The Great Cannabis Experiment: Ian Brown on Growing Your Own Weed

Cannabis has been legal in Canada since October 17, 2018. As part of a fun experiment, Globe and Mail journalist Ian Brown attempts his own miniature grow op in a sealed hydroponic container called a Grobo. It will be easy, they said, it will be odor-free, they said. Sadly, neither was true. After one failed sprout and one dead sprout, Brown succeeds as his plant, Gretchen, grows to maturity. Growing your own pot is a lot harder than it looks.

Suddenly, Mr. Stewart said: “Why don’t you grow some pot?” His theory, from what I could make of it, in between the references to Moby Dick and fly fishing – Mr. Stewart likes to operate on at least three channels at once – was that this quest to grow marijuana would acquaint me with the obsessions of the gardening mind, that jungle of detail and duty in which a watchful soul evades the thugs Random Weather and Lurking Pestilence and manages, with little more than a seed and her dirt-stained hands and her patience, to create something more. At least I think that was what was on my editor’s mind. The point is, he did not for a moment consider the likelihood of humiliation. Editors seldom do. But it’s always lurking somewhere in a gardener’s sense of the future.

The following September, I happened upon the Grobo, a marijuana-growing device. It seemed to solve a lot of problems. I am an eager if inept gardener, but growing pot is complicated. It was winter, for starters. Growing it indoors in my house was never going to happen, because of the smell and the stigma.

The Grobo, on the other hand, was a data-based, tech-driven, algorithmic answer to the mercurial unkemptness of Nature herself: a self-contained metal unit that did the dirty work for you. It looked like a stereo speaker, and was depicted on the Grobo website sitting demurely in the sleek living room of what was obviously a high-rise. It grew hydroponic cannabis of any variety one plant at a time, from seed (nowadays clones work, too), and was managed via an app on a cellphone. For an inexperienced blackthumb, it seemed perfect.

I tested some of my first weed that very afternoon, drying it beforehand for 10 seconds in the microwave, which I have since learned does not enhance the terpene profile of cannabis. But the high did not make me want to cut off my head and mail it to some Salome of my ancient acquaintance, which I thought was a plus. Meanwhile, my most experienced pot-smoking friend popped some in a jar for two days with a two-way humidity-control packet. He later sent me an evaluation. “Pretty much exclusively a head high,” he wrote, “in the classic sativa style … the vibe is more torque than speed so the effect lasts longer but you don’t get the burnout. Very serviceable.” He noted that the taste was “a bit musty front end, turns sweet at the back end with a hint of cinnamon and goat.” His note was spatially disorganized, uncharacteristically for him: he later admitted that the pot had made him want to do his housecleaning at the same time. I took that as a compliment.

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