When did you start smoking?
Steve Tuck, 48, resident horticulturalist, Weedmaps, Irvine, CA: “I hate to admit it -- I think I probably smoked my first joint at 8 years old. I didn’t start smoking regularly until I was 12 or so. Being from Kentucky and being hyperactive, I found at a very young age that marijuana made me normal. I skipped a couple of grades in school as a kid and graduated from high school at 15.”
Ryan Clendenin, 38, COO, One Dab (a hash-making consulting firm), Denver, CO: “When I was 13 years old [growing up in Rochester, NY], I came home and my brother -- he’s five years older than me -- was smoking blonde hash out of a homemade bong on my porch. He forced me to smoke pot so I wouldn't tell on him. I got higher than anything. Everybody talks about how they don't get high the first time, but I got really high. I fell in love for the rest of my life... But with a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps for a father, let's just say I had to be very discreet about my activities.”
Aaron Axline, 35, CEO, One Dab (Clendenin’s business partner), Denver, CO: “I was born and raised in a small town of about 600 people. Woodsboro, Maryland. No stop lights. I got in some trouble in the middle of high school, and the day I got off probation [in 2000] I headed West to Colorado. That’s how it started. I was in my backyard in Durango and our neighbors had the back door of their house open, and I saw the bright lights glowing. I had no idea what they were, and being naive and 20 at the time, I just asked, ‘What are those lights?’ They said, ‘Those are grow lights,’ and they invited me in. Next thing you know, I was smoking.”
Luke Ramirez, 27, owner & managing director, Walking Raven Retail Marijuana Center, Denver, CO: “The first time I consumed cannabis was at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. It was a Dave Matthews concert. We kinda snuck in, climbed up on the rocks. I just remember thinking, I don’t care what anyone has told me, or what the books say, or what the teachers say. I love this, and there’s nothing that’s gonna stop me from doing this. It was my 17th birthday."
When did you start selling?
Ramirez: “You know, you’re 17 years old, you don’t have a lot of money, and [weed] is obviously very expensive. Hence the classic: buy an ounce of cannabis, sell seven-eighths of it, keep the eighth. That’s really how it started. Selling to friends in Colorado. Then I started to sell bigger amounts to people that weren’t necessarily my friends. I don’t really know exact weight amounts per se, certainly not El Chapo by any means or anything, but I was definitely a pretty big-time black-market dealer at that time.”
Tuck: “I was the younger, smarter kid, doing things [in his family’s illegal marijuana business]. In fact, I was sent [by his family] over to get seeds -- to Holland, to Jamaica, to Mexico -- after I started college at 15. After I came home, I was always kept secret. Like, when I set up grows and things like that, people weren’t allowed to be there. Until I became medical in 1996, I was probably one of the best-kept secrets in the whole deal because I have a botany and a horticultural degree and a background in cannabis.”
Axline: “I started out moving some pot to all my friends. Then it grew to moving carloads of pot, to moving big carloads all the way across I-40. This was back when a pound of weed cost $5,000 in Colorado. Now it’s $1,800.”
Pam “Mama K” Kelly, 49, home grower, Washington, DC: “I was in Meigs County, Ohio, that’s where I went to college [at Ohio University]. I was the only female in a group of men that was cultivating, growing on our own land as well as planting in [other people’s] cornfields. It was like a SWAT-team type of thing. I drove my little VW bus and we all rushed in there at night and planted the plants, and rushed out. We let them grow over the summer and harvested right around my birthday in October, which I always loved.”
William “Kind Bill” Fenger, 43, founder, Kind Billy's Kreations (a hash-making consulting firm), Denver, CO: "I was a runaway. And the guys who taught me how to grow were older Canadian smugglers who where actually on the run and hiding out in South Florida. I lied to them and told them I was 18 when I was 16. I ended up working with them. Got myself way in over my head. Even when I look back now, I’m like: wow. A lot of my friends say I was really brave, but I was just lucky and dumb.”