DOPEY RCMP MATH
by Charlie McKenzie, (Source:Globe and Mail)
Following a 14-month investigation, RCMP officers recently uncovered a clandestine cyber cartel selling marijuana seeds via the Internet. Seven persons were subsequently charged with a variety of cannabis-related offences. Trumpeting this latest victory against the "scourge of marijuana" -- their term -- the Mounties claimed that the amount of seeds they seized would fill 500 greenhouses, each with 400 plants, representing 42 million joints on the street.
This reporter once saw 500 prerolled joints at a hippie-Doukabor wedding in the East Kootenays, but the spectre of 42 million joints clearly boggles the mind. It easily compares to the infamous "angels on the head of a pin" query that has so long plagued scholars and barflies alike. Even with all the CSI-toys and tools at their disposal, how could the RCMP possibly know the number of joints a bag of seeds would ultimately produce?
Notwithstanding their good intentions, our Mounties need reminding that, unlike booze and cigarettes, marijuana is very much an unregulated industry in Canada, and if experience has taught us anything, it's that there is no such thing as a standard joint. Size differs in various regions for various reasons, not least of which are availability, quality of rolling papers and level of joint-rolling skills.
Vancouver's super seed salesman, Marc Emery -- currently fighting extradition to the U.S. where he faces a life sentence for selling pot seeds to needy Americans -- says half a gram is the standard joint size in Western Canada.
"A lot though," he added, "depends on the quality." Politics notwithstanding, Easterners tend to be less liberal and much more conservative when it comes to their joints.
"Here, the standard's about a third of a gram," said Montreal's Marc-Boris St-Maurice, founder and former leader of the federal Marijuana Party, now with NORML Canada. "But that can fluctuate according to circumstance."
Scientists and horticulturalists agree -- in a manner of speaking.
"The RCMP yield prediction was probably based on average yields for a typical marijuana plant," explained David Wees, horticulturalist and faculty lecturer at McGill's MacDonald campus, but he, too, questions the accuracy of their method. "It's possible the seed won't germinate, in which case the yield is zero; or the seed germinates but the plant dies; or the seed germinates and grows 'normally' but because of factors such as heat, light, water, or soil fertility, the yield is lower -- or higher -- than expected."
His colleague, Suha Jabaji-Hare, Associate Dean of Research for Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, concurred. "It would be extremely difficult," he said. "The age, health and storage conditions of the seeds would have to be considered and for maximum yield, growing conditions have to be perfect so the plant is not under stress." Prohibition can easily stress a plant and despite being one of our largest agro-industries, the lack of regulation has confined cannabis cultivation to substandard, near-criminal conditions.
Asked if one could really tell how much a single seed would yield, research scientist, Daniel C.W. Brown of London, Ontario's Crop Protection and Research Centre was very clear: "Yes and no," he said.
"Generally, a larger seed is an indication of a better developed, more mature seed, which should have stronger growth potential. But many factors could impact on the yield of the plant, e.g. genetic potential, nutrition, environment, disease and pest resistance, water availability etc."
Julie Plamondon, media relations officer with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, had the final word. Alas, it puts doubt to the Mountie claim of 42 million joints and somewhat strains their hard-earned credibility.
"No," she emphatically stated, "it is not possible to determine plant yield simply by examining seeds, either by the naked eye, or with a microscope." She did, however, thank me for my interest in agriculture.