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Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em 

As weed becomes legal, many wonder where to start

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The long-awaited time has arrived. Starting July 1, the recreational use of marijuana is legal in Oregon, converting the reported 15 percent of Oregonians who currently smoke into law-abiding citizens. And opening the door for many who either smoked back in the day, or are curious but dissuaded by things like illegality.

"Oregon has a humongous cannabis culture," says Cameron Yee, owner of Bend-based edibles and extracts producer Lunchbox Alchemy. "I think we're going to see a lot of marijuana being used. You're going to see a lot of old people coming out of the closet."

But where will all that pot come from? Hopefully not from the freezers of aging hippies. The reality is, the future of legal weed is still unfolding—blooming, if you will—but we might as well start at the start.

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Ganja, ganja everywhere, but not a bud to smoke

Imagine being a 20-year-old beer lover in Bend. Like a kid in a candy shop, you are surrounded by the thing you desire, but have no proper way to obtain it.

The nascent legal recreational market is a still a ways off from setting up shop. Licenses for recreational growers, processors, wholesalers, and retailers are not expected to be available until January 2016. If all goes according to plan, Bendites could be legally procuring marijuana from authorized retailers by fall of 2016. And yet as of July 1, Oregonians are allowed to grow up to four plants on their property—someplace their neighbors can't see it, have up to eight ounces in their homes, and have up to one ounce on their person at any given time.

But where will all that legal weed come from, in the year or so until pot shops open for business?

It's a question the legislature is grappling with. There's been some push by Sen. Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day) to allow medical marijuana dispensaries to sell their products recreationally, but it hasn't gained any real traction.

In the meantime, there are few legal-ish (and less-than-legal) ways to achieve what many are calling "immaculate conception." (Note: We do not endorse illegal activities, and readers are 100 percent to blame if they do something stupid and get in trouble with the fuzz. Confused about what's legal? Click here.)

Just keep doing what you've always done. Text that friend of a friend of a friend who makes enough money selling weed to stoners—the ones too broke or lazy to fake an anxiety attack for a medical card—to spend his days playing Call of Duty on a sweet leather couch in front of a massive television. (Any resemblance to people I knew in college is entirely coincidental, I swear.) The perk: He's almost always available. The bummer: It's still illegal to buy weed from an unlicensed dealer. You may want to keep using your top-secret code when you text your "friend."

Make friends with a medical card holder and hope they decide to gift you some weed. The law prohibits them from selling it to you. And while it bartering is probably legally suspect, the police probably have better things to do than bust you for accepting weed in exchange for walking a friend's dog or mowing their lawn. Just saying. Bonus: If they have a legitimate medical malady justifying treatment with marijuana, you could tell yourself you're doing a good deed for someone in need.

Start a home herb garden. Remember those veggies you grew last summer? It's sort of like that. Except—roadblock—no one in the state of Oregon can currently legally sell you seeds, seedlings, or mature plants. But, again, there are potential workarounds. First, Craigslist, your one-stop-shop for all kinds of barely legal transactions. Second, that generous friend with the green card. As of July 1, they can gift you their legally obtained marijuana products. Third, there are websites through which individuals can order seeds and other items from other states. You know, Google it.

Playing in the dirt (or water, if you go hydro) is probably your best bet. Once a budding cannabis connoisseur has obtained his or her seeds-of-questionable-legality, everything from there on out should be on the up-and-up. All things considered, a reasonably low-risk proposition.

In terms of regulation, aside from the minor conundrum of finding legally-sourced seeds and starts and ensuring your plants are out of public view, there is little to worry about. Bend City Manager Eric King says that while City Council is contemplating how the City should regulate the time, manner, and place in which marijuana is grown, processed, and sold, it hasn't come close to finalizing anything. To some extent, the City is waiting on to see where the State lands before it makes any big moves. But even still, home growing hasn't come up as a high priority issue. So, while it's always wise to stay abreast of any City codes and State laws pertaining to the growth of cannabis, for now, would-be green thumbs are largely home free.

