What an honor! Graywolf just asked me to write a regular column for his new blog!
It’s been several years since he disassociated himself from the Pharm, and like many others, I’m sure, I didn’t continue paying much attention to the Pharm after Graywolf left.
I checked in every few months and was deeply saddened by no more insightful articles by him or the other Skunk Pharmers.
The good thing is the fact that all the archives seem to be intact at both their original site and Wayback Machine, https://web.archive.org/web/2019*/http://skunkpharmresearch.com/ , because they are one of the best collections of cannabis technology and alchemy development during the period that exists that I know of and it absolutely represents the “tip of the spear” in studying and developing all the cannabis technology that was rapidly developing at the time.
But enough of the past, now we have Graywolfslair.com open and focused on the future of cannabis technology, with Graywolf and associates again contributing meaningful articles. I look forward to being a part of it and watching it grow to again be exceed all former glory’s.
I’m not sure exactly what my column will consist of, but I have a pretty good idea.
I taught the Sunday Afternoon Grow Class at Harborside in Oakland for many years (then the biggest dispensary in the world—maybe it still is!), usually to about 20 people weekly, with widely differing degrees of experience and expertise in growing cannabis.
Students ranged from new prospective growers who had no experience in either cannabis growing or even cannabis smoking—people who had lived their life far from the culture, but had just been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness and had cannabis use suggested by their doctor.
On the other end of the scale were advanced growers and Alchemists from Humboldt, Mendocino, Spain, Holland, Alpha Centuri, El Segundo, etc. who wanted to know about the latest growing and extraction technology, as well as many Bay Area locals who were developing and refining the art of indoor production. So I tailored my class to the specific needs and talents of the students.
At the beginning of the class, I would inquire of each student their experience level, the reason they were coming to my class, the questions that were most important to them, and what they most wanted to learn.
Then over the next four hours, I would teach the appropriate technology that had been requested, making sure I covered all of the requested topics, then answer questions from the students. The class ran from 2:00 to 6:00. Most every week I had the required teaching pretty well covered by 4:20, when I took a 10 or 15 minute break (of course!).
After my 4:20 break the class and discussions became much more free form and the final hour often turned into discussions about the cannabis culture, as well as cannabis technology. People loved anecdotal “Back in the Day” stories of memorable, interesting, and wild-assed crazy events and people who built the wonderfully vibrant culture that eventually led to medical legalization and now, if you are fortunate enough to live in a progressive state or country, complete adult-use legalization.
My class developed a crew of “regulars” who would show up after 4:20, knowing that a truly fun discussion was about to happen. Often I was asked about cannabis prices and strains back in the “old days,” and people appreciated the stories of $80 kilos of weed on Haight Street that could be fine Acapulco Gold or high-altitude light green from the southern mountains, or just rotten brown shade leaf scooped up off the ground when the Mexican growers were pressing the cannabis into bricks.
These “back in the day” discussions were quite popular, especially when one or a few of my students were old geezers of my age and several of us could relate our “war stories.” Great fun for us and the younger growers and Alchemists seemed to love the stories.
People were amazed to know that the retail cost of an ounce of pot (called a “lid” at the time) on Haight Street was right around a buck ($10 ounce) ... and even lower in SoCal.
So my column here at The Alchemist Resource is going to be a widely varied collection of technical cannabis information, both on alchemy and growing, mixed with my favorite old stories about the cannabis culture, and a bunch of more modern rantings and ravings about current events in the cannabis culture, and any growing, extracting, refining, synthesizing (?), replicating, tips and techniques that catch my attention ... and whatever else I come up with that applies.
I welcome comments, feedback, and questions and am stoked that Graywolf’s site allows this. Interactive is the way to go. Your participation is treasured. So let’s let ‘er rip.
Back on the old site I wrote a long-assed piece describing my take on the evolution of cannabis science. Graywolf had asked me to write a piece on the history of the technology as I saw it develop back in the sixties, which I very much enjoyed doing. Given that this is the debut issue of what will very likely become the greatest resource for cannabis science ever, I think that a rehash (I like that word “rehash” - I don’t think I ever used it before!) of my take on the history of this wonderful little corner of cannabis society is quite appropriate.
