Taking the High Road

Here’s a celebratory book about the highs and lows of one man following his cannabis bliss.

Did you ever dream of dedicating your life to growing or selling cannabis? Pete Young, author of The High Road: A Pot Grower’s Journey from the Black Market to the Stock Market, did both and made it big. On January 23, 2018, Pete rang the opening bell for the Toronto Stock Exchange, celebrating the success of Indiva, the latest of his many cannabis ventures. Pete writes of hoping to retire in a couple of years when he’s 50. Given his many U.S. and Canadian adventures, he will have earned that early retirement.

About once a year, for various reasons, Pete would take a break from using the plant he dearly loves. The first time he quit was to clear his head; he was thirteen, growing up on Long Island, New York, and failing everything in school. Shortly thereafter, struggling with learning disabilities, his mom’s devastating illness and the family’s move to Ontario, Canada, Pete floundered, dearly missing the friends and beach scene he’d left behind. Fortunately, he got to spend several later summers back on Long Island, and that’s when he and a friend started growing their own.

After those first few summers learning to grow cannabis, Pete remained in Ontario and kept expanding his expertise as a grower. The High Road tells his story and gives his opinions on growing in the backyard, basement or garage, or in ravines and cornfields, running grow houses, hydroponics, different lights for various parts of the plant’s life cycle, growing for seeds or for flowers, soils, genetics, super-cropping (gently stressing the plants through careful injury to their stems), Cannabis Cup competitions, and sativa versus indica. Pete finds that sativa gets him high (energized and happy), while indica gets him stoned (couch locked).

Peppered throughout the book are tips on growing clean, fragrant cannabis flowers. He called the cannabis he tasted in Amsterdam “yucky” because cultivators kept fertilizing the plants all the way to the end of their growth. In his Ontario hometown, he first specialized in cannabis photography, which is how he met his friend Chris Clay. Later, Pete’s pics would grace the pages of High Times. He and Chris opened Hemp Nation, selling seeds, buds and paraphernalia and offering Pete’s how-to-grow seminars. As the Minister of Agriculture for the business, Pete provided all the cannabis, too. Some he grew, but most came from small apartment grow sites he’d set up, teaching the growers how to produce the best herb.

It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Pete or for Chris either. They’ve dealt with a few deadbeats and bad dudes along the way. And run-ins with the law were inevitable. Chris was arrested, and he made a huge public campaign out of it, hoping to shift awareness toward legalization. Pete’s had remarkably few arrests and has always acted respectfully when interacting with law enforcement. (He perfectly describes how to handle it if you have to deal with the police.) Sometimes, other shops would be busted, and his would be left alone. Dozens of times, the police turned a blind eye to Pete’s activities, only intervening when a rare public complaint forced them to act. Pete is sure the hands-off treatment was because he was known to act with integrity and because many police disapproved of wasting their time with cannabis, seeing the dangers of PCP and meth as so much greater.  The police were helpful when he suffered two home invasions from thugs looking for big money, guns and heavy drugs, none of which would ever be found in any site Pete ran.

Throughout the book, Pete reminds readers of his philosophy on good cannabis karma. It should never be a full-time job. If you get caught up in making more money off the plant, you will attract the wrong type of people, and the plants won’t do as well either. He writes, “Your plants are living entities and have a consciousness. If you do nothing but grow and sell pot … they’ll sense they’re being exploited, they’ll do poorly.”

Pete began hearing about some of the ways cannabis helps people with various medical conditions. That fueled his resolve to focus on growing for, and selling to, medical users, the ultimate in good karma, so he opened the Cannabis Compassion Centre. To supply the medicine, he set up more small growers, who would then pay him back with cannabis. He was able to sell to patients (all with a doctor’s prescription) at lower prices than anyone else. Now, he’s the master grower and a part owner of Indiva, a licensed producer of medical cannabis authorized by the Canadian government. Pete has not used cannabis for seventeen years, but, as his fast-paced and fascinating book makes clear, his heart and soul are still and always dedicated to the kind herb.

Emerald contributor since July 2015

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