Herb interviews ganja guru Ed Rosenthal.
Photo courtesy of Lizzy Fritz
Ed Rosenthal (aka the Guru of Ganja) is a legend in the cannabis community. He’s the most famous cannabis grower in the world and the author of numerous books on the subject, including the Grower’s Handbook, which is still used at Oaksterdam University as their cultivation textbook. He’s also one of the founding members of High Times magazine and had a cultivation column there for years called “Ask Ed.”
In addition to teaching generations of folks how to grow premium bud, Rosenthal has been a cannabis activist for decades. He was arrested by the feds for growing medical weed almost 20 years ago even though he and local law enforcement thought he was doing so legally. At the time, he was almost sentenced to a mandatory minimum of 10 years in jail but refused to take a plea and ended up beating the case, serving only one day instead.
Activists like Rosenthal are the reason cannabis is legal in so many places today. So when Herb got a chance to interview the legend, we jumped right on it. But Rosenthal’s an expert on so many things, what could we possibly “Ask Ed” about? That’s why we decided to let our readers decide. We asked you, our audience, on Instagram what you wanted to ask Ed Rosenthal, from questions about his personal life to tips on growing. Here are his answers.
Our readers want to know, why did you first start smoking weed and when?
Well, it was experimental and I was 21. That was in 1965.
How about now, what’s your favorite strain to smoke?
It depends on the time of day and there’s so many strains around that it’s always fun to try new things. Although, I can’t say that I have one particular strain that’s my go-to.
Are you more of an indica or sativa kind of guy?
Just in general, I like sativas throughout the day. I use different sativas.
What’s your favorite strain to grow?
I don’t have a particular favorite because it really depends on the conditions and the kind of garden that I want to grow. So, I’m into growing small plants. A lot of the plants that have a lot of indica morphological specifics, those are the ones that I often look for. But you know, as I said, it really depends what the conditions are, what kind of growing it is, the time of the year, what I’m trying to achieve.
I am curious, why small plants?
If you grew a lot of small plants, you’d be through with vegetation much faster than if you were growing a big plant, vegetatively.
What’s your favorite type of concentrate to consume?
Well, actually it’s kind of old school, but my favorite is dry ice hash.
Would that also be your favorite type of concentrate to make or do you have another preference?
I’m likely to do that or make some rosin.
Do you have your own rosin press? How do you make rosin?
Yeah, I have a little press.
One of our readers sent in this question that we thought was fun: in an alternate universe what alternate job path would you have chosen?
I don’t know because in my high school yearbook it said that I was going to be a plant scientist and a writer. So, I don’t know if things would have changed in an alternate universe. I’ve always been interested in botany and horticulture and here I am.
Another reader wanted to know, other than weed, have you experimented with other medicinal plants?
Just the usual psychedelics.
Cool, like mushrooms or…?
You know, like mushrooms…I’m not really into mescaline that much. And acid, things like that.
More than one person actually asked: what is it like to be a legend?
I don’t know. You know, you have to do everything that everyone else does every day. You ejaculate, you go to sleep, you wake up, you know. In general, your life is the same.
And I have an unusual situation in that there’s only a small community that really knows me. You know, I’m not well known in the general community, just in the small community. So I only get that kind of recognition at events or places where there’s likely to be like-minded people. But in general, I can walk the streets and not get accosted.
The U.S. government did a lot to make me famous when they arrested me nearly two decades ago. They made my name a household word.
So our last personal question that someone sent in was, what is your most memorable high?
You know, I don’t really have that like epiphany kind of story. When I first met marijuana, I knew it was going to be an ally. And it’s like one of my best friends. It’s been such a good experience all along, but I don’t have one particular incident.
I’ve been around when other people have had that [epiphany-like high]. I had a friend and she got high for the first time. You know, she had all these insights about her life and with a few tokes, she fundamentally changed her life and continued to use it. We were on the New York City subway and we had gotten high before we went on. She said the clicking of the train tracks caused her to start thinking about something and it was this whole epiphany.
I never had that kind of revelation. It was more like… here’s the one thing I realized when I met it: good marijuana doesn’t tell you a lie.
One of our readers wanted to ask you, how can you tell males from females?
