Prohibition stories have a place…
Cannabis prohibition is crumbling one state and country at a time. The WHO just suggested that the major governments of the world consider reassessing the schedule of the plant and de-schedule CBD completely.
These are exciting times for cannabis advocates. The industry is maturing at a rapid pace and is being compared to the tech boom that started in the 90’s and created new wealth for an entire generation. With those changes, the character profiles of who is entering the space is also changing.
I needn’t remind you that though cannabis is going mainstream, it remains in legal limbo. A change of enforcement doesn’t directly equal a change in laws. The federal government does not interfere with enforcing its laws in states with any form of legal access. This is a reminder that cultivating, possessing and distributing still is technically a felony and has been for a long time.
Before those access laws weakened federal enforcement, growers took substantial risks to supply people’s appetite for smoking. I’m not going to make a blanket statement about growers, but the interesting thing is that to keep the baton going, one had to be okay with balancing daily crimes in order to succeed over time.
Some did it simply for the money. Some did it because they had a talent in an available job. The reasons were varied, and in searching for the reasons we learn.
Each narrative about strains developed during prohibition often give snapshots into a part of culture that has been hidden for fear of recourse. As cannabis goes mainstream, so too can these formerly hidden nuggets.
This is the first in a series introducing the breeder of the iconic strain, Maui Wowie.
After years of being secretive for understandable reasons, Sanford now believes this is the time for his story to be heard. I had the opportunity to interview him, the man who also claims to be the first commercial cultivator and distributor. In other words, his hands were the ones that produced the buds that became famous.
Getting into Cannabis in the Seventies
“I never graduated from High School,” he pauses and holds back a smirk, only visible in the corner of his eyes, “because I was making more money than my teachers.”
Sanford’s beginnings in cannabis started on Oahu, in Hawaii during the 60’s, while he was in high school. As a teenage boy, he loved to surfing and spent a lot of time on the North Shore of Oahu.
While cruising the beaches of Kaneohe he encountered the Brotherhood of Eternal Love regularly, who was selling the most readily seventies cannabis strains (Oaxacan and Thai Stick) for a reported $120 a kilo as their wholesale price. That’s 2.2 pounds. And was letting go “lids” for $10.
“We had new cars, we had new surf boards.”
Surf culture is one that privileges self reliance and awareness of surroundings as very important characteristics. Sanford seems incredibly influenced by these motivators. It’s ingrained into all his interactions to this day.
As a youth, the Brotherhood of Love provided an opportunity and he took it. He figured that he could distribute this. The Brotherhood also provided a point of contact for the greater culture shift to touch Sanford in particular.
The freedom of thought and expression that accompanied the psychedelic journeys, and was “the flow” that seemed like the most logical wave to follow.
He was able to enjoy 193% profit margins as a point of sale in his network. The success of entrepreneurial pursuits convinced him to dropout of high school and make it on his own.
Time to ….
This gave the time for other aspects of the cultural revolution in the seventies to permeate his life. He began being swept up by what would eventually become the “organic food” movement.
The humble beginnings highlighted growing food as a form of rebellion. In Hawaii, the idea of tending to land as a means of prayer. Prayer is a means to liberation. Not to be overly dramatic. But liberation is a common thing for young men and women to seek in the later teens and early twenties.
What separates people’s experience with that desire to free is how they manage it.
He built gardens and tried to build a family. His plants enjoyed the tropical sun and the trade winds. Growing local greens, tomatoes, broccoli and whatever he could get his hands on.
Sanford began to build the skills that would allow him to create the legendary strain, though his main focus towards the end of his tenure on Oahu was starting a family and managing tragedy.
At nineteen, he got his girlfriend pregnant. The young infant tragically died of toxoplasmosis.
A crushed Sanford mentions it with a lingering pain that assuredly will never leave. Obliged to report it because it was the motivating factor for going to Maui.
Leaving Oahu, Getting to Maui
Sanford landed on Maui when he was twenty years old. Here, Sanford sees his first growing cannabis plant, and figures out how to not just be a gardener, but a grower capable to creating a stable supply for his network.
Check in next installment for hear how the strain was bred.