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From: Whizz@sound.demon.co.uk (Whizz)
Subject: Skunk power
Date: Thu, 30 Sep 1993 17:42:11 +0000
Message-ID: <9309301829.ae02635@dis.demon.co.uk>

Super Grass - by Mandi James.
(reproduced without permission from UK Mixmag, October 1993)

Skunk power!  Forget spliff that sends you to sleep, there's this new,
genetically-bred superweed that gets you rushing, say some users, like
you're using ecstacy. With so many people getting burnt out on class A's,
puffing, as Mandi James reports, is becoming a way of life in Britain.

IT'S reefer madness. In case you hadn't noticed, like you've been out in
the country or hibernating for the last 18 months, weed is suddenly every-
where. Photographed on front covers, written about with relish in style
magazines and probably partly responsible for most of the upfront and
innovative music to come crawling red-eyed from the underground, spliffs
are suddenly all around.

A recent issue of Mixmag featured Mr C grinning like a village idiot on the
front cover, blocked to the max and, unlike all the teeny bop magazines such
as Smash Hits who usually touch up the whites of the eyes for the pure vir-
ginal effect, proudly displaying a pair of delicately pink eyeballs. Walk
into any decent club in the country and guaranteed one corner will always be
unofficially designated to the serious smokers where the pungent smell of
skunk lingers and the smoke hangs heavier than that of the dry ice.

One reason for this is a sudden change in quality as hash (main ingredients,
boot polish and Oxo) has been superseded by weed. Proper weed that is. Plant
stuff, the right gear, that doesn't knock you out but lifts you sky high. In
other words, that does all the things marijuana is supposed to do (but never
did in the past because what you were being sold was cut and diluted with so
much shit). Leaving you side-eyed, wide-awake, and stoned, stoned, stoned.

Thai grass, Jamaican sensi, it's everywhere. But the weed amongst weeds, the
real supergrass, is skunk. Apparently genetically developed in Amsterdam,
skunk is a man-made species of weed with a THC (THC is the active ingredient
in marijuana) content roughly twice as high as normal weed. It stinks, but
it's strong. This isn't the gear to puff last thing at night to give yourself
sweet dreams, because the chances are you'll still be sitting there red-eyed
at dawn counting sheep. You can go out all night on a bag of skunk and stay
awake. Who, then, needs dodgy E's ?

In some areas of the country such as Liverpool, if the police catch you in
possession of a bag of weed chances are you'll be let off with a warning if
the amount is deemed to be for personal use only. The police there take a
more tolerable view of smoking, simply because they know it's so widespread
and they have more serious drug related offences to be dealing with. It's a
handy attitude for such a serious smoking city as most tokers tend to forget
where they are - short-term memory loss being one of the more serious side-
effects of getting blocked on a regular basis - and skin up everywhere all
the time.

It's a dramatic reversal of fortunes for ganja. Perceived as something of a
drippy hippy indulgence during the adrenalin driven rush of punk rock,
relegated to second divison during the coke n' ecstasy fuelled 80s, weed has
been evevated to something of a spirital status, the extent of its use cross-
ing all social barriers, leapfrogging crass youth cultures and slowly seeping
back into the mainstream. And it ain't the block of black or hash, which
makes you sluggish and burns the back of your throat, that is shifting but
acres and acres of lovely fresh green plants.

What used to be a once a month treat for the odd serious smoker is now another
item to be added to the weekly shopping list. Unlike any other drug, indulgers
tend to collect facts and information about weed like they were collecting
stamps or train spotting. Everyone's an expert. How many people who still take
ecstacy actually know how it's synthesised, what ingredients are used and what
the historical context of the drug is ?  But smokers know their weed. What
plant it came from, what the THC level is, what effect it will have on you.

"PEOPLE can't trust E's no more," says Paul who grows and smokes his own. "At
thirteen pound a tenth I don't see it as a bag of weed, I see it as a #13 E
that's gonna last me ten hours when I hammer the whole bag. You can't tan
black or hash like that 'cause you'd just completely mong out. But six, seven
spliffs of good weed I can reach the same level as if I'd popped a pill. It
lasts longer 'cause weed is pure, natural like, you get no nasty comedown the
next day."

Unlike any other drug, marijuana is becoming an integral part of everyday
living for not just the privileged few, the cultural makers and shakers, but
whole cross sections of society from bricklayers to doctors, secretaries to
soldiers. Scratch beneath the surface, dig a little deeper and there's a
whole secret society of tokers and smokers, people who skin up to chill out
yet fall well outside the stereotype of the recreational drug user. Although
buying, growing and supplying weed is still against the law, an activity
punishable by a maximum of 14 years imprisonment, more people smoke it than
go to church or attend football matches.

And it's unique in that it's a drug that's managed to shake off much of the
stigma of being illegal as both smokers and non-smokers become aware of the
medicinal benefits of ganja. It's now well documented how in the past the
pharmaceutical uses for marijuana ranged from acting as an appetite stimulant
for anorexics to reducing labour pains during child birth. It was available
on prescription for cancer patients to reduce the toxic shock of chemotherapy
and as an aid to relaxing muscle spasms for multiple sclerosis sufferers.

