the somewhat unnameable zone
What is the sound of one hand toking? (old Polo Mint proverb)
Grow it at home, by all means, especially if you live in a country (fortunately, a growing number) with fairly relaxed laws on home cannabis cultivation, and enjoy it once in a while when you're travelling. You should always note the relevant penalties if you get caught somewhere - that's what might happen to you, and in some countries this may also happen if you are innocent and the police take a dislike to you. Generally, I like to be free of paranoia when getting stoned abroad and either travel with granola (visit any of the Web sites listed here to find recipes) or buy and smoke only in the mountains, where there are fewer hassles.
Growing your own
This is very basic, suited to beginners. If you have grown plants before, find detailed information
on seeds and raising high-strength plants in the Cannabis Grow Bible in the bookshelf zone
Take the fattest seeds from a recent deal of grass or buy some seeds in a head shop. Bought seeds can mature faster and produce a bushier plant. Put your seeds on a damp tissue in a small saucer and keep in the dark above 20°C/65°F for a week, or until they develop tiny sprouts (don't forget to keep them watered, especially if you are now smoking the deal you extracted the seeds from). Pop them into the light (a window ledge is ideal) for them to get a sturdy root and shoot at each end (about three days after the first sprouts show if it's warm). Then prick each one out into damp compost. They should be about 2.5cm/1" apart in little rows. Cover them with only a shallow layer of soil. When they are grown on for a while you'll be able to spot the strongest ones. Dig these out in a small soil ball (so as not to disturb the little roots) then put each one into a normal plastic plant pot with more good compost. They can grow on in here for about two weeks to a month before they'll need transplanting. All the time, keep them in the sun as much as possible. They like a lot of dry around them, so I find spraying the leaves is not a good thing. But keep the roots moist. Dry leaves, well-watered soil and warmth are the best.
Farming your own
When the plants are over 30cms high they need more soil and more space. You can either plant them outside or grow under lights inside (this is useful if you live somewhere which has well-scrutinised farmland). Doing it outside is easier and cheaper and even in a British summer can give good leaves and tops (little resin, though).
Have a scout around where you live using a good map. Viewing the land from above on Google Earth can reveal some interesting hideaways. Find somewhere not too overlooked by walkers or other "interested" people. Farmers generally ignore plants because they see so many of them; if your cannabis plants are well spread out and not in sharp contrast to the rest of the crop (wheat is a bad choice for this reason) they will be ignored. I have planted several times at the borders of fields; the best fields are ones which have oilseed rape - it gets big at about the same rate as your weeds will.
If the area is ever scrutinised from the air, planting near similar crops will aid camouflage. You want to locate your plants as far away as possible from possible spray-drift: herbicide will knock them (or if they survive, knock you) out. Try to find somewhere with a stream, drain channel or other water source not too far away - in a dry summer in Britain, and most of the time in the USA or Australia, you will need to ferry water in by hand. For a new area, it is helpful to have studied it throughout the growing season before you plant, as some heavy machines may be involved in harvesting, potentially flattening your valuable crop. Or maybe the ground is burnt off at some point - again not what you want.
April/May (Northern Hemisphere) is a good time to transplant to the outdoors. I suggest going in the evening time while it is still light, with a rucsac carrying around eight seedlings. Take a trowel and a small water container. See how this first eight fare before you transfer more to the growing area, because they might have disappeared when you next visit. But if all is well, you can move more out. I have had up to twenty five out along one field edge - the ones that turn out to be female will be the strongest (isn't that always the case?), though the rest will be OK if they get big enough. Moving to and from your planting site - and harvesting at the end - is the time when you are most likely to be seen and this may lead the observer to your little plantation.
Watch out! Those plants grown from non-hybrid seed will grow to over 2m if you let them. That's a bit hard to hide in most places, so I've always cut mine early. If you have the luxury of a longer period of maturing, let them sit in the ground until the autumn is well in before hoisting them out as shorter daylength is what you need to produce strength. Then cut the plants with pruning shears at the base and take the entire plant back with you - I prefer to do this last once job it has got dark: the smell of freshly-cut cannabis plants can be overpoweringly disclosing! Dry the leaves on the stem, and if you have a dry atmosphere, wet the leaves a few times before letting them dry. Some people say you should cure the leaves by putting the plant in a closed litter bag for a week before drying it, but I have never tried it.
Lighting your own
It is really not so much harder to grow under artificial lighting. You can get two plants in an average wardrobe and grow them there for up to four months. Line the inside with aluminium foil before you start and use four fluorescent tubes vertically inside the wardrobe. It isn't worth getting the "plant light" tubes of various names - they cost more, are less efficient and won't make better dope. Normal "cool" fluorescent lights are fine.
A new, energy-saving alternative to fluorescent tubes or halon-discharge lamps is LED grow lights. These are still relatively expensive to buy, but you will save a considerable amount of power, as typical consumption is around 10-50W (compared with 4 x 60W for fluorescent and as much as 800W for a discharge lamp). As most of the energy consumed goes directly into light, there is little need for cooling, and you need to water less as well. Look at suppliers here, here and here.
To keep the inside of the wardrobe dry you may need to arrange ventilation slots (hole drilled at the top in the wardrobe back). A simple timer switch controls the lights. Start your plants on 14 hrs per day in the first month, going up to 16 hours per day in the second month. Reduce to twelve hours per day after this and the growth will thicken up a bit. You can start picking leaves off individually after they have gone shaggy, but you might be fed up having all your clothes draped over chairs and want to reclaim the wardrobe space.
If you have more area (inside a roof space can be excellent), then consider buying a metal halide lamp to light the plants. These are expensive but can grow around twenty plants if you can get the lamp high enough. The spectral mix of the metal halide light also promotes a bushier growth; you may be able to get passable "skunk" weed from original seeds. Again, keep the plants' leaves as dry as you can. You should water the compost well, possibly using a tomato fertiliser. Dry leaves promote high resin production, and this is what you are aiming for. Be watchful of the air temperature if the site is under a sunny roof - over 70°C will fry your plants and possibly your lights as well. Some headships have fancy hydroponic gear for growing under these high-tech lights. It's quite possible to make something yourself, though - look in a shop selling home wine-making equipment and you may notice a pleasant reduction in price for something that will essentially do the same job.
I don't like tobacco so prefer smoking the pure grass or hash in a bong. More and more I've come to use a vaporiser as my inhalation method of choice for maybe obvious reasons. With strong enough bud or tops, baking granola and cookies becomes an attractive option. There is a wealth of information about producing edibles in both the Cannabis Kitchen Cookbook and Cooking With Cannabis, downloadable from the bookshelf zone on this site.
At home, regular smokers will want to look at some sort of vaporizer. This heats the plant material to an exact temperature and vaporizes the active ingredient without creating lung-rasping tarry smoke. Users say that the taste of the hash or grass is more authentic when it isn't mixed in with a lot of burnt woody/resinous particles. The Volcano vaporizer is a proven performer.
A gravity bong is a great and speedy stoner in a group (it's a touch William Burroughs on your own). Take a big plastic PET bottle (2L and over are great) and cut the bottom off it. Now fix it so that your hash or grass cone will fit in the neck of the bottle (I used bathroom silicone rubber to make a nice little gasket on mine) and fill a large bucket with warm water. Take the cone out of the neck of your bottomless bottle. Hold the bottle vertically by its neck and let it fill and sink down in the bucket of water. You can sing a favourite anthem or snatch of Wagner at this point in anticipation of the pleasures to come, or simply enjoy the showmanship (-personship?) with people who may consider you have lost something, sometime in your life.
With the air completely excluded from the bottle, put in the cone again and light it (it's important the cone is a fairly good fit in the neck). As you apply the flame, start to lift the bottle up in the water so that the water pulls air back into the space. You will see the bottle fill with smoke - smoke which has had time to settle and get cooler over water. When the water is nearly down to the bottom of the bottle, take the cone out, put your lips to the neck and draw the smoke from the bottle in a big gulp. It helps if you lift the bottle from the water just as you begin to draw. Then perhaps it's time for another verse of the anthem.Doing it on the road
To expand on the last point if you're travelling. Mineral water bottles make great bongs if you carry the small aluminium tube and cone with you, or get someone in a workshop to turn you a cone from brass that will work with an off-cut of water pipe. You just punch a hole in the side of the bottle and inset the tube or pipe to get a perfect and disposable bong. Throw the bottle away each time you move. You can keep the inside of the bong tube clean with brandy and a long twirl of toilet paper, so it smells sweet when in your luggage. In most countries you'll be OK going thru' customs with such a thing, but I'd throw it/give it away and buy a new one if going to or passing through sensitive countries. It's only good sense.
There are various vaporisers which are suitable for travel. The most important thing with the device you choose is that it must be cleanable to the level that an IonScan puffer machine, typical at many airports, returns a null detection from your baggage. You don't want to be explaining the vaporiser as a tobacco smoking accessory when it has shown positive for cannabis, and something like the Magic Flight Launch Box - while otherwise a great vaporiser - cannot be adequately cleaned before travel. I have used the Vaponic vaporiser with good results. As it is made of laboratory glass, careful cleaning with swabs of tissue soaked in brandy before getting to an airport is a reassuring feature. It packs into a fake marker pen and passes as utterly innocent on a casual bag-search. The drawback with the Vaponic is the need to use a jet lighter or burner as the heat source (an ordinary lighter takes too long to heat the glass). A jet lighter is heavy and does not pass as an innocent traveller accessory. However, I noticed on a recent trip to India that the common anti-mosquito ("Good Knight") vaporisers have a hole in their plug-in heaters which fits the end stem of a Vaponic quite nicely, when packed with a layer of tinfoil. Some models even come with a dual range heater switch, "normal/turbo":
If you use this device, first of all take off the bottle and be sure the plug-in part is cleaned of all traces of insecticide from its more intended use, and second, keep away from the parts which are connected to the mains power source. A free-standing power socket is a useful accessory for avoiding neck strain!
I have always been scrupulous with stashing what I carry when travelling. Whether on a bus, train or boat, the gear goes in a selection of "safe" places. If I have a down sleeping bag, it can be buried in the very depths of the inside space, then the bag rammed into its stuff sac. A rucsac usually will have a number of little places to hide things: look in the channels where the internal frame sits, or where the back padding foam is held. Another option is to use the structure of the train or bus itself as a hiding place - the luggage rack in most Asian buses will have gaping cavities all over, ready to receive your package. If you even suspect that you may be checked with sniffer dogs, you'll have to seal the stuff in impermeable film (tricky) or sink it in a small, opaque bottle of water. Remember - if you elect to carry stuff over international borders or through any airport, you'll be inspected very carefully, possibly given what is referred to as a "body cavity examination". Customs officers know all of the commonly used places people use to conceal their contraband, and modern X-ray machines are excellent at detecting density differences in packages such as tea.
Unless I am some place that I trust or is in the great outdoors, I never carry anything with me while out walking or exploring a town. This means that your dope is back in your hotel room, vulnerable to discovery. Never simply leave it on your bed, or just covered over with a book or shirt - hide it! Very good places for concealing things include fluorescent light fittings (pop off the metal cover and you will have enough space to hide just about anything), under the sink in the bathroom, inside the toilet cistern (good with those old cast-iron models in India and Pakistan), inside hollow legs of tubular furniture, or behind the bathroom mirror. This last requires you to unscrew the mirror from the wall (and scrape a cavity, if one isn't already there), so it's not really suitable for overnight stays; but it works well if you need to top-up your supplies each week from a bulk stash.
Buying? I can't offer that anything works consistently except never trusting anyone in the cities. The closer you get to the areas of production, the safer will be the dealing, the lower will be the adulteration, and the better will be the price for what you want. In theory, anyway - you can be surprised anywhere. I make it a rule never to deal if there are two or more men - one guy you can throw off or flatten if you need to escape, two are more tricky. Also, try to do the deal with someone you approach, rather than someone who asks you if you "need anything." There are a lot of police informers around these days, I met at least two on the beach in Goa on one trip... If you have a feeling that someone is a bit off, you are probably right. Don't be afraid of buying a decent quantity if you find good stuff - twenty or thirty grammes of hash will be enough for a couple of months, and the risk of being sprung with such a stash is probably lower than the risk of multiple dealings with shady individuals in different locations. Hide the bulk somewhere nice and secure and just take a gramme or two out at a time. If you buy in quantity, ask to have a sample first, and take it back to your hotel to try at leisure. Then return and get more if it's what you want.
Bhang lassis have become rather popular in many
places in India and Nepal (Varanasi has dozens of vendors). The two problems
here are adulteration and orientation. The latter is obvious - if you get so
high in the restaurant that you can't remember how you got there, you might have
difficulty locating your hotel again. Restaurants concoct bhang lassi from
yoghurt and the flowering tops of the female cannabis plant - at least that's
what is supposed to be the recipe. However, you may find other things known produce a psychotropic sensation
in there: datura, wood alcohol (methanol, common in moonshine), prescription medicines,
- these will make you feel ghastly the next day, and may even cause serious
illness or unconsciousness. There are documented cases of this happening. I'd be
loath to touch bhang lassi anywhere. Yet other travellers have been around and
reported no ill effects from their bhang lassis (except for maybe ill-judged
potency levels). You can always fall back on DIY - small balls of bhang, called
ghoolies, are sold at some paan stalls, and if you ask discreetly you can
stock up with enough for a few lassis. Mash the balls with yoghurt and spices
from the market, and you're off and spinning. If you've yet to learn what a
paan stall looks like, save it until you've had a bit more experience.