FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

High Times Puts on a White Coat

by FRED GARDNER

High Times magazine sponsored the original “Cannabis Cup” in Amsterdam in 1987. The event inspired plant breeders and publicized their strains and their seed companies. It has been held annually ever since —a fine excuse for a trade show and an extended party at harvest time.

The pretext of a cannabis cup is that discerning judges will sample various strains and determine the best (to be announced at the climactic awards ceremony). The truth is, it’s impossible for judges, after sampling strain #1, to then distinguish the effects of sample #2. The body needs an interval of at least three or four hours for a return to baseline cannabinoid levels.  Lester Grinspoon, MD, thinks that evaluating only one sample a day would be preferable.

High Times recently launched a glossy quarterly called HT Medical Marijuana News and Reviews, edited in San Francisco. To celebrate their arrival on the scene, the magazine staff organized the first ever “medical” cannabis cup, It was held last week-end at Terra, an events center —an erstwhile factory with a large side-yard— on Harrison St., kitty corner from the Sailors and Seamen’s Union hall.

The weather was okay on Saturday, perfect on Sunday, and a whompin” good time was had by about 2,000 medical cannabis users each day. Tickets cost $50, vendors paid $1,500 for tables. It was not the standard High Times demographic —there were more middle-aged people and senior citizens. I figured about half the seniors had done time. And all had lived in fear of the cops and endured social contempt. Now they were passing joints in the sunshine, ignoring the “no tobacco smoking” signs, enjoying a sliver of freedom.

Valerie Corral, the leader of WAMM, had been assigned to judge the strains classified as Sativas. She was given 42 samples to evaluate six days prior to the event. I saw her one day that week at a meeting —she was sampling #32 and conscientiously recording her impressions in a notebook.  DJ Short, the renowned plant breeder and seed merchant, had to judge 38 Indica samples. He and Val each managed to select a top five (in consultation with High Times editors), and then Jorge Cervantes, the best-selling author of cultivation guides, made the final call.

Valerie Corral is a very positive woman. She said that every bud she evaluated was “a jewel grown with the best intentions.”  But the chemical residue on some made her cough, and one gave her a headache.  DJ Short, who is not partial to Indicas in general, didn’t find any he especially liked among the cup entrants. But the show must go on, and Cervantes made executive decisions based on appearance and aroma.

And the winners were… Best Sativa: “God’s Pussy,” from GreenBicycles up in Crescent City… Best Indica: “Cali Gold,” from Mr. Natural, Inc…. Best concentrate (chosen by Chris Conrad and Mikki Norris from among 16 entrants): Ingrid, by the Leonard Moore collective, Mendocino… Best edible: biscotti from Greenway in Santa Cruz.

Steep Hill lab in Oakland tested the entrants for THC content. Steep Hill’s David Lampach says that the cannabis cup entrants averaged 15-16% THC, whereas the buds the lab ordinarily tests average 10-12% THC.   “The winners all had high THC levels,” according to Lampach, “but not necessarily the highest.”  God’s Pussy was found to contain 18.2%; Cali Gold 18.4%; and Ingrid hash 45.5% THC.

Lampach points out that Cali Gold, though classified as an Indica by the Cup organizers, might actually be a sativa-dominant strain, based on its lineage. The taxonomy of cannabis is very loose, to put it mildly. Sativas are said to have longer, narrower leaves; to take longer to reach maturity (important for growers); and to have a more cerebral effect (as opposed to sedating Indicas). DJ Short says there is no clear dividing line and cites the example of Flo, a strain he developed that is “a quick finisher but has narrower leaves and a Sativa effect.”

Both Valerie Corral and DJ Short said they were struck by the predominance of cannabis grown indoors and felt impelled to extol the virtues of the sun. So did Jorge Cervantes, who gave a talk on cultivation to a rapt SRO audience. Note that the Amsterdam cannabis cup is held in November, when the outdoor harvest comes in. In California, where most cultivation is indoors, the cup was held in June. Obeying the law of supply and demand requires lots of electricity.

High Times Medical News and Reviews gave an award to Lester Grinspoon, MD, for his enduring service to the cause…  Grinspoon winced when he learned the name of the winning Sativa, and High Times promptly took the offensive term down from its website. Grinspoon has an idea to promote more dignified nomenclature in the future: judges should give weight to the name of a strain when evaluating its worth as a medicinal product.

Some Martin Gardner Trivia

When I worked at Scientific American in the 1960s, mail addressed to Martin Gardner (no relation) sometimes wound up on my desk. The author of the widely read “Mathematical Games” column lived in Hastings-on-Hudson and never came into the office, which was in midtown Manhattan. On a few occasions I brought him his mail. He worked in the attic, which was lined with olive drab file cabinets containing 3”-by-5” index cards. This extensive filing system, he confided, was the key to his seemingly universal knowledge. “I don’t store much up here,” he said, touching his forehead, “but whatever the subject, I know where to look it up.”

He was soft-spoken, his hair was almost white, his complexion was fair, and he wore thick glasses. He would have been 49 or 50 when our paths crossed, but I was in my early 20s and naively considered him… not old exactly, but slightly past his prime. In the previous decade Gardner had written an intellectually militant expose, “In the Name of Science,” debunking Eugenics, L. Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics (Scientology), Wilhelm Reich’s Orgone Box, Velikovsky’s “Worlds in Collision,”  Extra-sensory Perception (ESP),  and other “frauds and fallacies.” (Those blunt words were added to the title when Ballantine Books brought out the paperback in 1957.)

I thought then that for Gardner “Mathematical Games” was a step away from muckraking and active struggle against irrationality, a step in the general direction of the sunset.  Little did I know that he would leave Scientific American in 1981 and resume writing —purposefully and prolifically— for almost three more decades. He also functioned as a political organizer, helping to found the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal and its journal, the Skeptical Inquirer.