I’m going to substantially expand on my original piece on cannabis chemistry history, and serialize it over a few posts (I’ve never been accused of being short-winded when it comes to talking or writing about one of my favorite topics in life).
Before I get into it, allow me to say that I appreciate all the feedback, suggestions, criticism, praise, scorn, complements, insults, etc.
Anybody who wishes to expand on anything I have written, send it in. As a good bit of what I am going to write about will be interesting, funny, inspirational, and just plain crazy stories of “back in the day” people and events, let’s see who can relate the coolest, craziest, most far-out, true stories (at least as true as our, shall-we-say, interestingly affected and enhanced memories permit).
I’ve been growing a lot on a tiny hobby basis lately, working on breeding a strain containing all my favorite effects and characteristics. I was so happy with what I finally developed three years ago that I just left the males go to maturity in the small greenhouse in my friend’s backyard and made about a pint of seeds. It was fun!
But the most fun was reliving the preparation techniques that were commonplace back in the Haight when even the best weed was half seeds (that ancient era known as pre-Sinsemillia).
Techniques such as rolling the seeds out in a shoe box lid, upside-down tambourine, or a Monopoly box using a playing card (or preferably the appropriate tarot card).
Anybody have any good memories to share about the late, great, and much-loved Professor Feasley, a leading underground researcher in the early days of the Haight? I’ve got a doozie I will relate soon about the time he made a magnetic stirrer out of a $6 phonograph (record player/ turntable) from the pawn shop ... and tried to perform a rather dangerous chemical reduction ... when the damn thing quit!
So here’s my original article, with a bunch of updates: Graywolf asked me to write an article describing the evolution of cannabis extraction technology as I witnessed it. I have a lifelong history with the technology; I wrote and published the book Cannabis Alchemy in 1971. The book was based on work I did in the late sixties in San Francisco.
Cannabis extractions had been around for at least a century, even way back then in the sixties. Tincture of Cannabis U.S.P. was one of the most common medicines that the old-time country doc carried in his medicine bag as he visited patients in his horse-drawn wagon. He used it to treat almost as many different illnesses and symptoms as medical marijuana treats today.
Although nobody (that I knew, at least) had actually tried it, many people in the Haight at that time knew about cannabis tincture. There was a popular T-shirt that featured a picture of a bottle of old time Tincture of Cannabis medicine.
I kind of got into cannabis chemistry by accident. I had a chance to buy a lab from a guy who lived in Topanga Canyon and was trying to make what he called “the philosopher’s stone.” He only wanted $300 (still a tidy sum at the time).
Good collection of equipment. It came with a Welch Duo-Seal, a Variac, a really good rotary evaporator, and a nice assortment of filtration glassware. I didn’t know what I would do with it, but I knew I was supposed to have it and I would sure do something of consequence with it. (I mean, how do you pass up a chance to buy a bona-fide lab for a mere three hundred bucks back in 1968? I sure as hell couldn’t!).
I boxed it up and sent it home to SF on a Greyhound, and soon it was sitting in an apartment in the Haight-Ashbury. But I didn’t have anything to play with it with. A friend, who was, shall we say, an “associate” of the Grateful Dead, was going to help me procure some varied substances that would put the thing to good use, but it would be a while.
At the time, nobody had even thought of doing anything with cannabis other than smoke it, make tea from the leftover stems, and occasionally eat it. (San Francisco’s smoking community had only recently learned the difference between leaf and flowers. This happened when the farmers in Mexico discovered that unpressed, well-treated green colas could bring $250 per pound, at a time when a kilo of pressed Mexican sold on Haight Street for about $80, regardless of quality.)
So I’m dying to put it to use and I realize that I happen to have a kilo or so of fairly good green brick weed stashed away in the closet somewhere, and there is a liquor store down the block at Haight and Cole. I knew that tincture is simply made by soaking the herb in drinking alcohol until some of the goodies therein dissolve in the alcohol. The spent herb is then filtered from the mixture and the clarified alcohol (which contains the goodies) is bottled as a medicine or drunk as a liquor. I really liked the rotary evaporator, having seen them in use before when friends were making other exotic substances, and wondered what you would get if Tincture of Cannabis were processed in it.