Still, one does not simply put cannabis seeds in some soil, sprinkle them with a little water, and watch them grow like magic beans to incredible heights. No, growing marijuana is a bit more challenging than keeping alive that jade plant on your desk you never remember to water. And your pot plant won't bud overnight. There's a process to growing and cultivating marijuana, but trying it first-hand might give you a greater appreciation for that $40 baggie of green. And, with any luck, you'll end up with something you can use.

Know before you grow

1. It's not for everyone.

"It takes careful planning and forethought to successfully grow your own cannabis at home," says Rich Lewman, who grows medical marijuana at Hug Farms in Bend. "It can be very rewarding, but it's also a long process and many difficulties may arise."

2. Read a book

Yes, it's a whole new world of weed, but there's something to be said for tried and true. An impressive array of books on cultivating marijuana is available through the Deschutes Public Library. A quick search for "marijuana" in the online catalog brings up 111 results, with titles including growing guides (indoor, outdoor, hydro) and books about the medical industry and cannabis culture as a whole.

3. Start simple

It can be intimidating to peruse the marijuana-related products at your local grow shop, and while those items may prove handy for those in the know, Lewman says starting a home grow is only as complicated as you make it.

"Simple gardening skills and handy cannabis grow book will be enough to get you going. Almost any space out of the public's line of sight will work," he says. "Supply lists will vary depending of the type of grow you undertake. It could be as simple as a container, dirt, and plant food, or as complex as setting up a hydroponics system."

That part about keeping your cannabis crop out of the public's line of sight is a legal requirement. So even if you've gone all Food Not Lawns in your front yard, if you plan to grow outdoors, be sure Mary Jane has a secluded or sheltered spot.

"If you happen to have some seeds and space, you could plant them in a private place in your backyard. Just give them water and you could be up and rolling for next to nothing," Lewman explains. "However, there are many products that may enhance your plants and then the dollars begin to add up. It's a good idea to create a budget for yourself to work with and plan ahead. One could easily spend more growing the plant then it would cost to buy the finished product." 

Aside from soil, water, and light, your cannabis plant needs nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, and various micronutrients. Research which nutrients are required during various growth stages and find soil amendments to provide the plant nutrition.

4. Be patient

Cannabis may be a weed, but quality, usable herb isn't going to just pop up like cheat grass. While starting the grow process now might yield you usable marijuana before you could buy it in a pot shop, it won't be that much earlier.

"When starting from seed it can take anywhere from 4 to 10 months to finish flowering your plant," Lewman says. "Once flowering is complete, the plant will have to be harvested, dried, and cured before smoking. This may take and additional week to a month."

So, best case scenario, you could be smoking some homegrown herb by Christmas. Worst case, you might have to wait until Cinco de Mayo.

5. Expect some trial and error

While books and experienced growers can offer guidelines, tips, and tricks, growing any kind of plant is finicky business. Even cannabis plants can vary widely from one variety to another.

"Actively applying the knowledge you've gathered in your garden with the intention to learn is the surest way to develop your own green thumb with cannabis," Lewman explains. He encourages budding growers to do their homework, seek out books, videos, radio shows, blogs, and hands-on classes in the local community and beyond. As Oregon's already-strong cannabis culture continues to grow, these will become even more widely available. "With these tools and experience your knowledge will grow right along with your plants," he says. "Remember it can be difficult at times and try not to be discouraged." 6. Follow best practices

There may not be one right way to grow marijuana, but a few basic rules apply. For example, if you're growing from seed, find out the sex of your seeds. That's right, flowers are a tool for a plant's sexual reproduction. "Cannabis plants grown from seed must be sexed to determine if they are male or female. This can be very tricky, but crucial as male plants do not produce a smoke-able flower," Lewman says. "Instead, males produce pollen, which if left to go full term will fill any finishing buds nearby with seeds."

So while you may be tempted to start with that seed you found in the bag of weed your buddy gave you, you'll have better luck if you ensure it's a lady seed before you invest time, money, and energy into transforming it into a productive plant.

When it comes to processing the buds, it's important to get the right balance of moisture. If you've only ever seen marijuana in a Ziplock bag or Mason jar, you may not realize that it doesn't just come off the plant like that.

"When processing the flowers you've produced, remember to dry them in the dark," Lewman explains. "Too dry and it crumbles into dust. Too wet and it doesn't process well. Your touch for these things will develop with experience."

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