Gardner died May 22 at age 95. Joe Wisnovsky, an old colleague with whom I reminisced, had stayed in touch with him over the years. In fact, Joe had published Gardner’s last book, “When you Were a Tadpole and I was a Fish” (Hill & Wang, 2009). He recalled that Gardner had started at Scientific American as a freelancer, and even after his column became a regular feature, had remained an independent contractor until Gerard Piel, the publisher, encouraged him to become a regular employee, i.e., entitled to benefits. “The last thing Gerry Piel ever expected was that Martin would reach 65 and retire,” said Joe, “which he could afford to do because of the pension plan.” Piel and managing editor Dennis Flanagan did not want to lose Gardner, whose column was a great asset. “They went into a tizzy,” Joe said. “They told him, ‘Martin, you don’t have to resign.’  But Martin said, ‘I think I’d like to retire and move south and write books.’”

Which is what he did, relocating to Hendersonville, North Carolina, writing columns for the Skeptical Inquirer and other journals, and bringing out numerous anthologies. Joe said Gardner never used an agent but “struck a hard bargain around retaining the rights to republish his material.” A few years ago his wife died and he became very depressed.  He stopped writing, stopped seeing people, stopped corresponding. (His medium of choice had always been the postcard.) After several years of dysfunction, he moved back to Oklahoma, where one of his sons was teaching at the University in Norman.  “And just like that he snapped out of it,” Joe said, “and was his old, productive self. He even learned how to use a computer.”

It was astonishing to learn that Martin Gardner had not been a computer user from early on. Joe said that one of the reasons Gardner gave up his “Mathematical Games” column at the dawn of the 1980s was that he anticipated the field becoming computer-oriented. (His successor renamed the column “Mathematical Recreations.”)  Gardner used the computer only for research, Joe said, and never used email, continuing to correspond by postcard.

A few years ago Joe was publishing a book called “Irreligion” by John Allen Paulos, a mathematician, and asked Gardner to contribute a blurb. “Martin was friends with Paulos and had blurbed one of his books in the past,” Joe said. “I had totally forgotten that Martin was not an atheist but some strange kind of deist. He wrote me a very nice letter declining, pointing out that he remained a deist ‘even though atheists have all the best arguments.’”

FRED GARDNER is editor of O’Shaughnessy’s. He can be reached at: fred@plebesite.com

 

WORDS THAT STICK

 

Fred Gardner is the managing editor of O’Shaughnessy’s. He can be reached at fred@plebesite.com

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Obama Said Hillary will Continue His Legacy and Indeed She Will!
Jeffrey St. Clair
She Stoops to Conquer: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Rob Urie
Long Live the Queen of Chaos
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Evolution of Capitalism, Escalation of Imperialism
Margot Kidder
My Fellow Americans: We Are Fools
Phillip Kim et al.
Open Letter to Bernie Sanders from Former Campaign Staffers
Ralph Nader
Hillary’s Convention Con
Lewis Evans
Executing Children Won’t Save the Tiger or the Rhino
Vijay Prashad
The Iraq War: a Story of Deceit
Chris Odinet
It Wasn’t Just the Baton Rouge Police Who Killed Alton Sterling
Brian Cloughley
Could Trump be Good for Peace?
Patrick Timmons
Racism, Freedom of Expression and the Prohibition of Guns at Universities in Texas
Gary Leupp
The Coming Crisis in U.S.-Turkey Relations
Pepe Escobar
Is War Inevitable in the South China Sea?
Norman Pollack
Clinton Incorruptible: An Ideological Contrivance
Robert Fantina
The Time for Third Parties is Now!
Andre Vltchek
Like Trump, Hitler Also Liked His “Small People”
Serge Halimi
Provoking Russia
David Rovics
The Republicans and Democrats Have Now Switched Places
Andrew Stewart
Countering The Nader Baiter Mythology
Rev. William Alberts
“Law and Order:” Code words for White Lives Matter Most
Ron Jacobs
Something Besides Politics for Summer’s End
David Swanson
It’s Not the Economy, Stupid
Erwan Castel
A Faith that Lifts Barricades: The Ukraine Government Bows and the Ultra-Nationalists are Furious
Steve Horn
Did Industry Ties Lead Democratic Party Platform Committee to Nix Fracking Ban?
Robert Fisk
How to Understand the Beheading of a French Priest
Colin Todhunter
Sugar-Coated Lies: How The Food Lobby Destroys Health In The EU
Franklin Lamb
“Don’t Cry For Us Syria … The Truth is We Shall Never Leave You!”
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
The Artistic Representation of War and Peace, Politics and the Global Crisis
Frederick B. Hudson
Well Fed, Bill?
Harvey Wasserman
NY Times Pushes Nukes While Claiming Renewables Fail to Fight Climate Change
Elliot Sperber
Pseudo-Democracy, Reparations, and Actual Democracy
Uri Avnery
The Orange Man: Trump and the Middle East
Marjorie Cohn
The Content of Trump’s Character
Missy Comley Beattie
Pick Your Poison
Kathleen Wallace
Feel the About Turn
Joseph Grosso
Serving The Grid: Urban Planning in New York
John Repp
Real Cooperation with Nations Is the Best Survival Tactic
Binoy Kampmark
The Scourge of Youth Detention: The Northern Territory, Torture, and Australia’s Detention Disease
Kim Nicolini
Rain the Color Blue with a Little Red In It
Cesar Chelala
Gang Violence Rages Across Central America
Tom H. Hastings
Africa/America
Robert Koehler
Slavery, War and Presidential Politics
Charles R. Larson
Review: B. George’s “The Death of Rex Ndongo”
July 28, 2016
Paul Street
Politician Speak at the DNC
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail