We are mortgage-free on our house in London. We have a place in Scotland we rent out which pays the mortgage. However, at the moment we don’t have any tenants, so I’m paying £700 a month on that. That leaves me with £2,000 a month spare. After bills, the rest of the money I earn is spent on luxuries. I might spend about £200 on a date night with my wife. She loves the theatre. I’m not a massive fan, but we’ve seen Phantom of the Opera 12 times. I don’t even like it but I know every word. I’ve just managed to score tickets to a Harry Potter play she’s been trying to see for the last three years.
My wife earns double what I do and is the saver. I spend money like water and have a low regard for it. Looking through my statements, it’s shocking to see how much I spend on buying breakfast and coffees. I drink five coffees a day – that’s a lot of money. Over a month, it’s a good £200 on coffees. That’s before the bacon rolls and sandwiches. I’m going to try to stop spending so much. My wife put my bank cards in the washing machine to stop the contactless part working to try to rein in my spending. I’m just used to always having money. When I came out of prison, we were getting rid of our old bed and, as we were taking it out, we found £1,000 in there. It had been there for five years. I had no concept of money – it was always just something that you got and then spent.
I was a career criminal from a young age – I never really had a job. My friend and I set up a fake record label which concealed our income and tax. Instead I grew cannabis for many years. It felt easy, and although it’s quite time-consuming, the rewards are good. But we became greedy. We rented a five-bedroom house in Wimbledon and set up a million-pound grow room. If it had worked out, that would have been my pension. However, a garage next door to the house discovered we were growing weed after the person we’d employed to get rid of the waste became lazy: rather than dumping it in the river like he was supposed to, he left it in their bin. The garage called the police. I remember visiting the house and seeing big burly cops outside. That’s never a good sign. I drove straight home and gutted my house because I knew it wouldn’t be long until they came knocking. Unfortunately they found a partial fingerprint of mine on one of the timers inside the grow room. It was enough to convict me. I was sentenced to three years. Was that my first time in prison? No, I’d been in a couple of times before. One was a 16-year sentence. But I can’t talk about it.
When I was released, I was hired as a trainee at the Wimbledon branch. That was 10 years ago now. Since then I’ve gained several promotions and now I’m area development manager. The progression is really good. All managers are hired from within the company.
When I was inside my wife said: “This is the last time I’m putting up with this shit. You need to knock it on the head.” She was under immense pressure. I’d been the breadwinner and then she had to deal with all these bills and everyone emptying her bank account. She was forced to pawn her jewellery to make ends meet. At the time I was bored in prison and I came across an ad for Timpson in the prison wing, which promised a 16-week trial on release and, if successful, a full-time job. I started training at its in-prison centre – which is kind of like a big shop – five days a week for six months. At first I didn’t enjoy it. I never thought I’d be any good at working with my hands. But then I discovered I was. But full credit to the people running the academy – it was all down to their dedication and knowledge.
It’s quite a strange feeling to go to bed at night and not worry about the door coming off in the morning. But things are very different financially now to what I was earning before. But it’s my money and it’s also peace of mind. It’s still weird to drive around with no worries. I don’t have to dodge the police. That was a big part of life, knowing where they were. And my wife feels proud now – she can tell people what I do for a living.
Then there are the secondary industries that will blossom in the shadow of the industry, from technology to tourism. A renaissance is beginning. Cultivators are coming together to share generations of knowledge and ground-breaking technology. Communities of cannabis-enthusiasts are forming on-line and IRL.
I am proud to tell people what I do for work and eager to talk about the state of the business. With the groundswell of support the nation showed for marijuana in November, the conversation about cannabis has been brought into the public light more than ever. However, I’ve noticed a few recurring misconceptions which seem to come up whenever I talk about the cannabis business with outsiders.
(Flashy cars, sneakers, and dab-rigs excluded).
The work is hard.
8 states (and Washington D.C.) have now legalized marijuana for recreational use, and more than 20 other states have medical marijuana laws in place. While support has been strong for marijuana, almost half of the country still lives under prohibition. It is my belief that every American deserves to have access to the medicinal benefits of marijuana, and that no government should be allowed to interfere with a citizen’s right to grow and harvest a plant on their own property for their own usage.
Growers have been operating within the shifting gray areas of the law for decades around Northern California. With the passage of Prop 64, the business becomes increasingly legal, legitimate, safe, and regulated. The people that have operated at the outskirts of the law– the rogue entrepreneurs, botanists, shamans, and outlaws who dared to grow a forbidden plant (it sounds so ridiculous now, doesn’t it?)–have a year to get square with Sacramento.
For the next ten years, I maintained a pretty mainstream lifestyle (by San Francisco standards) as well as a stable career in Operations-Management for a local non-profit, all while smoking massive amounts of ganja at every opportunity.
The business isn’t just for gangsters and degenerates anymore.
The work falls between agricultural and industrial. It requires a broad and diverse skill set. The gardening is peaceful, but there is also a plumbing and electrical system to operate, critical data to track, and a huge amount of routine janitorial work that comes with growing plants, which–inevitably– includes killing rats.
It’s also not time to take it for granted that legal weed is the law of the land.