Short himself didn’t try pot until he was 12 or 13, a few years after his parents divorced. He’d become clinically depressed, not eating, losing weight. Then he smoked for the first time. It took him six tries before he actually experienced a high, but when he finally did, he was seized with the overwhelming urge to eat an omelette. “It was a pivot point in my life.” After that, he smoked daily, hiding joints from his mother. Weed helped him gain weight; weed took him away from the cold and the blight of DetroitShort also says smoking weed has made him a feminist. From his book: “One of the most profound aspects of the cannabis experience for me is its ability to act as a counterbalance to my personal male dominance syndrome. That is, cannabis allows me a reprieve from the otherwise distracting male-conditioned response of attempting to dominate my environment.”
The moderator kicked off the discussion with a question to the panel about the chemistry of cannabis. Everyone knows about THC, the chemical that gets you high, but the plant contains as many as 80 unique compounds, or “cannabinoids,” including one that’s been shown to have potent medicinal effects but doesn’t get you high at all: cannabidiol, or CBD. American scientists can’t work with cannabis because the government punishes anyone who tries, but researchers in Israel have been able to breed high-CBD strains and investigate their qualities. Are high-CBD strains the future?
“Did you say you have some hash?”
“> 1 . There are no videos. Unlike several prominent cultivators, DJ Short, arguably the most skillful and creative American cannabis breeder of the last 40 years, has never embedded himself with a film crew from Vice magazine.
Short has continued to tinker with his original stock. In 2004, in a hotel room in Canada, he smoked a particularly beguiling plant in the Flo line. “You just look at the jar and say: You are special. As the minutes are going by, the seconds, you’re just like: Whoa, who are you?” He called it F-13.
He sent me a chapter outline from his unpublished memoir about the experience, Zero Fire. There’s a lot in the outline about water pumps and making camp and digging trails — the gruntwork of stomping out fires — as well as the rough beauty of the Oregon mountains. In Chapter 21, Short describes tripping on mescaline at night in the woods: “The futility and necessity of the head-lamp. Panic buttons. Coming to grips. Wonder drives my being. Down to the lake of fire. Why the woods don’t burn there. Wander curiously … Question the significance of evil and greed. Demons and Angels … The power of the powder takes control. Finding freedom in The Moment. Peaking. Hats (and clothes!) off to the chemist. Naked.”
Posting a sour letter on the Internet probably qualifies as the “full extent of the law” for Short. Suing is complicated, since he’s operating in a gray market. Besides, he told me, he’s satisfied with the living he makes. In an average year, he grosses $50,000. “I’ve always been working-class,” he said. He pays his taxes, doesn’t deduct. “It kind of sucks, because what am I doing? I’m paying [the government] to come bust me?” He mentioned in an offhand way that he’d been to jail a couple times in his teens for “stupid drug stuff.” He didn’t sound bitter about it. Cops, he said, “need healing too.”
One day in 1973, Short bought a box of cereal that came with a plastic seed sprouter. Out of simple curiosity, he moistened the chamber, inserted a bud from his stash of Hawaiian, and watched with delight as it grew roots and a sprout. Over the next several years, as the Vietnam War ended and Richard Nixon left the White House, most of Short’s peace-activist friends moved onto other passions, other lives. “All of a sudden,” Short recalled, “I was alone.” So he plunged into a solitary project.
“> 5 He didn’t seem to mind telling me any of this when we sat down in the shade of a tall tree after the panel.
The Willy Wonka of Pot A trip to Hempfest with pioneering cannabis breeder DJ Short T o get to Hempfest this year, you started in downtown Seattle on a humid, cloudless Saturday. You walked