The Past, Present and Future of Cannabis: An Interview with Mel Frank

After attending the opening of Mel Frank’s, “When We Were Criminals,” I was excited to learn more. The exhibition is at M+B Photo in Los Angeles and it captures the life and times of cultivators and the development of cannabis across decades, throughout America.

I had the chance to interview the marijuana legend and inquire about his travel, his pseudonym, and his outlook of cannabis.


[This interview was edited for clarity and length]

Q: When did you start going by Mel Frank?

A: In 1971. I had written an article and when the publisher called me and asked, “Hey, what name would you need to use? ” I had three cats at the moment, Mellon, Yammy, and Frank. In the moment I first said, “Frank Mellon? ” No that doesn’t work, how about “Mel Frank? ” and I’ve had it ever since.

Q: What was it like when “Marijuana Grower’s Guide Deluxe” began to appear in everyday bookstores?

A: “This was pretty wonderful. I was naive enough to not get how impactful a great New York Times book review could be. Once the New York Times gives a good review, everybody else will give some kind of review and bookstores will begin to carry it. I believe Marijuana Growers Deluxe was the first book in stores that had anything to do with growing or producing marijuana.

Q: Why did it take Ed Rosenthal a year to convince you to write the book?

A: It took quite some time, yes. He could be [laughs]a pest! He’s a very determined man, but it changed my life. We took the guide and fleshed it out then off he went.
When “Marijuana Grower’s Guide came out in 1974, I had been attending a city college in New York. I just really was determined to write the best book I could with everything: history, chemistry, botany, and the way to grow indoors or outside. That later became the cornerstone of the Deluxe book. Among the things you learn in college is how to research, and I took all of the biology classes I could.

Q: Were you aware “Marijuana Grower’s Guide would later become the backbone of cultivation?

I didn’t realize what an impact it had on america in general. I visited California for a summer in 1975, with that Ed and I broadly started writing the book. We got started but I understood that we needed more research. After the summer I went back to New York to complete my last semester, graduated in December 1975.

Q: Different states and locations develop a specific reputation surrounding cannabis. Where is the ideal place to get bud?

When it comes to states — California. California is really where it all comes from.
Amsterdam became the place to go in the late ’80s throughout the 2000s because they were quite tolerant of growing and the popularity of the coffee shops. However, the seed industry, the foundation of Amsterdam’s notoriety in marijuana, all came from California. There were five star varieties that came from California growers. These seeds were imported to amsterdam around ’83 or ’84, one of which was Haze. Haze was initially developed in the 1960s and ’70s in Santa Cruz, California. Another was Skunk #1, and then there was Afganai #1 and Durban Poison, which I developed. Those five varieties began the entire seed industry there What    happened due to the tolerance in Amsterdam regarding marijuana growth, is that a lot of the marijuana growers in California came to Amsterdam to do the breeding and the growing and everything else. After California opened up about marijuana, they came back.
Last year I was contacted, through my Instagram account, by a man who asked me if I knew any master wearers who’d be interested in moving to amsterdam. I answered, “you’re in amsterdam, aren’t there heaps of master growers there? ” He said, “no they left and went back to the USA. ” California is the heartland.

Another country that is doing fairly well is Spain. Spain develops some really wonderful stuff, and they have a very active marijuana industry there.
Another thing that has changed is hashish. You can no longer get the excellent hashish you normally would in the Middle East due to the political situation. Afghanistan basically destroyed the good hashish sector they had.

Will the US ever catch up to Canada?

A: Well it’s more of the anti-business policies of our past administrations. Look at how theyrsquo;ve handled cannabis in the past. Theyrsquo;ve done everything they possibly could to stop it, to denigrate it, lie about it, propagandize and they’ve been doing this ever since the 1920s. Then you still have people like Jeff Sessions who believe that things, and has clearly never read anything scientific about it.
In 2005, Dr. [Donald P.] Tashkin printed a paper to the UCLA database of a research on cannabis. For years, he used to examine the harmfulness of the smokestream of marijuana for the DEA. With mechanical devices, Dr. Tashkin examined the smoke [produced by cannabis]and the DEA ran all these warnings on the harmfulness of smoking. This 2005 research had four groups: individuals who smoked cigarettes, smoked marijuana, people who smoked both, and individuals who smoked nothing in any respect. The study examined the incidence of lung cancer among the four classes. The group that only smoked marijuana was the group least likely of contracting lung cancer. Smoking marijuana gave a very slight but statistically significant protective aspect to contracting lung cancer.
I know that when he gave the paper, of all of the physicians and scientists in the room, only one stood up and asked’ “Dr. Tashkin are you saying that marijuana can have a protective effect,” and he explained “Yes,” and that was it! Nobody else asked him a single question and the DEA never gave him money to do research.
They only wanted to find out the dire things, and yes, it’s the responsibility of the authorities to do this but not do this by design. In other words they ignore anything positive they understand about cannabis.
What the public still doesn’t realize: Hemp [is]the most nutritious vegetable oil on the planet. No plant can produce an oil with a perfect balance of essential amino acids like hemp oil. But that’s not in the public consciousness yet. The largests hemp farmer in Europe, Ben Dronkers, has found hundreds of different uses for it.

A: They don’t see the light, they simply see the votes. Its popularity. The only thing motivating them is that they see the votes and the money in it for another effort. Really, all these modifications, the cultural changes that have happened in this country have come due to the impetus of the general population.
Whether it’s’s gay marriage or marijuana, you seem any any major motion and that’s what motivates it , it’s not some excellent person in Congress who then says we will need to go in this way. Theyrsquo;re always behind the curve. So when the curve reaches a point where the majority of voters will go a certain way, that’s when they’ll go.

Released at Fri, 11 May 2018 20:00:17 +0000

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