t is Thursday, November 6, 1986, and Nevil has just returned from his daily pilgrimage to a nearby post office. It is raining lightly and a cold breeze blows off the Rhine River. Although the sun made a brief appearance early in the day, it has since been obliterated by massive, billowing clouds.
As Nevil enters his house, he is assaulted by his watchdog, Elka. He climbs the stairs to his living room, flops on an old couch, and starts opening his mail. “Breeding is a matter of bending nature to your will,” he says while drawing a toke on a joint of Skunk #1. “There’s not a coffee shop in Holland that can produce better weed than this. But I don’t sell it. I give it away???or I throw it away.” In a few short years, Nevil has made an incredible transformation from penniless junkie to wealthy entrepreneur. Although he’s an effective and efficient businessman, marijuana is his business, so things are run a bit differently around here than at most companies. For example, resinous buds of exotic types of cannabis are strewn haphazardly about the room, as are large chunks of hash and bags filled with seeds.
Nevil is a displaced Australian of Dutch heritage, and has a quiet, understated sense of humor. He lives in relative seclusion on his estate, breeding marijuana, playing pool, watching video, waiting patiently for his many cannabis experiments to bear fruit. He has his doubts about the future of the marijuana business in the Netherlands, but these doubts are likely to disappear in a whiff of smoke whenever he samples a new, successful hybrid.
“In the beginning I was quite keen for people to come here and visit me, but I found it takes large amounts of my time,” he says. “I have to sit around and smoke with them. Now it has to be someone worthwhile, someone who has a large project in mind. Most American growers are looking for the same thing: strong, overpowering, two?toke indica with huge yields. My number one seller is Northern Lights.”
After the mail has been sorted and delivered to the in?house accountant, Nevil visits the basement to inspect his prize plants. The doors to four grow rooms are wide open, disclosing the blinding glare of dozens of sodium and halide lights. Powerful exhaust fans circulate the air, and the smell of cannabis is overpowering. Three of the rooms are devoted to seedlings, while the largest contains 40 flowering females in their spectacular resinous glory.
It’s no secret that an explosion of indoor marijuana propagation has taken place in America: grow stores are sprouting across the nation and sodium and halide lights are selling faster than Christmas trees in December. The reason for this sudden interest in indoor growing is no secret either; for the past two years high?quality marijuana has been nearly impossible to find???unless, of course, one personally knows a grower. But any pot farmer will tell you good equipment does not guarantee a good harvest. The most important element, in fact, is good seeds. And until recently, good seeds have been as rare as a $15 lid of Colombian gold.
Thanks to Nevil, however, this sad situation has changed. Every day letters pout into his post office box, letters containing American dollars wrapped in carbon paper to avoid detection. The money is for seeds. Not ordinary pot seeds, but the best, most potent seeds on the market, seeds that will grow gargantuan buds dripping with resin, seeds that cost between $2 and $5 each. Nevil’s seed factory has been in business for three years and is perfectly legal. The Dutch government views Nevil as a legitimate, tax?paying businessman. Seed merchants are held in esteem in Holland, and even though Nevil is something of a small fry by seed merchant standards, he is a protected national asset nonetheless. Last year his company supplied $500,000 worth of seeds to 15,000 American growers. If you smoked high?quality marijuana sometime in the last three years, chances are good the buds were grown with Nevil’s stock.
There is a big difference between growing marijuana and breeding for quality. The best?known example of the long?term effects of breeding are the cannabis indica plants that arrived in the united states in the ‘70s. For hundreds of years indica plants were bred by Afghani farmers for disease resistance, early flowering, large buds, and wide leaves. The strain was developed for hash production, but it was also useful for American growers who had difficulty with sativa strains, most of which require longer growing cycles.
Ever since indica arrived in this country, breeders have been creating hybrids that take advantage of indicia’s hardiness and sativa’s clear, bell?like high. The results of these experiments first appeared at secret harvest festivals in California, Oregon, and Washington. Then, in the early ‘80s, a legendary underground organization called the Sacred Seed Company began distributing these remarkable hybrids. Nevil’s company, The Seed Bank, sells many strains originally developed by the Sacred Seed Company, including the famed Skunk #1, Early Girl, and California Orange. In the past three years, however, some of the most mind?blowing strains have come out of the Pacific Northwest area: Northern Lights, University, Big Bud, and Hash Plant are adequate proof that Seattle and Portland now hold the breeding crown. Needless to say, Nevil’s Seed Bank has obtained cuttings and seeds of all these varieties and will soon be offering them for sale. Who is Nevil and how did he come to found this amazing company? As usual, the truth is wilder than anything HIGH TIMES could invent.
The Making of a Seed Merchant
“I had American friend who suggested we buy some,” he says. “I remember thinking, ‘okay, I’m not scared.’ We both pretended we’d done it before, when in fact, neither of us had. After scoring from someone at school, we went back to a shed outside his house. I volunteered to roll joints, even though I’d never done it before. There were three of us and I rolled three joints, one for each of us, hahaha. It seemed logical at the time, still does, actually, even though it was more normal to pass joints. But we didn’t know any better. It was Indonesian weed and we got extremely ripped. I really liked the sense of time distortion???everything happened so slowly.”