Well, that’s in all the books. But in the third set or fourth set of leaves, where the leaf meets the stem, there will sometimes be a single flower. Whatever sex that single flower is, that’s the sex of the plant. But other than that, you just have to wait. One way you can do it is you can take a cutting of the plant, sex the cutting, and whatever the cutting sex is, is the plant sex.
What strain would you recommend to someone growing weed outdoors for the first time?
It really depends where you are. In the southern part of the country, you don’t want to really grow indicas that much because they’ll flower really early and you won’t get a large plant. And there are so many adapted varieties now. So I say that people should buy clones locally and they’re likely to get something that’s well adapted.
Do you have a recommendation for the best or maybe an easy, strain to grow indoors, if it’s your first time growing?
Well, all the indica-sativa hybrids, most of them are good producers but they don’t get too large. So I would say one of those.
What is regeneration and is it a good way to have a higher yield?
Regeneration is bringing the plant back from maturity to the beginning of flowering and then the plant will go through the entire process again. People sometimes do that. They’ll have a plant that they flower and take most of the leaves off and [then they’ll] put it back in the ground in the spring and it will start growing. But generally, you’re better off starting off with a new plant than a regenerated one. You might do that just to get seed but not in general for the yield.
Does cannabis have a specific season to grow?
Yeah. It starts in the late spring and it grows through the summer and then it flowers in the fall and dies. If it wasn’t for human intervention, that’s what would happen.
If you live in a climate where it doesn’t change much and cannabis was taken care of perfectly, could it grow during any season?
Yes, it could. But, not necessarily outdoors. And the problem with the natural light during the winter, it’s so few hours that plants would go into flowering if it doesn’t get supplemental light.
People want to know: what are your favorite nutrients to use?
Well, that too. It really depends on what I’m doing and what the soil looks like, what kind of mix I’m using. But I would say that most of the fertilizers that have been around for a while will put you in good shape and you’ll do really well.
What’s the optimal time for curing harvested weed?
Well, first of all, before curing you have drying. And drying, you want to get the humidity down to about 12 percent. Curing comes after drying. What you do is you raise the humidity a little, like to about 55 percent, and the plant will absorb some water back.
But a lot of people put material in bottles or jars before the plant has cured. I don’t think that’s a good idea because it encourages bacteria and mold to form. Instead, what I’d recommend is just raise the temperature of your dry room by 5 degrees or so, and the plants will start looking very commercial…in a good way.
So the last one for cultivation is: what are your three most important tips for growing cannabis indoors?
The first one is: quality over quantity. Don’t try to grow too much. Try to stay within a smaller garden if necessary to maintain quality and grow good quality marijuana. That’s one.
Number two is don’t get into fights with your spouse or neighbors when you’re growing. It will only lead to trouble.
The third one is, I’m going to give you four. Plants don’t wait. You know how a little baby will grow insistent when it isn’t fed when it wants to be fed? Well, plants can’t go up and take a drink. They’re dependent upon you. Plants don’t wait. When plants need to be serviced in any way, you should do it.
Then the fourth thing is, believe your eyes. If you think the plants don’t look right or don’t look healthy, you’re probably right. No matter what you might read in the literature, believe what your eyes are telling you.
How much money do you need to start a cannabis cultivation business?
Well, the price has gone way up because you have to get all of these documents and licenses and they have to meet certain “standards.” So it really depends where you are and what kind of business you’re trying to run. But in general, it’s much more costly and much more of an investment than it was before legalization. In the tens of thousands of dollars.
Someone in our community wanted to know: how can I start a cannabis farm in my hometown?
Well, first thing is, make sure that the regulations permit it. And if the regulations don’t permit it, either don’t start it in that town or get some kind of campaign going to get an initiative going to make these businesses legal. That often takes much less effort than people think that it does.
Then, you have to know the business. It used to be a lot easier to set up when it was illegal because you didn’t have to go through bureaucratic paperwork and that kind of thing. But, now it’s more work. You may have to hire somebody to help you get your license.
So the last one here, someone wanted to know, what are the first steps to getting into the cannabis industry?
At this point, you have to be licensed. So the first step is the licensing. In general, that is not an inexpensive process so it’s excluding many people. If you’re going to get into the legal business, you really have to plan ahead so that you can actually get your license.
For instance, I know somebody that has a garden, it’s mature and he’s cut it down, but he cannot sell it because his license hasn’t arrived. Everything is just waiting.