Trichome Technologies is a West Coast breeding facility dedicated to producing the highest-quality genetics for medical consumption and to researching cutting-edge cultivation technology. In this article from the April 2006 issue of High Times, K, its founder, decided to sneak his genetics behind the iron curtain to Cuba.
Kind Bud for Castro
Two years ago, I traveled to Cuba, an experience that left me with a deep regard for its culture and people. The big problem I had throughout my stay there was that the weed sucks. At $20 a gram, it’s very expensive – especially when you consider that the average Cuban salary, depending on a person’s social status and standing in the Communist Party, is roughly $9–$12 a month. Add to that the fact that the weed is on the level of the seediest, driest Mexican ditchweed, and you have a situation that I consider to be a cannabis crisis.
I became good friends with two guys we’ll call “El Gato” and “Mr. Verde,” and watching them spend a month’s pay on the dirtiest of dirtweed broke my heart. As with any tragedy that occurs on foreign shores involving poverty and political oppression, I figured I had two choices: I could stand by and feel sorry for the people it affected, or I could take my 27 years of marijuana cultivation experience and do something about it.
Ganja To Cuba: A Mission From Jah
With a 16-hour trip from California to Havana via Cancún ahead of me, I decided to pack some food for the journey – namely, four English muffins coated with 10 grams of pure cannabis trichomes mixed with butter and slightly heated to activate the THC for ingestion.
An hour before we got to Havana, I decided to have a muffin. The first bite went well – the second, too. On the third bite my lovely co-conspirator Mary Jane started glaring at me with that “What the fuck are you doing?” stare, as the smell of pure hashish began to permeate the airplane. Not having planned for this situation, I didn’t really know what to do. Every time I exhaled, the smell got stronger. The seemingly logical solution was to get rid of the source of the odor fast and try not to breathe.
All this would have been little more than an annoyance if it hadn’t been for the fact that my luggage contained 80 grams of pure trichomes (placed in capsules and packaged to look like vitamins), two Spanish-language grow books by Jorge Cervantes – The Indoor Bible and Outdoor Guerrilla Growing (covered and packaged to look like Bibles, then vacuum-sealed) – 300 seeds of the Kryptonite strain (mixed in with a big bag of trail mix) and three Pyrex pipes.
Cuba’s attitude toward drugs makes America look like Amsterdam. If I were to be caught or captured, the charges and penalties would be severe. Smuggling, among other things, 80 grams of hash with the intent to educate and cultivate would surely create an international incident and probably get me life in a Cuban prison.
Mary Jane kept shooting me evil stares as the smell of pure hashish wafted through the aisles. The stewardess was handing out customs forms for us to fill out. In an effort to help me dispose of the muffins, Mary Jane took two for herself. There was so much hash butter on them it made her gag like she was a contestant on Fear Factor. After a while she said, “Fuck this,” went to the bathroom and flushed hers down the toilet.
Landing at José Martí International Airport I was half asleep and high as fuck but fully in control of the situation.
After disembarking from the aircraft, we were led to a large room with sealed booths against one wall, each with a soldier inside. Mary Jane and I both stood in line and waited to be called into one of the booths. Once I was inside, the soldier asked if I had been to Cuba before. I told him I had. I was then asked about where I had gone, whether I had enjoyed myself and, finally, where I was planning to stay this time around. Satisfied with my answers, he stamped my tourist visa and gave me back my papers.
“Have a nice visit,” he said, and motioned for me to exit through the door on the opposite side, which led to the room where I was to claim my baggage.
All the luggage from our flight was lined up in rows, and military officers were running drug dogs down the aisles over and over again. As soon as one of the dogs finished its tour of duty, one of the soldiers gave it a little pep talk and then started the process over again.
I did get a funny look from one of the mutts, but lucky for me, he went one way and I went another.
When it came time for me to actually claim our luggage, I noticed that Mary Jane’s bag was suspiciously missing. I told her I would meet her outside, Jah willing.
