In a rented hall on the outskirts of Central Amsterdam, a couple of hundred American gardeners gathered over a holiday weekend not long ago to compare horticultural notes, swap seeds, debate the merits of various new hybrids and gadgets and, true to their kind, indulge in a bit of boasting about their gardens back home. Gardeners talking the back-fence talk of gardeners everywhere, except that these gardeners happened to be criminals.
Sunday afternoon's panel discussion had just adjourned, and gardeners were milling in small knots among the potted marijuana plants that dotted the room like ficus trees in a hotel lobby. Brian R., a grower in his 20's who is originally from Washington and now lives in the Netherlands, was showing off a bud from his garden, pointing out its exceptional "calyx to leaf ratio." With his oversize glasses, basement complexion and a taste for the kind of button-down short-sleeve shirt that usually keeps company with a plastic pocket protector, Brian looked more like a computer programmer than a gardener. But then, the most sophisticated marijuana gardening today takes place indoors, where technological prowess counts for as much as horticultural skill.
Brian noted proudly that his bud had been produced under a 600-watt sodium light in 60 days, a fact that clearly impressed a beefy older gardener from Florida. "Would you just look at that bud structure," the fellow said, drawing me closer. The bud looked like a lump of hairy, desiccated animal scat. ...