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Marijuana cultivation explained in Mel Frank's Guide

MARIJUANA GROWER'S

INSIDER'S GUIDE

By Mel Frank.

Red Eye Press, 354 pp., $19.95.

By ADAM BRAFF

IN THE PREFACE TO HIS Marijuana Grower's Insider's Guide, Mel Frank addresses the amateur farmer and hazards a guess as to the reader's first feeble attempts at cultivating cannabis sativa. "Very likely you buried some seeds in a flower pot. . . [and] watered them faithfully every day," he writes, "and harvested four disappointing joints. It need not have been this way."

Frank then launches into a treatise on, among other things, how to grow plants that are anything but the pitiful saplings produced by the novice marijuana grower. It is possible, he writes, for even the most inexperienced gardener to produce a potent crop provided he culls the necessary "foresight and insight" from the Guide. His black-and-white photographs of ten-foot high plants provide ample testimony to his techniques.

Most of the extremely large plants, however, are the result of outdoor cultivation, a subject which Frank does not address in great detail in his book. The "Insider's Guide" which he promises in the title is just that: a guide aimed primarily at the indoor grower, leading one to wonder whether the sheer quantity of marijuana smoked by Frank has caused the words "indoors" and "insider" to become hopelessly jumbled somewhere in his left hemisphere. Indoor cultivation requires, in most cases, the purchase of lighting systems of varying complexity and expense, so readers who wish to opt for sunlight-powered gardens are advised by Frank to read his previous work, Marijuana Grower's Guide--Deluxe Edition.

At several points in the book, the author pulls out a soap box and gives his opinion of marijuana legislation and the laws which make marijuana growing, even for personal consumption, illegal everywhere in the country but in Alaska. The literature accompanying the review copy of his book included, in addition to reviews of his previous oeuvre in such "reputable" publications as High Times Magazine, an article in Scientific American and a letter to the Oakland Tribune refuting allegations that marijuana is a harmful drug. Frank makes no apologies for writing a book about how to grow an illegal plant, rationalizing his efforts by saying that the book's purpose "is not to encourage you to grow illegally, [but how cultivation] may be done when growing is legalized." This attitude, like that of radar detector manufacturers who insist that their product does not encourage law-breaking, is circumspect but nonetheless amusing.

Politics aside, Frank's book does an outstanding job of describing the history, biology, and cultivation of marijuana. Frank gives a very thorough treatment of indoor lighting systems, offering 65 pages filled with diagrams, charts, and photographs concerning this subject alone. When he strays from very technical matters, however, his writing tends to wander, at times bordering on dream-like tributes to the inherent beauty of growing marijuana. He writes, "Any experienced grower will probably say, `There's no place I'd rather be... than sitting among my plants giving them a little TLC' (Tender, Loving, Care)," leading the reader to believe that Frank was busy enjoying the fruits of his labor while writing the Guide.

Frank's book is more practical than poetic, handling sensitive issues such as security with straightforward solutions. His discussions of security, although in themselves highly useful, were puzzling in light of his previous statement that the Guide was intended for use only after marijuana's decriminalization. His vast experience in cultivation is evident as he gives consideration to such details as concealing the odor of growing plants, muffling the noise caused by light-rotation devices, and convincing the power company that one is using 3,300 watts of power for more wholesome endeavors.

Another sizeable chunk of the book is devoted to potting, soil, and hydroponic systems. The section on hydroponics contains a great deal of technical discussion on the chemical components of nutrient solutions, which brings up the near-schizophrenic writing style Frank employs in his book; his writing is scientific and precise, then slangy, then technical again, and so on. For readers with the sufficient biological and chemical backgrounds, (which, with the new curriculum proposed by the CFYP, we all shall have soon), this poses little problem and makes the reading even enjoyable.

A comparison of the various strains and species of marijuana follows, with Frank comparing the strengths of active ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in each variety. His troubleshooting section deals with the difficult task of proper watering and is quite thorough. The remainder of the book takes the farmer step-by-step through flowering, breeding of plants, harvesting, and preparation of the marijuana, stopping just short of giving charts and diagrams on how to roll a joint. Finally, Frank opines patriotically for one page on the virtues of growing American, concluding with the exhortation, "Let's save and build a stock of prized seeds for future generations."

On the whole, the book is very well written and diagrammed and would serve as an excellent starting point for anyone from the beginning grower to a seasoned outdoors professional looking into moving his crop indoors. Frank writes about his subject with obvious care and respect, and this compassion makes for a precise and very readable text that is a must for any present or future marijuana grower.