Introduction: Jorge Cervantes is the nom de plume that George Van Patten took to conceal his identity from 1983 to 2010. Taking the name of his wife, Estella Cervantes, and that of his favorite author, Miguel de Cervantes, Van Patten wore black dreadlocks and a beret to cloak his public identity. Cervantes came "out of the closet" in a 2010 interview on National Public Radio (USA) and continues to research, publish, make videos and draw a discussion about his favorite plant with an international community on his forum at www.marijuanagrowing.com.
Jorge self-published the first edition of his Indoor Marijuana Horticulture, a 96-page book that came to be known among growers as the "Indoor Grower's Bible," in 1983. Future editions were published in 1985, 1993 and 2006, and in 2012 the 5th edition was titled Marijuana Horticulture: The Indoor/Outdoor Medical Grower's Bible. His books have been translated into Dutch, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese and Russian.
In 2006, Jorge produced "Jorge Cervantes' Ultimate Grow" DVD, followed by two more in the series, in 2007 and 2008, and another DVD entitled "Cannabis Expeditions: The Green Giants of California" in 2012. He started marijuanagrowing.com in 1997, and his channel on YouTube reached 5 million views as of 2013.
Cervantes is a sought-after speaker at cannabis fairs around the world and has presented in Switzerland, Austria, Spain, the UK, Netherlands, Germany and in several states in the USA. His articles and columns have appeared since 1984 in numerous publications, including Sinsemilla Tips, High Times, Cannabis Culture, Canamo (Spain), Grow! (Germany), Canna Habla (Spain), TPABA (Russia), THC (Argentina), Burst High (Japan), CC News (UK), Canhamo (Portugal), Grass Times (Germany) High Times Medical Marijuana (USA), Il Ligito (Italy), International Cannagraphic (Netherlands), Red Eye Express (UK), THCene (Germany) and Yerba (Spain).
Anthony Wile: Thank you for taking time to talk with us. You are world renowned for your expertise in marijuana cultivation and we'd like to ask a number of questions drawing on that knowledge as well as get your take on the burgeoning legalization/ decriminalization of marijuana around the world. But first, tell us a little about yourself, please. You were born George Van Patten, in Oregon. When did you take on the name Jorge Cervantes, and why? At what age did you start growing pot? What else are you passionate about?
Jorge Cervantes: I published my first book, Indoor Marijuana Horticulture, in 1983. Nobody would publish it so I started Van Patten Publishing and later Van Patten Editorial in Spain. Back then the world was in the thick of the US-induced War on Drugs and I was considered a criminal by the "authorities." I also travel a lot, crossing many borders. Using my own name was hazardous and scary. I assumed the nom de plume to insulate myself and stay out of jail!
I started growing cannabis in 1976 when I was 23 years old. I had just returned to the USA from Mexico where I attended the University of the Americas in Puebla, Mexico.
Bicycling is also a passion. Earlier this year I participated in the three-day, 400 km Medical Cannabis Bike Tour before the Spannabis trade fair in Barcelona, Spain. We raised €100,000 for cancer-cannabis research. I'm 60 years old and staying in good physical condition is essential. I also swim laps and love to grow flowers and vegetables. I love plants. They do not have the complications that people seem to find.
Anthony Wile: You're quite a prolific writer on the topic of growing marijuana. As you mentioned, you first wrote Indoor Marijuana Horticulture in 1983, and have published numerous editions since then, republished in many languages. It is now referred to among marijuana growers as simply "the Bible." Former President Vincente Fox of Mexico wrote the foreword to your most recent edition, in 2010. Tell us how that came about. What has come from that? Fox has long been outspoken in favor of the legalization of marijuana and in 2013 said it would be "a change of paradigm" and that "this prohibition is the last frontier of prohibitions." What do you see in the future regarding marijuana in Mexico?
Jorge Cervantes: Mexican President Vicente Fox Quesada wrote the Foreword to my new book, The Cannabis Encyclopedia (600 pages, 2,000+ images 8.5 x 11-inch format), that will be released in December of 2014.
I was fortunate to meet President Fox in San Francisco last year, 2013, at a press conference in San Francisco, CA. I presented him a copy of "the Bible" in Spanish. He was impressed and very personable. I gave him the book to help him grow cannabis in Mexico when it becomes legal. The Fox family is the biggest vegetable grower in Mexico. Much of the produce is shipped to the USA.
Six months later, I contacted President Fox at El Centro Fox in Mexico and asked him to write the Foreword. He responded the next day! A week later I was translating the Foreword from Spanish to English. You can see it here.