Didn’t take long for me to figure it out and there was probably a trail of smoke as I ran down to the liquor store, bought some Smirnoff 101, and made it back to the apartment. Soon the kilo was soaking in a big round bottom flask full of vodka. It became obvious what was happening as I watched the alcohol turn green. I let it sit for a while, shaking it occasionally, anxiously watching the alcohol get darker and darker, realizing that the goodies were being slowly dissolved into the alcohol. I filtered out the extracted pot and ran the sauce through the rotary evaporator, removing the alcohol and leaving behind a dark green, rather viscous oil. But I had no idea of what to do with it.
Pot and hash were the only things smoked at the time, and a lot of the smoking technology we have today was still many years in the future. So I soaked the oil up with cotton and smoked it in a pipe with a match. Pretty nasty but, for the time, new, strong and novel.
All my friends loved it. As did I. It didn’t take too long until we discovered that smoking dabs on tinfoil with a wooden kitchen match and a straw (this was the era that might be called pre-Bic) was a whole different type of high. Vaporized cannabinoids like just modern dabbing. Yes!
(Never smoke anything on tinfoil, even if you first heat it in a gas flame until it “turns.” Research on hard-drug addicts who smoke on foil has shown many bad effects from the practice. I believe that Parkinson’s is one of them.)
Right after this I got my hands on some powerful Afghani hash from Mazar-I-Sherif and did it again. Hash oil. The first I had ever tasted or even heard of.
Turned on many folks around the Bay and, soon thereafter, the counterculture had a new toy. The first product to surface soon thereafter was Mexican oil mixed with powdered grass. It was about two parts oil to one part pot and came in a one gram vial, complete with a tiny, one-hit glass pipe.
It was called “The One” and was all over San Francisco and Marin for a few months. Several other oils soon hit the market, and the paraphernalia manufacturers followed suit, offering glass oil pipes that vaporized the oil when heated with a torch. They smoked as smoothly as tinfoil for the first three hits, but then you had to clean them between hits or the coughing would be so severe that it’s a wonder that nobody’s lungs ever popped out and landed on the coffee table.
Hooray for modern vape devices and technology. The University of California San Francisco Medical Center is located up on a hill that’s about a mile southwest of the Haight-Ashbury. They had a fine medical library and, in these pre-internet years, technical libraries at scientific universities were the only source of scientific knowledge, and then the journals often had the part you wanted removed by some fool with a razor blade.
I was up there some time in the late sixties, probably 1968 or ’69, reading about the experiments carried out by Dr. Roger Adams in 1947, the year I was born, and I came across a process he did that utilized the extracts from a huge chunk of seized Turkish hashish. The hash had many times the CBD as it did THC, and the experiment was isomerization with sulfuric acid, which converted the CBD to THC.
The bottom line of the experiment was that the THC content of the oil was increased about six times by the isomerization process. I read over the experiment several times in amazement and had to stifle myself from jumping up, doing a happy dance, and shouting “Eureka!” in the library, realizing I had just discovered something that, in this case at least, increased the THC in a given and finite amount of cannabis by six times.
I spent the next six months working on testing and processing as many different kinds of cannabis as San Francisco had to offer (and that was a wide variety from all over the world) and found that most of the Mexican cannabis, as well as the Asian, middle eastern and North African hash that was around those days, seemed to have significant amounts of CBD, resulting in dramatic potency increases after isomerization.
I was able to get my hands on some acetic anhydride and began experimenting with THC-O-Acetate, which Dr. Adams said doubled the potency of THC (isomerized or not). He came up with a way to rate the potency of cannabis extracts with what came to be known as “The Adams Scale”. He gave pure THC a potency rating of 7, and THC-0-Acetate a rating of 14. He also pointed out that the acetylation process added about 25% to the weight of the oil.
