Interview with Jorge Cervantes, cannabis legend
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Grower, writer, and activist...George Van Patten, who you probably know better as Jorge Cervantes, is one of those characters in the cannabis world who needs no introduction. Well, maybe it does if you have just arrived from another planet, or if you are starting out in this exciting world. Even so, we assure you that sooner or later you will know about his work and, probably, you will learn some other good tricks for your plants from one of his books.
And it is that a lot has happened since Jorge self-published his first book in 1983... today he is an eminence in the cultivation of marijuana! Books, articles, videos, conferences... Jorge continues to share his knowledge with anyone who is curious about the plant, its cultivation, or its consumption. Today we tell you more about this mythical figure in our sector and we publish an interview with him that we have been lucky enough to do.
First steps of Jorge Cervantes in growing cannabis
As you saw in our article on cannabis in the 70s, at that time in the USA, the most common type of cannabis there was imported marijuana brought from places like Mexico or Colombia, poor quality weed with no trimming, pressed like bricks, and completely full of seeds. Pure garbage, to be clear. Well, like many other American growers, Jorge started his first crop with seeds taken from some Mexican buds. It was 1976 and Jorge was in Portland, Oregon. He had started what was to become his life's passion.
After years of exotic travels and experiences growing quality weed, and given that he had studied at the University and worked in a printing press, in 1983 Jorge decided to found Van Patten Publishing, Inc. Thanks to this platform, he edited and published "Marijuana: Indoor Growing", a book with so much good information for beginner growers that it was soon renamed the "Indoor Growing Bible" by its own readers (to this day this book has undergone several revisions and updates and is already in the fifth edition). Without a doubt, Jorge had started his career as a writer on the right foot, a path that has led him to publish a good number of books in the last 40 years.
Cannabis in the seventies, a decade of change
The 1970s is undoubtedly one of the most interesting decades in the recent history of cannabis. Despite the efforts of the authorities at the federal level, marijuana cultivation and consumption skyrocketed in the US during that decade, so as politicians and police launched a veritable war against the plant, the first hybrids were developed and hydroponic growing techniques began to be applied in indoor gardens, laying the foundations for the decades to come.
Problems of Jorge Cervantes with the Law
Already at the end of the 80s, and apart from writing, Jorge inaugurated his grow shop, where among other items you could find modern - for that time - high-intensity discharge lighting systems. HPS and MH lamps, in other words. However, the DEA (American anti-drug agency) closed Jorge's store along with 40 other stores throughout the United States.
From then on, Jorge's life becomes a succession of lights and shadows, personal and professional successes in the field of marijuana cultivation, but at the same time surveillance, suspicions, and a lot of uncertainty. In fact, it may be that if you have seen any image of Jorge, he appears with a curious wig and his mythical sunglasses... he had to hide his identity so as not to be arrested and to be able to continue traveling and working! Undoubtedly, those were very intense years, which have led him, however, to be considered one of the eminences of cannabis worldwide. But it is better that he be the one to tell us, we leave you now with his interview:
Interview with Jorge Cervantes
We all know that you started growing cannabis decades ago, but... how do you remember that stage of your life?
I grew my first crop in 1976 in Portland, Oregon. They were seeds that I took out of a brick of Mexican weed. They came out with seeds. These days we did not distinguish between males and females. It got you high, but not that much.
A few years later, in the early 1980s, some spontaneous plants sprang up in a friend's garden. I helped him grow them. They also had seeds. These plants were very pretty, but there was a big problem with them, you didn't get high! I had no idea why, and I thought: bad weed. They were the first CBD plants I had come across...if only I had known in those days what I know today, ha ha ha!
Above all, I remember a lot of fear and little information. In one aspect, it was very similar to today, there were many experts who knew everything, heh heh heh. At first, many people, I mean the public, did not know what "marijuana" was, they only knew that it was bad. They were times of social revolution, the Vietnam War, hippies, etc. Then President Nixon started the War on Drugs to control hippies and blacks. They were difficult times, but cool at the same time.
We had access to Mexican and Colombian seeds. During the Vietnam War, weed began to arrive from Vietnam and Thailand. Then I had access to seeds from Afghanistan and this part of the world.