Mexico is rife with corruption. Anybody who has had contact with authorities is all too familiar with the "bite" or "la mordida," meaning bribe, in Mexico. The War on Drugs has helped spawn a multitude of illegal activities – extortion, kidnapping, money laundering, smuggling, horrid violence, etc. – in Mexico. These things are now part of the fabric of life in Mexico.
Legalizing drugs including cannabis will take the black market money out of the equation but the other illegal activities will continue. The War on Drugs has changed the entire culture and value system in Mexico. I'm not sure what the outcome will be.
Anthony Wile: In your many books, hundreds of articles and blog entries at your forum MarijuanaGrowing.com and cannabis cultivation training videos you detail the specific differences, benefits and disadvantages of outdoor, greenhouse and indoor cultivation. As a kind of introduction to the uninitiated, give us a brief summary overview of growing marijuana outdoor vs. indoors.
Jorge Cervantes: Gardening indoors requires the gardener create an artificial outdoor environment. This is a bit of a job and it is expensive. The gardener must purchase grow lights, containers, fans, timers, provide ventilation, etc. Water quality is also very important. Gardening proficiency is very important because everything must be controlled from seed to harvest.
Outdoor cannabis cultivation is much easier and less expensive. It would be similar to purchasing seeds or small tomato plants at the plant nursery and growing them out to harvest. Many of the same factors come into play – soil preparation, regular care including watering and fertilization, etc.
Anthony Wile: Can you ever replicate the sun by growing indoors? Will you ever be able to truly replicate the sun? What is the importance of that in cultivation?
Jorge Cervantes: Yes, the light provided by sunlight can be replicated indoors, but it is expensive. Sunlight contains a small percentage of ultraviolet (UVA, UVB and UVC) light. Most grow lights do not supply UV light. Light Emitting Plasma (LEP) lights supply UV light but they are expensive, about $1,000 for a 300-watt lamp.
Ultraviolet light makes foliage tougher and more difficult to penetrate by fungi and insect attacks. It also makes plants grow faster. We still have not been able to prove that UV light causes cannabis to produce more cannabinoid-rich resin.
Another factor is the intensity. Light intensity diminishes very quickly and the source of light generates heat. This means that plants must be one to three feet away from a bright light source. But if they are too far away, intensity is too low to grow plants properly. This is why most indoor plants are less than four feet tall.
Anthony Wile: Are hydroponics better than a traditional soil medium? Why?
Jorge Cervantes: Hydroponics refers to cultivating plants without soil in an inert growing medium that will not react with other elements. However, in most cases hydroponics is a misnomer. What we are really talking about is container culture. Anybody that grows in a growing medium such as coconut coir, peat moss, soilless mix, etc. is growing "container culture." If they use a non-organic base – rocks, clay pellets, perlite, water, etc. they are growing hydroponically.
The theory with hydroponics is that plant roots receive more air and nutrients can be taken up faster. When perfectly tuned 24 hours a day hydroponics can be more productive than soil. But the plants usually have bigger cells that are not as strong as when soil-grown.
Mineral-based nutrients are used with hydroponics and the taste is notable. I do not like it.
Anthony Wile: Is it possible to prevent marijuana grown outdoors from contamination in order to produce a high-quality product with pharmaceutical-grade purity, as is demanded by certain regulatory agencies? Other thoughts about that issue?
Jorge Cervantes: Yes, but the plants must be washed of contaminants afterward. For example, food that is grown for hospital patient consumption is grown outdoors, but it is washed thoroughly afterward. I like to wash my plants with hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) after harvest. It removes any mold, insects, feces and other contaminants on foliage.
Bedrocan in the Netherlands is a medical cannabis supplier. They ensure clean cannabis by passing it through a UVC light treatment that kills all insects, eggs, mites and fungi.
It is easy and relatively inexpensive to control the climate and pollutants in a greenhouse. Controlling the environment will minimize contaminants including diseases and pests. Greenhouse cultivation also allows cultivation of four to six crops of cannabis annually.
Testing cannabis for diseases, pests and contaminants is essential for medical-grade product. Testing increases the cost but is essential for patient protection.
Anthony Wile: Can manual labor alone maintain a pest-free outdoor growing environment? What's needed?
Jorge Cervantes: No. It is virtually impossible to hand-pick pest insects or to physically scrub away pest eggs and molds. Education, a wary eye and regularly looking at plants for damage are essential. Controlling diseases and pests organically is relatively easy.
