Apologies if the title of this piece is an obscure reference. It is taken from the recent debate in the US, about whether the science classes of public schools should teach ‘Intelligent Design’ as an alternative theory to evolution.
In that debate, the terms ‘evolution’ and ‘intelligent design’ were used to describe opposing viewpoints. However, both terms fit very well when considering our favourite plant and its history from ancient times to the present day.
The way that cannabis and those who choose to grow it have adapted to the environment of prohibition in just the last few decades is a wonderful example of both evolution and intelligent design.
In essence, the harsh legal restictions on this plant and increased attempts to eradicate it have been a huge influence on the breeding and development of heavier, faster, more potent varieties. In the same way, the war on weed has spurred growers to develop smaller, more efficient systems and highly effective methods for for growing indoors.
In response to the use of new technology to detect indoor cannabis, growers have taken dozens of new developments in other fields and adapted them to clandestine indoor cultivation.
There are direct improvements like cooled lights, quieter fans and advanced odour-control, as well as indirect improvements, such the use of the internet as a means of spreading information to the widest possible audience and computer applications that allow a grow-room to be monitored and adjusted from a distance.
Depending on your point of view and sense of optimism, we may currently be experiencing a cannabis Renaissance – with knowledge and freedom on the rise – or we may be on the verge of yet another backlash against cannabis – with misinformation and persecution increasing. It probably won’t be clear whether the situation here in the early 21st Century is getting better or worse until we can look back at this time from the vantage point of the future.
If we look back over the 20th Century, we can see the ebb and flow of canabis prohibition in the West.The USA gives us an interesting summary of the fluid attitude towards cannabis.
At the turn of the last century, popular interest in cannabis was increasing in Europe and North America – along with interest in many other now-acceptable topics that were then considered weird or subversive, such as jazz, vegetarianism and Naturism.
Anti-cannabis forces began to gain national and global strength in the 1930s. Not coincidentally, this was the period when nationalist and fascist movements were reaching their peak, and hostility to decadent or ‘foreign’ influence was widespread.
It wasn’t until the 1960s that acceptance and appreciation of cannabis reached ‘pop culture’ status. Many years of propaganda were undone when a generation of people were able to try cannabis and contrast their positive experience with the misinformation offered by official sources. The future seemed bright. Under Jimmy Carter, even the USA, home of Prohibition, decriminalised cannabis possession.
Hopes for real change were swept away in the 1980s, with the declaration of the War on Drugs, This war soon spread world-wide and was to be fought mostly against civilians – people whose views, experiences or use of certain substances contradicted the official line.
The War on Drugs has had many tragic casualties, but cannabis itself has not been one of them. The attack on the plant and its growers at the beginning of the ’80s motivated an explosion in breeding and technology that continues to this day. An unjust War gave rise to a popular resistance movement – breeders determined to protect the precious strains they had been collecting and refining during the brief ‘ceasefire’ of the ’70s.
Evolution is a very fitting way to describe the events that followed – evolution, enhanced by intelligent design.
We can see this process at work in predators and prey all over the animal kingdom. The hunted adapt to better evade the hunters. The predators adapt to better catch the prey. For millions of years this process has produced new species, more specifically adapted to their circumstances.
In less than thirty years, the same relationship between growers of cannabis and enforcers of the laws that prohibit it has resulted in huge variations and improvements of both the plant and the way it is produced.
I don’t want to portray cannabis growers and breeders as timid, submissive herbivores, but we are the peaceful plant-lovers in this relationship, while the other side seems to have the monopoly on violence and the means to inflict it.
When penalties for growing cannabis became much more severe, many casual garden-growers were discouraged. Increased efforts to eradicate large-scale outdoor crops led to helicopter surveillance, infra-red detection and paramilitary police units dedicated to destroying crops.
Cannabis cultivation began to move inside as growers sought to protect themselves. At the same time, improvements in growing and feeding techniques plus new developments in lighting helped make this possible.
One problem was that indoor plants had to be smaller and faster, so the tropical Sativas that had been widely grown were limited in their potential. In response, pioneering breeders began to work with strains from India, Afghanistan and Pakistan that were almost unknown in the West – the rich and resinous Indicas. These fast, short, heavy plants would solve the problems of indoor growing.
Classic strains such as Northern Lights, Hindu Kush, Afghani #1 and Big Bud were grown for their pure Indica qualities. These Indicas and others were combined with Sativas to make some of the wonderful early hybrids we still appreciate today – Skunk #1, Silver Pearl, Silver Haze, Northern Lights #5 x Haze.
And, as we know, individuals and companies dedicated to breeding and supplying distinct varieties of cannabis seed emerged, enabling any grower to produce something special.
Before professional seed breeders began their work, top-quality genetics were hard to obtain. The only options open to most people were contact with an experienced grower, a trip to a distant land, or good luck in growing seeds obtained from commercial cannabis.
Communication and contact between growers – and all other people who refuse to accept the injustice and illogic of cannabis prohibition – is one of the strongest assets we have in continuing our fight to end the war declared upon us. While personal security is of the highest importance for growers, it is also important not to allow the forces opposed to cannabis make us feel isolated or powerless.
Contact and support within the cannabis community strengthens and encourages us. Communication has has led to the world-wide dissemination of cannabis information and genetics. There have vast improvements in growing techniques, as countless inspired minds ponder the same issues and devise different solutions.
Most importantly, we are working to remind the world that cannabis (when free of legal harrassment) is a normal, joyful and intelligent experience.