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“Y’know, in for a penny, in for a pound,” Angela says in a kind of a retrospectively embarrassed tone.

Can I ask how much you ended up borrowing from your fam- ily?

“A little less than a hundred grand.” You’re joking?

“I wish I was,” Angela sighs.

“It all started at my local store where I had purchased my lights and whole set-up. I met two different people at two dif- ferent times; each would play a role in my downfall.”

Go on...

“This is going to sound stupid but during my second or third attempt at growing marijuana, I had a cruise already booked with a few gal pals and couldn’t get out of it. I had met some young men at our garden center. They had been very nice to me in the store and we ended speaking in the parking lot about some of the issues I was having.

“They seemed very knowledgeable and very helpful—and were most concerned that I get a good harvest. I told them that I needed to leave my plants alone for 10 days. Could I get by with leaving my lights and food and water on timers? They said no. For a price, they would watch my plants.

“I was lucky I only gave them the keys to my two empty hous- es, not my personal home. I came back from the cruise and

“We define a hobbyist as a person who is growing up to five plants and spends around $400-600 on lights for their grow. Profession- als will have around 30 plants or more, in your typical indoor grow, and the price tag is in the thousands, easily,” says Louie of Green Goddess Hydroponics, opened last October in the heart of San Francisco, a little north of the Tenderloin.

In the short time that I spoke with Louie and his boss, customers kept coming into the store which is barely larger than a magazine kiosk.

The tight shelves are packed with additives and enhancers for budding and flowering with names like “Beastie Bloomz” or sim- ply “All Natural Nirvana.”

I asked them what it is like to run a hydroponic store in this era of “grassnost,” when it feels like cannabis is already legal. Can a person come in and say, for example, “I want to grow me some weed, can you help?:” Or do they still have to use the code that they’re trying to grow some big, juicy tomatoes that you can get high on?

“If we are too open, and our distributors hear about it, we could be cut off,” the owner tells me candidly. “We deal with some very traditional garden center providers and distributors, and they

12 WEST COAST CANNABIS More Than A Lifestyle

from the moment I opened the front door, I could smell pot and I knew there was a problem. They had taken all my plants, lights and wiring. They cleaned me out.”

That’s awful.

“Then later I met a man more my age, in his late 50’s. He said he’d been growing for years and would love to help me. But before that could happen, he needed me to buy him pre-paid phones at a strip mall store. When I told him I didn’t have the money for it -- he was out of town at the time -- he sent me a stuffed Koala bear with ten $100 bills inside.”

Weren’t you suspicious?

“No, he said he was sending it inside the stuffed animal for tax reasons. Then he had me doing all sorts of stuff for him. Buy- ing things in my name, for his business, not having anything to do with growing, or having anything to do with marijuana.”

What happened?

“He was suddenly gone one day and I haven’t been able to reach him.”

Do you worry that he knows where you live and could still have some contact with you?

“I’ve sold the three houses at a loss. I live in a small apart- ment now a little closer to out of town. My kids and sisters don’t speak to me because I still owe them money. At 62, I’m not sure what I’m going to do.”

don’t want to get into the politics of the situation.”

But when a young couple in their 20’s asks Louie about the right time to add the blooming agent, the knowledgeable clerk cor- rected him and told him to add it just a few days before blooming, not a week before like the young man had thought.

So, how much of your business would you say has to do with growing marijuana, versus growing tomatoes?

“Ninety percent of our business is with the indoor grower,” one of them said.

How many of them are hobbyists — the folks who are growing a few plants to see what will happen?

“It’s hard to say. We sometimes will spend up to an hour with some customers, because...well...because, they don’t know what they’re doing.”

You sell books, DVD’s and other grow info?

“Yes, but you still have to explain a lot to them. Some have no experience at all. Some are thinking of growing for additional funds. Some just want a personal stash. But we want everyone to be successful, so they’ll come back and buy more stuff.”

I asked if there are predators that are looking for greenish growers

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