Anthony Wile: Indoor growing developed, at least in part, as an offshoot of prohibition, as people were driven underground and secrecy became paramount. Through adaptation we now have this significant industry. Do you think in the future, as people are able to grow legally again, it will swing back toward outdoor production?
Jorge Cervantes: Yes! We do not grow tomatoes indoors under artificial lights. Indoor cultivation is expensive both in monetary and environmental terms. In fact, one study by Evan Mills estimates that 1% of all electricity consumed in the USA is used to grow cannabis indoors. That's enough electricity to power two million homes!
Cannabis growers in Northern California are defoliating large areas to plant cannabis. Legal and clandestine growers are also using water unwisely.
Cannabis is being grown with labor-intensive and resource-intensive methods now. More fertilizer is being used than necessary. Much of this fertilizer seeps into the runoff and ground water or is being washed down the drain into municipal water recovery systems.
The wholesale price of cannabis has dropped from a high of US$6,000 to about $2,500 per pound (454 gms). This trend will continue as prohibition is lifted. Many growers are complaining about the plummeting price. Sooner or later the price will be so low that the only way to make a good living will be to grow outdoors on flat land. I believe the industry will follow a similar model to the wine industry. But, unlike wine grapes, cannabis is more adaptable and can be grown successfully in more climates.
Anthony Wile: What's your opinion of using a CO2 oil production system to convert to cannabis oils?
Jorge Cervantes: Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a solvent used to separate oil-base cannabinoid-rich resins from water-base foliage. Unlike petroleum-based solvents, CO2 is benign and leaves no harmful residues. It is the safest, most efficient way to separate resin from foliage into a concentrate.
Few people use CO2 separation because it is so expensive to set up. It takes much more pressure to perform the process. The separator needs to be made from stainless steel and have very thick walls to withstand the pressure.
Ultimately, large CO2 separation facilities will be set up to process cannabis concentrates. Concentrates will dominate the marketplace in the future. It is already starting to happen. For example, if you measure the cannabinoid profile of a kilogram of cannabis, if will fluctuate up to 40%. Flowers on top of the plant are more potent than those on the bottom. But with concentrates, the cannabinoid profile is consistent. This is essential when manufacturing medicine, drinks, edibles, etc. Concentrates lend themselves to consistent manufacturing processes.
Anthony Wile: Certain regions have historically played an important role in cannabis production due to the indigenous nature of the plant and ideal climate and growing conditions, such as the Himalayas, Colombia, Panama, etc. As the world moves more toward legal production and international free trade agreements allow for trade of cannabis, will these nations with a historical reference point of natural cultivation become the dominant suppliers?
Jorge Cervantes: No. Cannabis can be grown in most climates in the world. Cannabis is grown in Colombia, Mexico, Panama, Mali, Swaziland, etc. in remote regions that are difficult to police. Once the laws change, cannabis cultivators will not need to hide or be subject to corrupt governments and mafias.
Anthony Wile: Turning to the end of marijuana prohibition, the United States is legalizing medical marijuana quite rapidly and recreational use more gradually. We see this as a global trend, and expect that prohibition laws will fall away rapidly as it gains steam. Your thoughts on where the trend will manifest and when? What is driving it, and why now?
Jorge Cervantes: Good sense and science are driving cannabis legalization. These elements are being driven by the freedom of information available via the Internet. No longer can information be tightly controlled. Now the majority of people know the War on Drugs is a horrific failure. It has cost billions of dollars, ruined economies in Mexico, Colombia, Central America, etc. It has devastated the lives of millions of honest people and cost the lives and health of countless patients.
The USA started the War on Drugs and must be at the epicenter of the change and legalize cannabis first. The United Nations must also remove cannabis from a Schedule I drug that is classified as having no medical benefits. This will lower all enforcement efforts.
After the USA stops giving foreign aid to countries to eradicate cannabis and pressuring them with sanctions for legalizing cannabis, we will see many, many countries change. I'm not sure which other countries will change first.
I live in Barcelona, Spain about half of the time. In Catalonia, the province where Barcelona is located, more than 300 private cannabis social clubs have sprung up during the last few years. Members can acquire and consume cannabis.
We will see many different legalization scenarios. I believe politicians will continue to have their hands in the pie to pull out as much revenue as possible.
Anthony Wile: We believe what we call the Internet Reformation has led to this shift, as it tears down walls of misinformation and people are able to access accurate information, rejecting the propaganda that's been issued for many decades. Do you see the Internet as having led these relatively sudden changes or is it something else, in your opinion?
