John Hardin / @ 7:50 a.m. / Op-Ed

HARDIN: Jorge Cervantes? He’s No Ed Rosenthal


I’ve read High Times magazine off and on for years. That’s where I first encountered our local celebrity grower Jorge Cervantes. In addition to his features in High Times, Jorge Cervantes has written several very popular books about marijuana cultivation including: Marijuana Horticulture, The Cannabis Encyclopedia, and Marijuana, Guerrilla Growing. He has also produced numerous videos about growing cannabis for growers who can’t read.

I never liked Jorge’s pieces in High Times, and I never bought any of his books. His voice never sang to me, but it was more than that. I have to admit that I didn’t like looks of the guy. I assumed it was my own cultural prejudice, so I cut the guy some slack. After all, I love cannabis, and I like growing it. I figured we would have some common ground, but I never found it.

Growing cannabis from seed was a spiritual experience for me. Cannabis is a righteous herb that deserves her place in the sun. Any power that would enslave, oppress, oppose or eradicate a righteous herb like cannabis has no place on this green Earth. Cannabis changed the way I see the world. Selling cannabis on the black market felt like pimping my sister. I didn’t want anything to do with it. I grow weed because I like weed, and weed likes me. Money has nothing to do with it.

I couldn’t write about growing weed without a lot of that kind of talk. It’s an attitude of respect, and I think that’s what cannabis consciousness is all about. Jorge clearly understood cannabis. He knew what she needed, and gave it all to her, but he never seemed to be able to grow enough. Jorge Cervantes always grew way more weed than any one or two people, or even an extended Rastfarian family could smoke in a year. He specialized in “guerrilla grows” and showed you how to infest every possible out-of-the-way place with an unsightly, dangerous-looking but vibrantly productive cannabis garden. Jorge didn’t seem to care about anything except producing pounds, and the attitude he conveyed in his articles really turned me off.

I thought High Times made a bad move when they started running his articles, especially when they showed his disguised face. Jorge looked like a caricature of a Mexican drug dealer with his trademark Che Guevara beret over cascades of jet-black dreadlocks. Dark Ray-bans and a sinister black goatee completed the image. Jorge Cervantes disguised himself as a racial stereotype that fueled the War on Drugs. That’s why I thought High Times made a mistake when they put Jorge’s picture on the cover and got behind him in a big way.

Still, I thought, “What have I got against a Mexican guy who grows weed?” I didn’t like his “get rich quick scheme” attitude, but I can understand where he might not have had the same opportunities available to me, a white working-class kid from Akron, Ohio. I really didn’t like the stereotype image, but I know what it’s like to perpetuate a stereotype. I don’t put a lot of effort into it; being a hippie just comes naturally to me. Even so, I didn’t like his writing style or the layout of his books, even if I could get past the racist stereotype on the cover.

I much preferred to get my cannabis growing advice from Ed Rosenthal, who also authored many popular books on the subject, as well as a regular column in High Times. Ed spoke to me. Ed Rosenthal showed you how to grow cannabis in almost any unused space in your home. He showed you how to grow your own, in your own home, so you could end your dependence on the black market. Ed always advocated for legalization, in his writing, and for real. I met Ed Rosenthal at a couple of legalization rallies, and watched him whip-up a crowd to work for legalization. Ed Rosenthal is an inspiring guy. I never saw Jorge Cervantes at a legalization rally.

I remember when Ed Rosenthal stood trial, in Federal court, for running Oakland’s only licensed medical marijuana dispensary. Ed Rosenthal put his real name, real face and real life on the line for legalization. Ed Rosenthal is a hero to me. Jorge Cervantes, not so much. Especially now that he feels safe enough to reveal his true identity. Now that the rest of us have done the work necessary to change the law, look who popped out from behind that old racist drug war stereotype. It’s the lily-white George Van Patten, son of the equally white Dr. Cecil R and Ester Van Patten. I imagine they must be very disappointed in their son. I know I certainly am.

Here’s a guy who hid behind a racist stereotype of a Mexican drug dealer, for decades, while he got rich off the War on Drugs that he help perpetuate through his stereotype image. The weed was real. The greed was real, and the sneakiness was real. Only the Mexican was phony. How many Hispanic men have been unfairly targeted by law enforcement because they look like Jorge Cervantes? How many years did he set back the cause of legalization with that hokey get-up? How can anyone be proud of that?

It’s a problem that a lot of people have around here. They have land, and a home, and plenty of money and stuff, and they know how to grow weed, but they don’t have a lot to be proud of, and, in some cases, kind of a lot to be ashamed of. 

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John Hardin writes at Like You’ve Got Something Better to Do.


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