After my bags were x-rayed and my body patted down once more for good luck, I stepped outside and breathed in the tropical night air. Mary Jane soon followed. The first leg of my mission was complete.
The Doctor Is In
I arrived at the Hotel Nacional at 1 a.m. My man in Havana, El Gato, had tired of waiting for me and was already sleep. Walking around the property, I had a Cuba Libre and took in the ambiance. The Hotel Nacional was built in 1930 and has a rich history. Pre-revolution guests included Winston Churchill, Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky, and Che stayed in the bunkers within the catacombs on the property.
I’d met El Gato and our other Havana friend, Mr. Verde, on my previous trip to Cuba through a friend in the US. Both are artists – one a painter, the other a wood-carver. The Cuban pot scene is small and way underground, comprised mostly of small cliques of people who grew up together and like-minded friends of friends. Being known as a stoner or a Rasta in Cuba can lead to close government/police scrutiny. A simple possession bust could conceivably net you five to 10 years in prison.
The next morning I phoned El Gato, who rushed over. It had been two years and it was good to see him. I gave him 11 grams of hash plus a new pipe and screens. He gave me a note from Mr. Verde, which read, “No body sleep. We waiting for you. Needs the Doctor for ourselves.” It was signed, “The Cuban People.”
I was the doctor in question.
That night I was able to give my gifts to my friends. They were all amazed that I had put my future in jeopardy to bring these presents to Cuba.
I gave the bag of trail mix to El Gato, who was about to eat it. Laughing, I pointed to all the marijuana seeds inside. Now that they had invaluable information, quality seed stock and some hashish for inspiration, my friends assured me it wouldn’t be long before Cuba was producing excellent ganja for itself.
Inside the covers of the books I placed Trichome Technologies decals and wrote the date that they had arrived in Cuba and who had brought them. I asked my friends for one favor – that each person who studied a book put an X on the inside cover, so that I could come back someday and maybe see how many people had read them.
Cannabis For Communists
Early the next morning El Gato, Mary Jane and I left Havana and headed for Viñales, the world-famous tobacco-growing region on the western side of the island. The second half of my mission was to be the first person to plant world-class marijuana seeds in this area. Of course, the gesture would only be symbolic, as I couldn’t stay to care for them. The drive was excellent, with El Gato shouting instructions from the backseat in between smoking hash and carving wood.
Before leaving town, we drove past the US Special Interest Building on the Malecón (there is no recognized embassy in either country). It was a heated time for Cuba politically. Somebody at the US Special Interest Building had gotten the bright idea to pick at the festering scab that is US-Cuba relations and had put up a sign measuring four feet in diameter with the number 75 illuminated in lights next to a big snowman and Santa, with the words Feliz Navidad in Christmas lights. Seventy-five was the number of political dissidents imprisoned in Cuba during the previous year. The CIA had many times that number of human beings in cages in Guantánamo Bay, and millions of American citizens are still incarcerated – in fact, the US has more prisoners than almost any other country.
The Cuban response to the sign? First they erected an American “wall of shame” directly across from the American Christmas display. The wall was 10 feet high and 60 feet long and studded with Abu Ghraib prison torture photos. “Fascista – Made in U.S.A.” appeared at one end; at the other end was a swastika. The effect was shocking and stunning all at the same time. In the street, someone had painted a 40-foot-tall squawking chicken that looked like an American eagle, wearing a blue T-shirt with a big letter B, for “Bush.” Loud music and speeches poured out of huge speakers for a couple of hours each day.