America's dope smoking bible High Times not only swaps excellent recipes for
dope cookies and milkshakes, but is stuffed with fascinating facts about the
hemp plant which provided the wick for Florence Nightingale's lamp, the
material for the first Stars & Stripes flag and the parachute rope for George
Bush when he had to eject from his plane during the Second World War.

Putting the influence of skunk and all its manifestations into a contemporary,
cultural context, it's possible to detect a profound effect on dance music as
consumption has risen both in and out of the studio, behind the decks and on
the dancefloor. Contrary to popular myth, smoking doesn't just leave you a
giggling wreck slumped helplessly in a corner, it can be used constructively
and creatively, its hallucinogenic properties sharpening the senses. There's
even a record label called Skunk, dubby British house run by one Simon from
Big Life Records. Major label Island Records, too, have started a new house/
techno offshoot, called simply Blunted Vinyl.

Rastas, although manifestly whacked out on spliffs, have still been able to
get their heads round creating some of the most beautiful, spiritual music to
have come out of the synthetic environment in the studio. Musically, marijuana
has always been as vital an ingredient in the deconstruction of dub reggae as
the echo chamber and reverb, and where it was once exclusively the property of
dub warriors who inbued it with a religious significance, now everybody appears
to be sampling its creative benefits.

"YOU can spot a smoker on a vinyl a mile off, they're the one's not so
concerned with the structure of a record, but more its texture and sound,"
opines a musician who's hot on the dancefloor but pretty cool about revealing
his identity in case customs catch on - paranoia being another negative side-
effect of constantly spliffing up. "Having a puff doesn't necessarily
incapacitate you. Listening to or making music opens your receptors up, it
makes the treble seem brighter, the bass seems deeper, more dangerous. If
you're working on a track for ages, you get to a stage where you're not really
listening to it anymore. Weed is a good way of stepping outside what you're
doing. Because it sharpens your senses it makes you look at things from another
angle, like sizing up a painting."

"It does open up your mind to ridiculous ideas," confirms Andrew Weatherall
whose tracks are always infused with a stoned ambience whether it's full on
trance or great washes of dub. "It's kinda inspirational in that you can be
sat in the studio without a clue what to do, have a skunk spliff, suddenly
the light bulbs are flashing like mad and you can't get things down fast
enough."

AN antidote to modern times, the alcohol of the 90s, it's conceivable that
before the end of the millenium you'll be able to purchase several brands of
grass over the counter like you can liquor or cigarettes. But until that
happy day dawns, scoring draw is still a covert business. Yet in keeping with
the laws of supply and demand, there are none of the 'droughts' experienced
a few years ago and skunk is far more widely available.

More and more people, cottoning on to the idea that everybody has the potential
to supply themselves, have started growing their own. Because it's relatively
cheap and rarely presumed to be a dangerous drug, in these recession hit times
cultivating skunk provides the ideal opportunity for a productive cottage
industry. Many are now growing their own and yielding crops in their spare
bedroom or attic and turning over a nice tidy profit or just reaping and
smoking the rewards.

You can make a lot of money growing skunk, if you're naieve enough to think you
can keep getting away with an attic full of stinking plants. Innumerable sharp-
minded smokers have already realised this, which is one reason different breeds
(Northern Lights, Superbud) of skunk are literally everywhere. You're not
buying this stuff imported from Afghanistan any more, it's probably coming from
just around the corner.

"I've been growing me own for about a year now," says Jay, the proud owner of
two budding skunk plants. "Basically 'cause it did my head in, all that hassle
of waiting around for a dealer to show up. I don't grow much, just enough for
a personal supply and to sort a couple of friends out at mates' rates. I know
people though who have turned into serious farmers, right Scallies who've now
got green fingers. They've got houses where every single room has been trans-
formed into like a mobile greenhouse. They're making a fortune, man."

IMAGINE, if you will, a picture. A living room carpeted wall to wall in plants.
Say, for argument's sake, each plant grown yields about five ounces of grass,
there's about 70 plants per room and the street price for an ounce is approx-
imately #140. Providing all goes according to plan, that you're not nicked or
raided by a rival firm, that's a turnover of 50 grand every three months. That
said, the risks for such a high turnover are enormous. The UV lights needed to
grow crops are not only expensive, at #170 a pop, but also eat electricity.
And bills which suddenly increase tenfold a quarter can be traced by the
police, as can the huge amounts of heat generated by UV lights.

You'd also have to have very understanding neighbours because the stink from
a crop of skunk permeates everything, walls, ceiling and clothes. Serious
farmers often have to invest in ion generators to take the dust out of the
air which is what carries the smell.

It's a complicated, time-consuming business, and then there's the constant
paranoia of someone knocking on your front door. "Some people go to extra-
ordinary lengths to cultivate the best plants with the highest yields," says
Jay. "It can be an incredibly complex process involving pH levels in soil,
understanding the acidic and alkaline contents in the earth. The best way to
grow it is as nature intended, just put it in the ground, let it go and leave
it alone. It's a hardy crop, it'll look after itself and all you have to worry
about is whether you've got enough skins put by to smoke it."