Springtime for Cannabis 

The federal crackdown is spurring homegrown weed, and Ed Rosenthal has some gardening tips. Plus, another bill to criminalize driving sober crops up.

East Bay dispensary patrons are shaking their heads at the loss of Berkeley Patients Group — another victim of the federal crackdown. But not all the news is downbeat: Spring has also sprung.

As the nights grow warm and the ground grows warmer, million of cannabis plants are going in the soil across the state right now, and the federal crackdown is arguably spurring more home grows this year than last. While thumping on marijuana businesses, the Obama administration has tacitly blessed cultivation for personal use, and patients have told us that news of besieged dispensaries has led to them to snatch up spring starter plants of Sour Diesel and OG Kush, just in case the election-timed crackdown lingers.

Celebrity grower and author Ed Rosenthal said "clones are going out as fast and they are coming in" to East Bay dispensaries, and it makes sense that more people are taking control of their supplies this year compared to last. The East Bay's Mr. Wizard of Weed is an undeniable expert on the topic, and he has a new book out on May 15 written expressly for the bumper crop of amateur gardeners.

It's called Marijuana Pests and Disease Control, from East Bay imprint Quick American Publishing, and it's a $24.95 glossy, fully illustrated soft-cover. Rosenthal did the improbable: He penned a book about pests that manages to be interesting to a layperson. He describes how slug penises break off during slimy, hermaphroditic sex. Vicious, territorial moles feast on gopher meat. And Donald Rumsfeld is called a "war criminal" in the foreword.

The book covers 21 pests and pathogens, detailing each pest's life cycle and habits, and offers safe, simple methods to control them. Rosenthal succeeds in his goal to keep it interesting, accessible, and practical, and his fascination with nature is ever-palpable. "I enjoyed doing this book," he said in an interview. "Insects are so weird. Nature is so weird. We're living on the same planet but in different worlds."

Marijuana Pests and Disease Control covers "95 percent" of cannabis growers' problems, he said. And he offered readers five tips for successful springtime gardening: barriers, biological controls, helpful soil bacteria, all-natural pesticide, and overall sanitation.

"This time of year caterpillars can devastate young plants," Rosenthal said. White moths endemic to North America lay eggs that turn into voracious caterpillars. Rosenthal uses an insect net tented over the tiny plants to let light and air in, but keeps moths, butterflies, and caterpillars out.

Secondly, the bacteria bacillus thuringiensis infects and kills caterpillars while being safe for humans and plants.

Root and stem rot can kill baby cannabis plants or stunt their growth. Rosenthal recommends the beneficial soil fungus Mycorrhizae, which is widely available in a number of brands. Mycorrhizae and beneficial bacteria from compost tea "form a protective barrier around the roots and stem to physically prevent pathogens from getting to the roots," Rosenthal explained.

He also fogs his greenhouse weekly with a one-quarter dilution of his brand of all-natural pesticide called Zero Tolerance, a mixture of cinnamon, clove, rosemary, and thyme. Rosenthal is staunchly against the use of synthetic pesticides at home, in his greenhouse, and in his books.

Lastly, don't forget to keep it clean. "We don't believe in spontaneous generation," he said. Standing water, for example, breeds algae, fungus, and fungus gnats. Wood piles harbor snails, slugs, and many other nasties. Also, don't invite house pets into your pot garden.

Marijuana Pests and Disease Control also gives gardeners an insect's view of the war between man and pest, leaving readers with a newfound respect for the annoyances. "We've co-evolved over millions of years. They're survivors, perfectly adapted for where they are, maybe more adapted than we are," Rosenthal said. "Chances are, we're going to go out, but the insects will still be around."

Seeds & Stems

Medical cannabis groups celebrated last month when a bill to jail drivers for driving with pot in their blood was withdrawn by its sponsor, Assemblywoman Norma Torres of Chino. Thanks, Norma. Too bad the wrongheaded AB 2552 is back from the dead this week thanks to Senator Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana), who has resurrected the law's language in Senate Bill 50.

Correa's SB 50 would also "make it a crime for a person to have a controlled substance in his or her blood while driving a vehicle."

As Legalization Nation has noted before, sober drivers would be jailed under a law of this type, because weed remains in the bloodstream long after its psychoactive effects are gone. Moreover, the law is unnecessary. It's already illegal to drive "under the influence" of drugs in California. According to federal statistics, California road fatalities are at the lowest point since record-keeping began. That's apparently not enough for Correa, who did not return requests for comment.

Under SB 50, cannabis consumed 24 hours prior — or even some legal codeine cough syrup taken a day before — would be enough to convict a sober driver of DUI and send him or her to jail. According to the bill's legislative analysis, "this bill would create new crimes," as well as impose potentially millions of dollars in new costs to California and its cities, without paying for any of them.

Organizer David Goldman, of San Francisco's Americans for Safe Access, said "This is a make-crime bill."

"Senator Correa is a drug warrior," Goldman continued, adding, however, that he's "cautiously optimistic the Assembly's Public Safety Committee will defeat this."

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