One might think that Dr. Adams spent a lot of time in various states of happy cannabis wonderment ... and I personally think that was likely the case. He was pretty good at assigning various substances correctly to his Adams scale, as born out by our later human testing.
He maintained that he was able to rate the potencies of the different cannabinoids by giving them to dogs and observing the dog’s appearance and actions. Yeah, right, Doc ... if you say so.
The weed from commercial kilo bricks of so-called “regular” Mexican—eighty bucks “retail” on Haight Street—increased in potency more dramatically than the $250 pounds of Mexican “superweed” which was unpressed, well-cared-for, huge colas of cannabis that had received some love and attention from the growers … even though they were still about 50% seed by weight.
However, when a strain of superweed reacted favorably with the isomerization and acetylation processes, the results were just incredible. We heard rumors of the legendary stuff the Mexican growers smoked themselves, which was seedless and was called “sinsemilia,” a legendary and magic term meaning “without seeds,” that many smokers heard about long before they had the chance to experience it in some manner.
Then I met this guy, Djanandruman Baba (aka Milner Rheems), who wrote and published a series of counterculture pamphlets that he sold through head shops for a buck each. His pen name was Mary Jane Superweed and he had published his 16-page pamphlets with titles such as the Supergrass Grower’s Guide, Drug Manufacture for Fun and Profit, Legal Highs, and a few other choice titles.
I asked him once how many books he had sold altogether and he told me about 200,000. It took me about ten seconds to decide that I should write a book about my recent research. Another event happened at this time that caused me to really consider changing my mode of operation from underground chemist to writer and publisher.
An old science buddy of mine was shot in the back and killed by federal agents at his LSD lab in Humboldt. He is considered the first casualty in the war on drugs; his story made the cover of Rolling Stone for several issues. The fed who shot him in the back as he ran from their military attack helicopter skated on all charges.
The final event that led me to write Cannabis Alchemy was a lab explosion that put me in the hospital for several months. A friend was distilling some 30 to 60 degree pet ether and blew about a liter into the air.
I was sleeping in the next room and went into the room he was working in after he woke me up yelling. I walked into the room and, all of a sudden. WHooooosh … boom. Blew out the front and back windows in a large Victorian flat, and actually jammed all the doors shut. I was in the epicenter so there was no concussion, just a thorough frying.
I reached into the flames and removed a 5 gallon can of pet ether. Good thing I did or it might have leveled the Haight Ashbury, had it gone off.
I came up with the safety methods that are in the book while I was in the hospital for a few months. The methods in the book were designed to give the operator the greatest degree of safety possible. I didn’t want anyone going through what I did.
So I wrote the book and started a publishing company. The first edition was called Cannabis Alchemy – The Art of Modern Hashmaking: Preparation of Extremely Potent Cannabis Products. It came out in early 1972. It was the first serious book on cannabis science that was published from a consumer’s point of view.
Level Press was started with several friends and we soon published a number of similar books. Among them was the first edition of Ed’s Marijuana Growers Guide, as well as a series of seven how-to books with High Times, and several books by Dr. Leary.
Right around the time that the book came out, a wave of Afghani honey oil hit San Francisco. Made in Afghanistan from fresh charas and purified by fractional distillation, this wonderful product was the strongest cannabis preparation that anyone anywhere, up until that time, had probably ever smoked, in my opinion.
It was probably around 80% or more cannabinoids but was unlike similar oils available today. It had all the high of the THC that one would expect but retained the powerful ass-kicking knock-you-down, dick in the dirt, power of fine Afghani.
It retailed for $50 a gram (when an ounce of pot was $10) and was worth every cent to everyone who partook of the lung-crushing delight. Its acrid taste indicated that it probably was isomerized, but I don’t think it was acetylated.
Many people attribute its import to the Brotherhood of Eternal Love in Laguna Beach, an extremely courageous bunch of long-distance surfers! For the next decade or so, many different extraction products were available in California. The original honey oil from The Brotherhood was the standard by which it all was judged and very few offerings even approached its intensity and quality.