There was plenty of high?quality reefer going around Australia, and to insure a steady supply for himself, Nevil made the jump from smoker to dealer in a matter of weeks. Meanwhile to satisfy his parents, he found a legitimate job.
“As long as I couldn’t be the pope, my mother wanted me to be a doctor or a veterinarian,” he says. “My father didn’t see this as a possibility and just wanted me to get a job. Fortunately, I was offered work as a lab assistant at a local university, which was semi?professional, eh? And I was working, so they were both satisfied.”
Nevil did well at the position. So well, in fact, that he was made acting head of the anatomy lab with responsibility for the operating room, animal room, and office. He was given the only set of keys to the drug cabinet and placed in charge of ordering drugs when supplies ran low. For someone interested in sampling illicit chemicals, it seemed like the perfect job.
“Having heard horror stories about cannabis and how horrible it was for you, I decided everyone in authority lied about drugs,” says Nevil. “I knew cannabis wasn’t harmful. I concluded the harmful effects of other drugs must be exaggerated as well. I started with barbiturates. I knew many people used them for sleeping tablets. Eventually, I tried morphine. I was quite good at giving injections. There’s something very professional and doctor like about giving yourself an injection. I had to inject rabbits and mice all the time, and if you can hit a vein in a rabbit’s ear, you can hit any human vein. I veined the first time I tried. Morphine made me feel good. I had friends who were already addicted to heroin and they encouraged me. Soon, I had a bag filled with tablets, pills, and chemicals of all sorts from the lab.” Unfortunately for Nevil, this situation was not destined to last. Within a few months, he was arrested for drug possession. And it didn’t take long for the police to figure out where the drugs had come from. The head of the anatomy department suggested Nevil be sent to a treatment center. His parents agreed and had their son committed to a university psychiatric ward for six weeks. “I wasn’t addicted at the time,” says Nevil. “I used far too large a variety of ingestible to become addicted to any one thing. After I was released I had the option of working part?time at the University???to build up my position gain. But, uh, I felt the stigma of being a known user. It was a bit unbearable. So I left and started hanging around with people who supplied smack. Even though I started shooting smack, I never sold it. I just sold weed.”
One day Nevil woke up with a terrific backache. His hips and the base of his spine hurt terribly. He went to a doctor and was given some pain pills, which proved useless. The doctor couldn’t find anything wrong. Nevil went home and the pain still wouldn’t go away. “Then I realized, ‘Shit, I’m addicted,’” he says. “It was quite a substantial shock even though I knew it had to come eventually.” He enrolled in a methadone program, which proved to be an extremely dehumanizing experience. “They made me beg for drugs,” he says. “I didn’t like that. I was scoring weed in Melbourne and shipping it back in huge speakers, telling people I was in a band. I was making what seemed like a huge sum of money???$5,000 a week.”
Unfortunately, Nevil gave a free sample to a girl who was later arrested by the police. The girl identified Nevil as her supplier and a long court case ensued, one that eventually reached the Australian version of the Supreme Court. Throughout the trial, Nevil was enrolled in a methadone program and under psychiatric supervision. “I got the feeling things were coming to a head,” he says. “My drug problem seemed quite insurmountable and the case didn’t look promising. So I flew to Thailand.”
Escape to Bangkok
For several weeks Nevil lived in a cheap hotel in Bangkok, shooting heroin until his money ran out. He skipped out on the bill, moved to another hotel, and began hawking his valuables to raise money. “I found a taxi driver who would take me to exclusive shops in the city,” he says. “The driver would get a kickback from the store for delivering Europeans to the shop, whether they bought anything or not. After we left the driver and I would split the kickback.”
However after they’d visited every shop in Bangkok (and were no longer welcome at any of them), Nevil telephoned his parents and asked for a plane ticket home. Unfortunately, the police had already appeared at his house with a warrant for his arrest. “It didn’t seem prudent to return to Australia,” says Nevil with typical understatement. His parents sent him a ticket to the Netherlands and the address of an uncle living in the countryside.
