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High Country

'High Country' is Motherboard's new doc about the Silicon Valley of weed. In part two, we visit a former NASA botanist who is building automated grow tanks, bask in the glory of LED smart-lighting, and brave the Cannabis Cup.

by VICE Staff
Jun 5 2013, 4:35pm

David Bienenstock doesn't just smoke weed. He is weed. Cannabis is his mantra, his well-being and raison d'être. Hang around the guy long enough and by mere association complete strangers will start handing you weed.

No, really. Total strangers will give you free weed, as if by mere virtue of the fact that you're in close proximity to Bienenstock, an unassuming and sweatered weed Yoda who acquaintances simply call Bean. I guess that's what happens after you've put in ten years at High Times—you become a magnet for stunningly dank marijuana, pulling in oftentimes rare and sought-after strains for you and those around you to, you know, sample.

What's rich about the whole thing is that Bean has to be one of the more soft spoken, if articulate humans I've ever met. So it could've been the din of thousands of attendees at the first annual High Times US Cannabis Cup last April in Denver over which some unbeknownst budtender couldn't hear Bean. Or it could've been a thickening head buzz off some of the best weed in America (if not the world) made it tough for him to hear Bean. Maybe it was both. Either way, the pardon was almost poignant.

"Where y'all from?" asks the tender, a bouncy rep for one of dozens of dispensaries and paraphernalia vendors casually doling out dabs, vape hits and flower to the masses in the outdoor grounds at what you can think of as the Super Bowl of Strains.

"I'm from Cali," Bean responds.

"Where?" the vendor asks once more, this time looking up from the vaporizer he's been loading before giving Bean the all-clear.

"California. We used to be at the forefront of cannabis legalization," adds Bean, a veteran journalist and author of Legalized It!. "Remember us?" He takes a pull off the vaporizer, gives the tender a thumbs up--high sign for When--and exhales.

Yeah, remember California? California. The Promised Land, where it all started back in the 1960s. From behind Mendocino County's Redwood Curtain, as they say, in Northern California—where land-race strains made landfall on US soil—cannabis would begin winding a long and complex path out of the shadows and into the public spotlight, with no shortage of experimental crossbreeding, cultural clashing and grinding politics along the way. In 1996, the Golden State become the first in the Union to decriminalize cannabis for medicinal purposes, a historic measure still looked back upon by pot advocates as a sort of Eureka! moment. Ah, California.

It isn't just Cali anymore, of course. Almost two dozen states have caught up with the Golden State, and another 11 are currently considering legalizing medical pot. And then you have Washington state and Colorado, both of which have since surpassed California in the march toward legalization—and, arguably, in the bongs race of high tech highs.

Continue reading over at Motherboard.