The MarijuanaNews Report
Technology and Cannabis: How Vaporizers, Genetics, Hash Making Machines and LED Grow Lights Change Our World
By Richard Cowan
Technology has changed almost everything in our lives, but most people are not aware of the degree to which it has changed the cannabis world.
Most consumers still do what we have always done: apply fire to plant material rolled in paper or packed into a pipe-bowl, just as my grandfather did with Prince Albert (canned tobacco, not Queen Victoria's husband, who never made it to Texas).
Vaporization is still not widely used by most recreational users, and may never appeal to those who only smoke occasionally, but it will have a major impact on the politics of prohibition, because so-much prohibitionist propaganda is focused on the supposed dangers of smoking.
That is why the Drug Czar always refers to the plant as "smoked-marijuana,” and their favorite slogan against medical cannabis is "No medicine is smoked!" Okay, so what? Mention vaporization and their arguments go up in smoke. (Sorry, but I couldn't resist that.)
Oddly, the most loudly proclaimed technological advance, the "sophisticated-hydroponic-grow-ops" that the narcs and media hacks love to talk about, is largely a myth. Most weed is still grown in "soil."
Genetics is the one science that has had the most impact on the end product, until now, but even that has mostly been "amateurish" – in the basic sense that its practitioners just love the plant.
They are not really trained in botany, but have developed a "knack" for it. Some are remarkably talented, and others are just remarkably good at self-promotion.
Of course, prohibition has had a major impact on the choices made by "breeders.” For example, the need for fast-maturing indoor plants may override other considerations.
Also, contraband markets have caused genetic chaos, because very few can really be sure about the source material. Is that "Haze x 4 x google-berry x whatever" really that? The old cliché, "know your dealer,” is even more important when buying seeds.
Despite all these problems, the proliferation of seed-breeding has made prohibition even more difficult to maintain. Ten years ago, the UN narcs were babbling about "eradicating" cannabis from the Earth.
It was always nonsense, but the genetics are so-widely distributed now that even they have had to abandon that fantasy.
Ironically, new technologies – electrostatic and water-based – for making hashish have been developed just as hash has lost market share to bud. Twenty years ago most of the cannabis consumed in Europe was smuggled hash from Morocco, Lebanon and Afghanistan. Today, most of that market is filled by "Euro-weed."
The new hashish will gain market share under either legalization, or extreme prohibition. Under legalization hash will be the best way to standardize doses and maintain quality control. Under extreme prohibition, hash is the easiest way to smuggle cannabis. Fortunately, I think that the former scenario is more likely.
Finally, the development of light-emitting-diode (LED) technology is having a major impact throughout the economy, but there are few areas where it will be more important than in cannabis growing. The March 2008 issue of HIGH TIMES has a feature article on the subject, but most people have not yet grasped its significance.
When I first saw prototypes of LED grow lights a couple of years ago in Canada, the technology was not quite ready, but it was clearly inevitable. Now it is here. Do a Google search on it and you will find a wide choice from several sources for growing tomatoes. Mmmm, tomatoes!
LED technology eliminates two of the greatest security problems faced by contraband growers, high electric bills and heat control. LEDs use almost 90% less electricity, so the police will no longer be able to use high electric bills to find growers. Similarly, the absence of heat means that the police will no longer be able to use heat-seeking technology to get warrants.
The price of LEDs is still relatively high in comparison to conventional lights, but their long life and low operating costs already justify the expense, and costs are certain to fall, as is the case with other electronics.
It also makes growing safer and easier, by eliminating the need for special wiring and cooling equipment. In some areas, it will make year-round growing feasible.
In a year or so, the mainstream media will discover LEDs, and – after their usual hyperventilating – they will see that cannabis prohibition is over. Modern technology is liberating. Let there be light!
Richard Cowan is the former National Director of NORML and currently the publisher of MarijuanaNews.com. Email him atCowan@MarijuanaNews.co