How to get hold of your growing supplies (for rice) in North Cal

After all the seriousness in our recent blog posts we want to share a rather entertaining Northern California story. It is about getting growing supplies in a state where medical marijuana is legal.

The background to the story is… I am working on the rice immune system and growing rice of the same high quality the whole year round is difficult even in California. So because our new assays require constant and fully reproducible growth conditions we recently switched to grow our experimental plants in semi-hydroponic system in the growth chamber. For this purpose we adopted so-called ‘plugs’, a kind of pressed soil mimic that can equally retain moisture, and we use a separate plug for each plant.

How to get these plugs!?! From your local hydroponic (a.k.a. weed grow) shop

One colleague of mine started using the plugs and we aimed to extend our rice plant growing empire. So we went to our local Davis weed grow, mmm… I mean hydroponic, shop in order to get more supplies for our scientific operations. Funny enough, the manager wasn’t always available and our orders were not always processed in time. I guess he was busy doing other business. Because we did not want to wait forever as time is money and we in the science community are mostly short of both I extended our supply search operation to Oakland, my main hometown.

//Oakland is a beautiful city in the East Bay. The second city I lived in, after Glasgow, where advertisement asks the community not to flush their controlled substances down the toilet but to dispose them appropriately.//

After having looked up some distributors on the plugs producers’ webpage I get into my car on a Monday morning with my little four-month-old son in the backseat. The first stop is just a couple of blocks away from my home and a short drive through industrial pretty West Oakland. After a couple of turns Google tells me the shop is just to my right but all I can see is a run-down townhouse with silver foil in the windows and a barking dog in the front yard. Well…the producer might have sold plugs to these guys but for sure not for resale. So I take off to the next distributor on the list. The shop is supposed to be near the harbor and after circling the block twice I even see the name on a hand-painted sign. I park the car, get my little son, still sleeping in his car seat, out of the back and try to find the entrance. Thanks to my street credit earned by my plenty-full tattoos a white guy with gold chains smiles out of the SUV and says: “Yes dude, you are right here. This hole in the wall is the entrance”. So I drag my son and myself through this hole inside a debilitated warehouse with a small very messy room, which is suppose to be the showroom. People are talking over the ‘counter’ about some sort of growing… and become a lot quieter as soon as they see my kid and me. A kind of tweaked out white thin lady asked me what I am looking for. I with my foreign accent and mumbling try to tell her I am looking for these plugs. After several back and forth she says she finally gets what I am after but is out of the supplies and her shipment would come in at 3 p.m. I simply reply I would come back later and call before to confirm. She nods and shows me out of the door in a brisk fashion.

Just around three I look up their phone-number on the web. The website gives the number and states in bold letters DO NOT MENTION MEDICAL MARIJUANA ON THE PHONE OR WE WILL NOT SERVE YOU. Well no problem I think I only grow rice. The voice mail box is full… and I just take a ride there hoping to finally complete my mission… bad luck though the shop is closed and also these guys are also clearly not interested in selling plugs (but maybe other stuff though).

I don’t want to postpone my whole next week of work that I already planned out so I continue my quest. The next shop turns out to be a money laundry hydroponics shop. It looks all fancy from outside, yet the door is locked and I have to ring the bell to enter. The shelves are full to the brim but there are no plugs and no one interested to sell really anything. I slowly get disillusioned with the East Bay grow shops and decided to have one last go. This time I call the shop beforehand again. Wow! Someone picks up the phone, speaks clearly and promptly confirms their actual will and ability to sell these plugs. So off for my final ride of the day. When I arrive I enter a pretty looking small old factory building with loads of plants and greenery inside. Loud hip-hop music fills the air. In the corner stands a nice 80’s looking pinball machine and a pin-pong table occupies the middle of the room. A mid-twenty trendy looking guy with a baseball hat smiles at me from behind the counter and a young woman appears from one of the side rooms. Both greet me warmly and offer their kind assistance. I ask them for my plugs and get 500. Just in case so I don’t have to go treasure plug hunting in Oakland again. Both just smile knowingly. Well if they only knew that I am a rice grower… Luckily, getting a receipt for my purchase is no problem with these guys. So I am finally happy and shove the plugs into the trunk of the car for the ride to UC Davis the following day.

Happy hydroponic plant growing in North Cal everyone.