Jorge Cervantes: The Internet Reformation has driven cannabis seed sales, accurate information and the availability of garden products worldwide, all of which have contributed to shift the paradigm toward legalization. Good, honest citizens are also fed up with the lies, deceit and self-interest of the prohibitionists.
Anthony Wile: What do you think of large corporate conglomerates like Monsanto being actively involved in this industry? Do you favor organic cultivation over genetic engineering and the use of chemical fertilizers? How will consumers be able to tell what they're buying?
Jorge Cervantes: Monsanto already has a big presence in Uruguay, the first country in the world to legalize cannabis. I know this from my good contacts there. I believe that Monsanto's desire is to control as many assets as possible. They do not need to genetically engineer cannabis to achieve this goal. It will be difficult to control the production of seeds. We cannot control the use of chemical salt-based fertilizers.
Consumers are not able to know with certainty what they are consuming now. We do need to have good information on the genetic makeup of cannabis plants so that they can be replicated with precision.
Anthony Wile: We've made the suggestion that marijuana is just the first step and that at some point other drugs will be decriminalized or even legalized as well. Your thoughts?
Jorge Cervantes: Large pharmaceutical companies control the manufacture and dissemination of "legal" drugs in the world. They have supported cannabis prohibition and will continue to support prohibition of the drugs they sell. The large pharmaceutical companies have much invested in prohibition and will not give up easily. I do not see other drugs becoming legal easily.
Anthony Wile: The UN is increasingly involved in drug issues and a big drug conference is going to be held by the UN in 2016. Is it possible that officials at the UN are behind a political push to decriminalize drug use – which would provide the UN with opportunities for regulatory expansion?
Jorge Cervantes: Maybe. I do not know. This is out of my area of expertise. I never really know what the politicians or diplomats are going to do. There is so much money, power and politics at play that I truly do not know what these guys are thinking or will do.
Anthony Wile: Do you think that marijuana will be cultivated like fine tobacco and that users will be willing to pay more for a high-end product (or is that already the case)? Could high-end marijuana ever receive the cachet of a fine wine or a Cuban cigar?
Jorge Cervantes: Yes, fine cannabis is being produced now and this trend will continue. It is an element of capitalism. There are high-end hotels, cars, travel, etc. If people have the money they will spend it.
Anthony Wile: Any other resources you'd like to bring to our readers' attention? Closing thoughts?
Jorge Cervantes: Yes! Please see my website, marijuanagrowing.com for more information on cannabis and references to other outstanding sites.
I have posted many videos on Youtube that more than 20 million viewers have seen.
Please look for my new book, The Cannabis Encyclopedia, 600 pages, 2,000+ color images, 8.5 x 11-inch format, in December 2014. I have been working on this book for more than six years. It is my opus!
Anthony Wile: Thank you for your time.
Jorge Cervantes: Thank you! I am honored that you contacted me for an interview!
There are many intriguing parts to this interview for those interested in cannabis from a standpoint either of consumption or investment. What comes across strongly here is the bifurcation that is occurring between areas where cannabis is now being cultivated and places where it may be cultivated soon (such as Colombia).
We were one of the first publications to break the news that Colombia was likely to make medical marijuana available – and that this in our estimation would lead to full legalization of cannabis sooner or later in that country, as similar measures are doing elsewhere.
What strikes us most strongly about Colombia is its natural affinity for growing various plants, including marijuana. Colombia's latitude, rainy season and nutrient-rich soil all combine to produce a rich variety of fruits, vegetables and herbs. In fact, Colombia already supplies the United States with well over 80% of ALL flowers purchased within the country … and marijuana is really just another flower, albeit one with special medicinal properties.
In the 20th century, Colombia had a reputation for producing powerful marijuana. No doubt once cannabis can be grown legally, either for recreational reasons or for medical purposes or both, the strains that will be produced will improve upon what came before.
In time, it may be that marijuana becomes a branded product, much like cigars, wines and caviar. Mr. Cervantes seems to think so and it seems obvious to us that this is a likely evolution of what is taking place today.
There are many opportunities in this suddenly expanding field and as a publication dedicated to free markets and entrepreneurial opportunities, we intend to cover them as they occur. Recently, I've been spending a lot of time in Colombia meeting with top officials and others to fully grasp the potential for the country to emerge as a large-scale international supplier to the burgeoning global medical marijuana industry and how High Alert could potentially participate. My conclusion is simply this: my time was well spent indeed! ~ Stay tuned.
Thanks again to Jorge Cervantes.