One interesting late-sixties product that I liked a lot was pre-rolled packs of 20 “reefers” called Bay Area Bombers. They were named after the local roller-derby team (which actually held their nationally televised games to Kezar Pavilion in the Haight) and consisted of several varieties of quality Colombian and Mexican marijuana mixed with chunks of hash, and dipped in tincture and dried.
The “reefers” were machine rolled and filtered and the packs looked as professional as a carton of Marlboros. (“Reefer” is a 1930s term used by jazz musicians to denote a marijuana joint that had been dipped in Tincture of Cannabis and dried.)
The main customer was the Jefferson Airplane and they smoked them down as fast as the folks making them could make them. The Bombers were considered by many to be the best smoke out there at the time … at least until the Thai Stick reared its pretty little head in America. (I was recently told that the Hash Museum in Amsterdam has a package of Bombers that was once displayed and may still be today.)
Edibles first came out at about this time. Several people were making candy bars and butter cookies, as well as a few oil caps here and there.
Green tincture was around as were small bottles of traditional bhang, made just like it was in Nepal.
My favorite edible from the early Summer of Love days was a milkshake that turned into a ritual in which a number of people indulged.
A fat ounce of sometimes bad, sometimes great pot sold for between five and ten bucks on Haight Street. A friend had a girlfriend who worked at the donut shop near the SW border of Golden Gate Park on Stanyan Street, a place renowned for its milkshakes. We would roll out the seeds, pick out the stems, grind it up, and give her a manicured ounce to put into each milkshake.
Easily slurped down thru a straw, and a guaranteed good night’s sleep in about 45 minutes. Very strong, even by Haight-Ashbury standards. People were known to awake the next morning to realize that they were part of a large pile of very stoned partakers of The Milkshake.
It’s real easy to consume incredible amounts of cannabis if you grind it up and put it in a milkshake. Nobody had even an inkling about decarboxalation back then. Modern Alchemists might tell you that eating fresh, high THC cannabis won’t get you off because the THC is in it’s acid form (THCA) and hasn’t been decarbed to THC.
Well, anyone who might doubt the efficacy of eating an ounce of non-decarboxylated cannabis in a milkshake is invited to give it a try. Whoooo-hoo!
Actually, it generally took a few months to a year or so from time of harvesting and bricking Mexican weed until the cannabis made it to San Francisco, and a significant amount of THCA would have naturally decarboxylated to THC during the bricking and transportation processes, making it psychoactive on oral consumption.
Had we known the science then as we do today, we would have heated the manicured cannabis in a 250 degree oven for 15 minutes before adding it to the milkshake. Technically, it should have increased potency, but I can’t imagine anything stronger than those incredible milkshakes, especially those fifteen or twenty minutes between the time that you felt the onset of the milkshake, and those wonderful last thoughts and feelings before passing out.
I remember well one night when the weed we ground up for the milkshakes was golden flowers, with a lot of green small leaves, lots of seeds, but also a lot of trichomes, which we referred to, at the time, as “pollen.” A flower with a lot of visible trichomes was called “heavily pollinated.”
I think that this description of tons of trichs is still called pollen in Europe, although the Alchemists of Europe certainly know their stuff.
Final words: Contribute! Let me know what you think. Ask questions. Call ”bullshit” on me if you think it’s warranted.
Suggest topics for me to blogviate on. Share your knowledge and experience. Be part of this. It’s really going to be something substantial. And it’s gonna be fun!
END PART ONE - CANNABIS EXTRACTION HISTORY. PART TWO COMING SOON!
A final note: California law now allows anyone to cultivate six plants, and legally keep everything they produce, regardless of amount. This leads to a very fun topic:
Who can grow 100 pounds of bud from six plants ... and how do they do it?
I’ve heard rumors of plants approaching 20 pounds grown under a combination of artificial and natural light in south Mendo. Haven’t seen it, but I think it is possible. I’ll share a few tips and ideas in my next column.
Anyone have any ideas on production of ultra-high-yielding monster plants? Experience? Pictures?
Has anyone ever kept a high-yielding sativa under 24 hour light for a year or so. ... with proper feeding and care?