What changes did growing cannabis bring?
There was little knowledge of cultivation and many people invented things. There were many rumors. For example, they said, “you have to hang the plants in the dryer with the roots up, so that the THC comes out of the roots and stems”. There were many rumors and the American government (USA) perpetuated them even more.
I was successful because I was always looking for botanical information and sharing it with everyone. I learned to read, write, and research at university. I always had green fingers and I loved plants, all plants. I knew that cannabis was another plant and he had to follow the same general botanical rules as annuals.
Years ago you used to camouflage your appearance for obvious reasons… What was that “coming out of the closet” like in 2010? We imagine it was a real liberation!
I never had to hide here in Europe, especially in Spain. I came out of the closet in the US in 2010. The funny thing is that I came out of the closet on the radio, National Public Radio (NPR). I showed my face on the radio, heh, heh, heh. NPR is the largest non-profit broadcaster there.
After wearing the costume for three decades, I could finally show my face. I tell you, I am very proud of who I am and everything I have done. Hiding in the closet cost me a lot of self-esteem. I felt very alone many times. Many people I knew disowned me. I realized what they were like and the shit they believed. My family thought I was crazy, that I had fallen to hell. Now they call me a visionary.
Your books, especially the so-called Indoor Growing Bible, have taught hundreds of people how to grow cannabis. However…you had to self-publish that book! What do you think now of the success achieved?
It was the cannabis growers who gave the name “the Bible”. I just picked it up after hearing it for so long. The Bible is published in seven languages and has sold over a million copies, no idea how many copies have been pirated.
I self-published the first edition in 1983, 40 years ago. I had communicated with a dozen publishers and nobody wanted to publish it, nobody. And I had a background in printing because I worked in my town's publishing house when I was in high school. I knew the process and had handled presses as well. I formed a company, Van Patten Publishing, Inc. and printed it and went about selling it. In the first year, it sold 6,000 copies at a price of $9.95. Here is the link to the more than 50 books I have published.
I have been very lucky to publish well-edited books at the right time. But arriving at the key hour was not easy. I have spent many years hiding in the shadows. I've been watched by the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency). I have spent many sleepless nights. I have visited many countries without knowing if I would go out or not. I used to wear a disguise to avoid prison.
It cost me 25 years of hard living, spending almost as much as I earned. And many difficult things. There are many difficult memories and it really makes me feel bad to relive them. You can find the whole story here; It took me a month to write it and it was very emotional for me. Many of my friends have spent hard years in prison.
I am turning 70 in October 2023 and I am very proud of what I have done and of all the growers I have helped to grow more and better cannabis. I mean growers all over the world. And at the same time, it is a fat responsibility. Before it was all me and my wife. Now I am working with her plus Stefan Meyer and Marcelo, the technician. They know everything! I love them both, they are the best I could find.
I have many projects in the oven for the Hispanic world... You'll see soon!
Do you feel comfortable with the current evolution of the world of cannabis in Europe and the USA?
Disappointed, angry? No. I'm realistic.
Legalization, it is what it is, what we have. Some time ago, politicians and big businessmen used the "War on Drugs" to control the public and make money. Now, it is more than evident that this evil war has failed utterly. Today and in the future, they are using it to control the public and collect taxes. They are politicians and big businessmen, that's what they do. They are opportunists, like many of those who have jumped on the green gold rush.
What can you tell us about your new book, “We Grow Cannabis!”? What can we expect from this new publication?
The book is FREE! It is the first book that I publish in digital-only format. “We grow Cannabis!” It has 118 pages, 270 color photos, and PDF format. I had the help of my two co-authors, Dr. Gary Yates and Stefan Martin Meyer. Dr. Gary has a Ph.D. in microbiology and Stefan is a genius. You have to see the LinkedIn links to know more about them. I am super happy with the team I have now. They are the best I could find.
We can only thank you for this interview and all the help you have given us, it has been a real pleasure, Jorge! We're so glad that you can finally have a normal life, teaching and educating people about our favorite plant without having to hide or suffer for your safety. We wish you much success in your future projects...
All the best!!