It all started July 1st, the day consuming and growing marijuana was legalized in Oregon.
A couple days before, our editor, Mark Katches, asked me if I’d be interested in growing pot on behalf of The Oregonian. I said what most new employees say when their boss invites them to take on a project: an enthusiastic ‘yes!’
I had only been employed as a video reporter at The Oregonian a few weeks at that point. But because I was hired just before pot became legal in the state, I happened to have produced quite a bit of pot-related content from the get-go. So I must’ve seemed like a good fit for this project.
And so I set about to document the growth, harvest, lab testing and consumption of four marijuana plants. The undertaking has been epic. Here are the eight questions I’ve been asked the most along the way.
1. Why did you really say yes?
Because why not. It’s legal in Oregon and 50 years from now, if laws continue to change the way they have, this project has the potential to become a special slice of history. I’d be part of the first newspaper to grow marijuana, document it AND create its own strain. Guinness Book of World Records, are you listening?!
Guess what? Your ol’ granny was a rebel. You know that green stuff they sell at the drug store? That used to be illegal. And grandma was the first one to try growing it for her job when it first became legal. She also walked five miles in the snow to do it… 😉
2. So, did you smoke any of it?
Nope. The only thing I got stoned with were a few nasty comments. (I’ve been waiting to use that line for my final diary reflection.) That aside, what made this project worthwhile were the readers who shared helpful feedback, their own grow pictures and tips. I truly appreciate everyone who tuned in and joined the conversation.
3. But, marijuana is still illegal federally. Are you worried about the law? Future employment?
To the feds: This project is an expression of freedom of speech. And the First Amendment is also a federal law. But, if by the off chance I do go to jail because I documented the legal pot I was growing for work, that means I’ll get to write a book about it! So, either way, it’s a win.
To future employers: This project was about taking risks, innovating, documenting a process and demonstrating writing and multimedia skills. I wouldn’t want work for a company that couldn’t see that.
On the personal front, all of my close friends and family – yes, mom and dad, too – support me 100% in the challenges I take on, including this one.
4. Where did you grow the pot?
Speaking of my supportive parents, I grew the plants in their garage closet. (Don’t get any ideas, the plants are no longer there). They’re not hippies or stoners, either. They’re just two nurturing, encouraging people rooting for their daughter’s success. They even threw in a helping hand when needed.
My dad watered the plants when I couldn’t. My mom took instructions over the phone of how to reset the light timer when the power went out, twice. Both have sent me texts of concern if they noticed a single leaf starting to dry out.
My 82-year-old grandma sang Czech songs to the plants when she visited last summer from Europe. She thought the plants were gorgeous and put some of the pruned branches in a vase on the kitchen window sill. But, we had to explain to her that if a marijuana crop is visible to the public, it’s illegal. She happily moved the vase to the kitchen table, out of view.
And extra thanks to my parents for putting up with the smell. Dogwalker strains tend to be some of the stinkiest around, and things got pretty smelly around harvest. But my parents will happily attest that the stink vanished once I removed the plants after harvest (and scrubbed the floors meticulously with orange-scented cleaner).
So yes, I grew pot in my parent’s garage. It’s terribly cliché but also kind of funny: I couldn’t have done it without them.
Their only rule was to have the plants out by Christmas, which I did…by a hair.
5. What were your favorite parts of the project?
Witnessing the seedlings sprout – This was my first successful moment with the project. And the first evidence that suggested I could do this.Learning the gender – I don’t have kids, so this was closest baby gender reveal I’ve had so far. The anticipation! The excitement! The emotions! Using the latest plant science – call it a seedling sonogram – we found out we had one boy and one girl from seed.Mentorship from one of the best in the business – I couldn’t have asked for a more patient, caring, on-call cannabis genius and mentor than Jeremy Plumb. He’s the commercial cannabis grower and horticulture expert at Farma, a dispensary on Southeast 9th and Hawthorne, and works around the clock to grow organic, boutique-quality bud. I feel so lucky to have had the best grower – and a good human being – by my side during the project.Bringing pot to work – I had to meet a lab courier who would take a 3.5 gram sample of the outdoor grow to OG Analytical, a Eugene-based lab, for testing. I brought the sample to work that morning. That was very surreal.Making seeds (by accident) – I was supposed to remove the male plant from the grow closet as soon as we found out his gender. If you don’t, the males pollinate the females and the females makes seeds instead of potent pot. But I was too attached. So we left him in there a bit too long and his pollen spread everywhere.Transporting the overgrown male plant in an Oregonian fleet car –Once the male plant released pollen, in an emergency, I drove him to Jeremy Plumb’s house where I was essentially told he’s going to go “live on a farm” (AKA, get turned to mulch). And while I drove, this line looped in my head: “Officer, I can explain. This is work-related. I swear.”The male plant in general – He was almost as tall as me. I’m 5′ 2 ¾”. The time lapse (see video above) – The room the indoor plants grew in was TINY. Maintaining the technical set up for six months was a challenge, but totally worth it.Making it to Poynter – You know you’ve reached the pinnacle of your journalistic career when you’ve made it to a Poynter listicle. Not really. But it was fun to do a double-take.
(Can you grow readership AND marijuana? #4 and News you can use: Watering your marijuana #3)
6. Would you grow cannabis again?
That’s a big, fat…maybe. I don’t currently have a backyard or vacant closet available at my apartment complex. But when the Portland real-estate market finally settles and I buy a house, I might throw a few seeds in the ground and try to make Jeremy proud.
7. So you’re, like, a marijuana expert now, right?
Wrong. I wasn’t an expert when I started and I’m not an expert now. I want to emphasize that this project wasn’t supposed to be a How to grow pot guide. Rather, it was an I’m going to try to grow pot for the first time and will likely fail. But If I succeed, you definitely can.
I hope that by letting you watch me fumble through this process, I’ve demystified some of the lore behind the green alien cabbage. And if you learned something along the way, all the better.
Even if you’re not a cannabis consumer, the plants are actually really pretty to look at – my grandma says so! – and a fun challenge to grow.
One pot writer Wylie Atherton told me when he reviewed the flowers I grew, “You have street cred now, Teresa.” No way, I thought.
But as I think back to the Teresa who was sort of surprised by the fact that most people smoke the flowers, not the leaves, and then compare her to the Teresa who can now give a rough definition of a terpene and talk loosely about grow light cycles, maybe I do have some street cred, after all.
8. What’s next?
Now that I’ve been growing pot for the majority of my tenure at The Oregonian, I want to say that it’s time to move on to greener pastures, but I don’t think any project could be as viridescent as this.
Happy growing! And most of all, thanks for tuning in. Ta-ta!
P.S. – I will say that a beer production series is a real possibility. Mom, dad, are you ready??