seeds, where Franco is a partner. I had been sitting under a vibrant 
gold-colored mural depicting what looked like the ancient Phoenician 
or Minoan alphabet and watching the ornamental carp swim back and 
forth in the massive fish tank installed under the glass floor.

It was early still, in between breakfast and lunch, and the only 
other customers in the coffee shop were a young British man who was 
eating hard-boiled eggs with toast in between hits on a massive joint 
and a welldressed man in his late forties who sat drinking coffee, 
working on his laptop, and inhaling from a vapourizer bag. Except for 
the cannabis being consumed, it could have been any cool cafe in any 
city in the world.

I wanted to talk to Franco about Super Lemon Haze. It was the 
reigning Cannabis Cup champion, having won two years in a row, and 
one of the most popular strains in the world. I had tried some at the 
previous year's Cannabis Cup and I liked it a lot. It has a mild 
citrus flavour and a clear sativa high. It's easy to see why it's 
such crowd pleaser. I was curious how they developed it.

"Well, it's a very old-school classic taste with a new twist. The 
father is based on Super Silver Haze and the mother is Lemon Skunk."

Franco leaned forward. He wanted to make sure I heard this right. 
"Lemon Skunk is a very special plant. Combining the two has been a 
natural success story. And actually the breeding was very easy. We 
just made an F1 hybrid from the parents, planted a bunch of them and 
made a selection. Select, select, select. That's the key to finding 
something amazing. It was amazing to me that you can take out a 
champion from just an F1 hybrid."

"F1 hybrid" is a term used in genetics that stands for the first 
generation of offspring from two distinct species. While it's not 
unusual to have a good F1 hybrid if both the parents have good 
genetics, it is rare to have a world-class F1 hybrid just pop up. 
"What gave you the idea of combining the two plants in the first place?"

Franco began rolling me a pure spliff of Special Sweet Skunk while he talked.

"Creating strains is something that requires three things: Landraces 
to start with, logistics - very big logistics are required - and it 
requires good knowledge of the customer base ... what people want." 
"Like any other business." Spliff rolled, he licked the paper and 
sealed it, then continued.

"Green House the company is in a very special position in this 
respect. We are one of the very few seed companies that have access 
to a large customer base through our coffeeshops. We have thousands 
of people coming over every day from literally all over the world. 
It's very easy for us to get feedback and to see what people smoke 
here, what they like, and why they like it."

"So you, what? You run coffeeshop focus groups?"

Franco nodded. He handed me the joint. The smoke tasted as good as 
the bud smelled. Absolutely delicious.

I looked at Franco as I exhaled. "What does 'dank' mean to you?"

He took a sip of an espresso and considered it. "Dank is a very 
American concept so to be defined by a European is already a tough 
job." "Isn't there some European version?"

He thought about this for a moment. "The European version of dank? I 
guess it would legality, because of its status. A lot of people want 
to reconnect with this plant because they feel the plant has been 
taken away from them. And so people unite in one feeling, one 
community. Some of them do it recreationally; some need it for 
medicinal be 'the underground.' "

I wasn't sure I followed, but Franco started getting into it, talking 
rapidly with lots of Italian hand gestures. "Listen, dank is a way of 
life, it's a way of living, being connected with the plant - a plant 
that has been disconnected from the people for a long time because of 
its illegality, because of its status. A lot of people want to 
reconnect with this plant because they feel the plant has been taken 
away from them. And so people unite in one feeling, one community. 
Some of them do it recreationally; some need it for medicinal 
reasons. Some for religious purposes because they feel they can talk 
to God with the plant. There are many different reasons, but the 
bottom line is that humans have been in relations with this plant for 
thousands and thousands of years and you cannot just break the 
relationship by declaring the plant illegal. It doesn't work like that."

So "dank" means you're a member of a community? "I thought 'dank' had 
more to do with the quality of the plant," I said.

Franco took a hit off the tobacco and Special Sweet Skunk joint and 
wagged a finger at me as he exhaled. "'Dank' goes beyond nature. This 
plant is proven to unite civilizations. It's one of the few common 
natural elements of mankind. It's a common link throughout history, 
throughout geography. You can connect humanity with this plant. Asia, 
Africa, down to the Americas. Everyone has been using this plant for 
one reason or another throughout our history. Name another plant like that."

I wanted to say wheat or rice, but then I wasn't sure. It's true that 
evidence of cannabis and hemp use goes as far back as recorded 
history, and it's been used in almost every culture for rope, fabric, 
medicine, and spiritual practice.

"This plant has been taken away and now people want it back. So being 
dank, living dank, this is a way that allows you to get back to the plant."

Franco stopped and burst out laughing. "Or maybe it allows the plant 
to get back to you."

"Living dank? What does that mean?"

"In Europe we have a big underground movement that is very dank, for 
sure, people who have very little in common apart from this plant. It 
goes through all of Europe, it's rich people, poor people, cultivated 
people, sporty people, couch lock people. That's the funny thing 
about it. It's a very powerful connector." "Like a true underground." 
Franco nodded. "Because the plant has been illegal for so long, 
everyone who has ever tried it knows or has had the feeling of doing 
something wrong. But when they try it, they don't feel it's so wrong. 
It's natural. It's a plant. What can be so bad using a plant? This 
discrepancy you get from knowing you're illegal but feeling good 
about what you're doing, that you're not doing anything wrong - this 
feeling creates a bond between people."

I think I know what Franco's talking about. That bond is the glue 
that holds the counterculture together. It's easy to take Franco's 
description and stretch it into the realm of lifestyle and politics. 
The discrepancy between what a government decrees as bad and what 
aperson understands on a deep, intuitive level as good, is not 
restricted to our current marijuana laws. Modern society oozes with 
this kind of hypocrisy; it's reflected in the way we talk about sex, 
the way we educate our children at school, how our politics are 
disconnected from the populace, and the list goes on. There is a 
growing gap between those with the ability to think critically and 
follow what their intuition tells them is the right thing to do and 
those people whose morality has been perverted by greed and short 
term corporate gain. Franco knocked back his espresso and stood.

"Time to go back to work."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom