Article by High! Canada
If you lived in Ontario in the 90’s and early 2000’s you will likely remember the strain Wheelchair – One cannabis enthusiast on the web wrote “A few years back I tried some bud called wheelchair but not heard or seen it in years, has it completely gone? Or does it still exist somewhere? I’m not even sure if it is as good as I remember it but definitely had me hooked and wanting more xx Tia”
We recently ran into the creator of the beloved strain and discovered that not only was he turning seventy but the strain itself was about to celebrate it’s own 30th birthday this year.
How long have you been working in the Cannabis industry?
I was 25 when I smoked my first joint, I can’t believe it but I’m going to be turning 70 this month. When I smoked my first joint it was unbelievable, from that moment I said to myself I know what I’m going to do with the rest of my life. If this is what happens to everybody, I want to be a part of that. This was back in the 70’s and I immediately started selling it. I was already an electrician with two children but there was something within this herb that kept drawing me in. It became a passion beyond passion, it is so vitally important of the gifts I’ve been given, from the information within of the sacred herb and the healing powers within that I just give it away. The more you give away the more opportunity for openness to come in.
If you fell in love with cannabis in the 70’s when did you start growing?
I would say I started to grow in the late 70’s, probably around 78’. We were doing Mexican and Colombian seeds didn’t know anything about male or female. There were no books, nothing on the market at that time. So I looked at it and within the book, there was an advertisement for the first ever hydroponics shop ever opened in North America. It was called a New Moon, I believe it was in Seattle or Washington. So I flew down to see the place and what they were talking about. When I got there, I saw amazing beautiful crystal bud everywhere. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I bought $25 000 worth of indoor equipment, packed it all up and asked them where to find this bud. They told me California, to go to San Francisco and then go north and that’s exactly what I did. This is now 83’; being a hippy and living the culture I just kind of knocked on a door. I told people I was from Canada, I grow pot, people sent me here for the best bud and seeds can you help me out? Sure enough, luck behold he brought me into his house and explained it to me. I stayed with him for a month or two, he taught me a lot about indicia and making hash from the plant, it was wild. I left California in 83’ with 11 purple Hindu Kush plants and brought them to Canada.
What happened when you got back to Canada? It’s a pretty cool story. We had planted Colombian and Mexican before but didn’t know anything about male or female so we had never seen a bud. We were selling all the little shots and whatnots for $140 a pound. So I planted these 11 indicia plants with the others. There were buds and crystals. I was waiting for the other plants to do the same, but I had just created the biggest accident of my life but the luckiest thing that ever happened. By not knowing male and female the 11 plants crossbred each other and I had so many seeds of the original strain now. We brought the pot from $140 a pound to $800 that year. We had the first indicia to come into Canada. People couldn’t believe it. We were cleaning the bud in a cabin with no electricity just a lantern and we called these things coming off the plant mouse turds but as we started to touch it we realized it felt a lot like hash, so we got out some knives and went crazy realizing it was hash. I took my first hit and threw up because we had only had 4% THC and this was the first time any of us were trying 20-30% THC. We just discovered we were sitting on a gold mine through an accident. In 1987, I took my purple Hindu Kush and I took northern lights #5 and I made the cross and that created wheelchair. That’s the original cross of the original wheelchair in 1987. When Nevil goes to Amsterdam he goes with 11 seeds called northern lights created by an Indian on an island outside of Seattle. Nevil named those seeds from 1- 11. #1 was the best male ever created in the world of northern lights and #5 was the best female ever created in the world. Our wheelchair has his northern lights numbers 1 and 5 because those were the first crossed that Nevil did.
Wheelchair changed the dynamic of cannabis in Canada. We were growing a tremendous amount of it; our biggest market was in Toronto. Toronto actually named the strain wheelchair it was not me who named the strain. I was sitting at my nephew’s house in Toronto, we had been growing wheelchair for a while but still stabilizing it. There was a party and he was selling a whole bunch of it, a guy came up the back stairs and says hey do you have any more of that wheelchair? I thought my nephew was selling someone else’s stuff so I asked him what was going on and that’s when he told me they all named my stuff wheelchair in Toronto.
Talk to us about the light deprivation? When I went to Oregon in the early 80’s to look at New Moon Hydroponics I started to learn about indoor growing. So by the time it showed up we were already growing the buildings and everything. Growing indoors was a pain in the ass, it’s 24/7 you never get a day off. Lots of money and work to get the right atmosphere. So I asked how do I get it from indoor to outdoor? 2 hours and I had it, the answers always come to me if you ask the right questions the right way. It’s all in the light. The whole indoor operation is light deprivation, so buddy turns out the light. I built a space 20 feet by 20 feet and covered the sides all in black and uncovered the top. In 45 days everything I had indoors was finished using the natural sunlight. I then upgraded to 100 feet and from there 1000 feet. This was from the 90’s -01’ and I stayed with the wheelchair the whole time. There were no indoor grows then and everyone was waiting for the crop to come in at the end of September/October. Were coming out with rock hard indicia bud in the first week of September. We changed the whole trend of everything.
In 2005, I come back from traveling; my son was taking care of the business while I was away. I go to a native reserve and meet the Anishinaabe nation. I grew 3000 pounds of pot that year to heal the Anishinaabe nation. I started 22, 000 plants. When the chief told me I had permission to be on his reserve and I was protected and I could grow medicine for his people I jumped all over it. I got busted doing that actually and I got the largest sentence in Canadian history for growing pot. We finally got to court in 2008, there were 6 people up and 3 were found not guilty and 3 were found guilty. We got 6 years in federal prison for trying to heal the Anishinaabe nation. When I got sentenced I was in prison and I spent my 60th birthday in there. So when I got to prison, I had never been before and you spend the first 45 days where they evaluate whether you go to the prison or work on the farm. In 45 days thank the lord I got sent to the farm. I’m an electrician by trade so I go into being the electrician of the farm. I spent a lot of my time in the greenhouse teaching others about genetics. I got really lucky. Because I had never been to prison I only had to do 1/6th of my time so that means 1 out of 6 years and then transition to a halfway house which I did in 2010 in Haul. Ontario wouldn’t accept me back in because I wasn’t remorseful for my crime as I was just making medicine. I start working as an electrician; I have 3 and a half years of probation. I fulfill the federal probation; I work for exactly to the day as being an electrician and the day it was over I quit in 2013. The day I got my parole was October 19, 2013, I quit my job and went back to pot.
Did you have any gaps in growing while on parole coming out of the halfway house?
While I was on federal parole, I went and got my medicinal license from the doctor to be able to smoke cannabis. 2 months later I went and got my production licenses to grow. So I was on federal parole when I got my production license the board called me in to discuss what was going on. We sat down for almost 2 hours, not one person asked a question they did nothing but write. I told them I was glad they called the meeting because I was going to call it. I told them they don’t understand what’s going on now, your books are all wrong. I explained the medicinal aspects of what was going on in the world to them. When I left they wished me well. I invited them to the green houses, they never came but I grew 440 pounds for 3 years on federal parole. That’s why now I am educated in both the science part of cannabis and the legal aspects of cannabis.
Talk to us about the last 5 years since you’ve become legal?
I got contracted out for medicine for the first couple of years. Then for the last few years, I’ve been on my own. I didn’t go back to wheelchair. I’ve been searching out different strains. There is something to be said about the industry. The industry is hype is for calmers so a lot that we’ve been taught in the last 10 years in any industry is always for calmers. All this stuff about cannabis we were already doing 30 years ago. For the old guys, we understand how it’s all went and we still went along with it because it seemed like we needed to. We keep tweaking things because we are scientists, geneticist, botanists; we want to go for it all. After I looked at it all I pulled the wheelchair back out and started looking at it and nothing could touch it. I wouldn’t pull the wheelchair out because I was contracted out but I wasn’t bringing my genetics.
What have you been growing lately?
Even last year we grew about 10-12 strains. We grew some of the Zombie families, a strain from Spain, a couple of cup winners, some super lemon Kush and some wheelchair in CBD form. We put the CBD wheelchair in the lab and got a 1:2. It was a 4.08 THC and an 8.88 CBD. Almost a perfect 1:2. The numbers amazed me because I’m a big fan of whole plant extraction.
Let’s talk about 2018 what are you focusing on?
Were doing 100% wheelchair. It was all wheelchair I grew for the Anishinaabe nation and I never touched it again until last year when I took out about 40 seeds. All the strains I grew last year couldn’t even go near wheelchair. I bred last year, creating a whole bunch more seeds. We had about 80 plants last year and this year we have over 10 000 plants. Within that, I would like to mention that I have the most extensive CBD bank in the world. I have worked on it; I have never left CBD ever as a breeder. So I have 30 F1 strains of the top CBD strains in the world. So now we’ve created 30 wheelchairs strains of CBD. All the profiles of all of our wheelchair is now in our CBD strains. We will now breed those out for ratios of CBD to THC, terpene profile because terpenes are so valuable in the activation of cannabinoids. Terpenes may be the single most medicinal value in cannabis but it certainly has a lot to do with activating the cannabinoids. The government is coming out with 4 new licenses and I believe we are going to apply for those licenses and apply for the craft industry. As a craft industry, Dr. Bud craft brand name already known for over 30 years would be a good candidate for one of those craft industries. We would also like to apply for the research and development license within that to be able to do all the extractions.