As if that weren’t enough, a large Cuban flag and a banner with a picture of Donald Rumsfeld driving a sleigh, dropping bombs and shouting to his reindeer, “¿Ca son los derechos humanos? ¡Bombardear bien derechos a humanos!” (which, loosely translated, means, “Human rights? Bomb the right humans!”) had been raised. Another billboard showed a child writing a letter. A US soldier held his gun to the child’s head. The letter said “Y para el nuevo quiero no le tiren mas bombas a mi casa y que no torturen mi papa.” Translated, that means, “For the New Year, I want them to not drop bombs on my house or to torture my papa.” The top of the billboard read, “Happy New Year: Abu Ghraib * Fallujah * Kirkut * Guantánamo,” with swastikas between the names.
Propaganda was everywhere: The Hotel Nacional even had a 50-foot-tall banner of Fidel Castro, emblazoned with wishes for a happy New Year. Incredible! A hot time to be in Havana, to say the least!
Traveling Cuba by car is an incredible yet sometimes difficult experience. Unusual third-world road conditions and a lack of signs make things fun, kind of like being in a video game. In cities and towns the traffic will keep you on your toes: The streets are filled with bicycles, trucks emitting clouds of thick black diesel exhaust, horse-drawn whatevers, huge bulls, goats, pigs, dogs, heaps of rice drying in the sun and whole great herds of people.
Viñales was incredible, almost prehistoric-looking, with half-domed flattop mountains called mogotes covered with palm trees, ferns and jungle-type flora. Some of the mogotes were hollow, with caves in them. We stopped at San Diego de los Banõs, a mineral-water spa, and lounged for a bit. There we met a posh-type English girl hanging out. Her claim to fame was that she had been arrested for cannabis possession in every country she had been to. Wow. I did not want to share this experience with her.
All the hotels in Viñales were full and don’t allow Cubans anyway, so we ventured off to find a casa particular. After asking around, we located a mountain villa that we could have all to ourselves for $30 a night. We unpacked and marveled at our location. Having never been to Viñales before, El Gato was shocked by its beauty. We strolled around a bit, and El Gato walked over to the side of the road and picked a psychedelic mushroom. He says he collects them twice every year, during the rainy seasons.
The following day, El Gato and I kept our date with destiny and planted our precious Kryptonite seeds in this famous region. We selected a spot with fantastic loamy, airy soil, slightly moistened from the nearby stream, with excellent sunlight. It’s an incredible feeling to know you truly are the first person to plant quality cannabis in a country as beautiful as Cuba. I only wish I could have stayed there and cared for the plants. Better yet, I hope they grow and replicate and spread all over the island.
It was New Year’s Eve and we had planned one last party with all our friends, as Mary Jane and I would be flying home the next day. We took the scenic route back to Havana – the Carretera Central to the Circuito Norte through the province and then along the coast west of the city.
That night our friends fixed us a feast of delicious food and drink. We ate, drank and smoked, but my friends never get to smoke anything like my trichome hash, so they got real high real fast. The party slowed down and everybody was chillin’ and listening to music, conversing, etc. At one point, Mr. Verde handed me a gram of Cuban weed. It was terrible – just the worst. Looking down at the dark brown shake, I told Mr. Verde that this was the reason I’d put my life on the line to bring the Cuban people the books and seeds.
As the New Year rolled in at midnight, there was a 21-cannon salute from El Morro Lighthouse. El Gato and Mr. Verde said that the next time I visited Cuba, they would have a contest to see who had learned the most from the books by having their own cannabis competition, followed by a graduation, with a diploma of sorts to be awarded. I had to laugh because I could not even being to explain that something like this actually exists in Amsterdam.
I do not encourage anybody to smuggle to Cuba: If they catch you, they will keep you. As I finish this article, the Cuban government is enacting two new laws. The first is that Cuban citizens must avoid tourists, and if they do have contact, they must report it – who, why, where, etc., etc. The second is that any tourist heard condemning the system, the regime or Fidel Castro is to be reported immediately. This is not a place to fuck around.
I did what I did because I had to. This was a personal mission. Cuba is incredible, but it is not marijuana-friendly, nor is it a ganja destination. Hopefully someday it will be, and I will take great pleasure in knowing that I had a small part in making it happen.