After Thailand, Nevil’s habit was really out of control. Upon arriving in Holland, he immediately enrolled in a methadone program and discovered he required 24 tablets a day to stay straight. “I handled that for about six months,” he says. “I was trying to cut down, trying to fit in. I had unemployment benefits, which is enough to survive in Holland. But I was feeling quite lonely.” Six months later he moved to Tillberg, the center of Holland’s smack scene. Obviously, Tillberg was not the sort of environment conductive to kicking heroin. Junkies had taken over the city, converting pubs and hotels into shooting galleries. “My first day in town, I went to a bar called the Lawyer’s Purse,” says Nevil. “Smack was being sold up and down the counter. It was a madhouse. Apparently, the police didn’t???or couldn’t???do anything about it. It went on like that for quite some time. When the police would close one place down, everyone would move to another bar. It was a fairly rough town and I went through a time of hardship. I had no money except welfare. I had a raging habit. I was living in a town known for being tough and criminal. I cost the state large chunks of money as I went through all the available drug rehabilitation programs. After having made numerous failed attempts at stopping, I decided no one could help me. Which is true. No one can help a junkie. He can only help himself. So, I decided to kick heroin on my own. I convinced a doctor to give me ‘ludes to sleep and a synthetic opiate, which probably didn’t do anything. I stayed home and suffered for six weeks until I reached the point where I could handle alcohol. Then I started drinking every day, a half bottle of scotch in the morning, a half bottle at night. I used the ‘ludes to sleep, so that there was always a certain part of the day blocked out. Eventually, I got sick of hangovers and turned to grass. I decided it was probably the only acceptable drug.”
In 1980, while still trying to kick his habit, Nevil stumbled across a copy of the Marijuana Grower’s Guide by Mel Frank and Ed Rosenthal. “I’d grown some weed in the bush in Australia,” he says. The book helped reawaken Nevil’s interest in genetics. Why not combine his two favorite pursuits, breeding and drugs? Nevil applied for a loan to build an indoor growing chamber for marijuana. Only in Holland could such a request be taken seriously. “The drug program I was enrolled in gave grants to drug addicts to get them started doing something useful,” he explains. “I told them I wanted to grow weed indoors. They weren’t thrilled with the idea, but they gave me the money anyway.” The unit consisted of eight 5?foot fluorescent lights. “There was a vacant lot behind my apartment and I filled it with weed. I had Nigerian, Colombian, and Mexican seeds. The Mexican was the best. I still have the strain. My dwarfs come from it.” Although there wasn’t much demand for homegrown weed in Holland, hash oil was a valuable commodity and could be sold easily. So Nevil became a professional hash oil maker.
Nevil used petroleum ether, an extremely flammable liquid, for the distillation process. “I was heating it with thermostatically controlled electric plates,” he says. Unfortunately, however, Nevil didn’t realize that the thermostat on the heater had to be placed in another room because the thermostat sparks when turned on. He had a sink filled with 40 liters of petroleum ether, as well as a can with another 10 liters on the floor. One day he turned on the thermostat and it sparked. The spark turned into flame, which instantly turned into a raging fire. With eyes closed, Nevil ran to the adjoin room and dove out the window, bouncing off a roof and rolling onto a sidewalk. “My first thought after hitting the ground was to save my dope,” he says with a laugh. He ran back inside, grabbed whatever hash oil he could find, and buried it in the backyard. He went back again and collected whatever valuables he could find. “Then I went next door to tell the neighbors,” he says. “They were shocked by my appearance. I didn’t realize my hair was singed, my face was black, and my clothes were torn. I had first? and second?degree burns and was covered with blisters.” Twenty minutes later the police arrived, followed by the fire brigade and an ambulance. At the hospital, the burn specialist told him he was lucky to be in such pain because it meant the burns weren’t first degree. He was given a shot of morphine to kill the pain. The next morning, however, Nevil refused further shots. “I knew I’d turn into a junkie again.” He says. Despite horror stories from his doctors about being scarred for life, Nevil was released tow weeks later with no visible damage. There was one permanent change, however: Nevil decided not to make hash oil anymore.
Since Nevil had been reading HIGH TIMES, he knew revolutionary new indica strains were appearing in the United States, even though none were available in Holland. If only he could grow weed the Dutch would consider palatable, then he’d be in business and could sell marijuana instead of hash oil. He searched through copies of HIGH TIMES, hoping to find an indica seed supplier. “I looked for hidden meanings in all the ads,” he says. “Of course, it was just fantasy on my part. I knew how difficult it was to get good Nigerian and Indonesian seeds in America and I wanted to trade with someone.” Eventually, Nevil realized there was only one way to obtain good seeds, and that was to become a seed merchant himself. He hired a lawyer to investigate the legal implications and discovered it was possible to sell cannabis seeds in the Netherlands. Within a matter of months, he sent his first ad to HIGH TIMES.
“I expected there were thousands of people just like me, and as soon as they saw the ad, I’d be in business,” recalls Nevil. Business, however, was disappointingly slow for the first few months. Why? Probably because most readers found it hard to believe high?quality seeds could be obtained so easily. Nevil doesn’t discuss his distribution system, but there is no doubt the seeds were getting through. Most of the money Nevil received went back into improving his seed strains. Nevil went to great expense to obtain seeds, a commitment that is best illustrated by a secret trip to Mazar I Sharif in Afghanistan. According to the Moslem legend, one of Mohammad’s sons died in the city. Consequently, it is a very holy city. It is also known for high?quality hashish. Although hash from the area had been readily available in Holland in the ‘70s, the soviet invasion of the country greatly reduced exports. In 1985, an Afghan refugee told Nevil the fields around Mazar I Sharif were being destroyed. “That was all I needed to hear,” says Nevil. “I caught the next plane to Pakistan to save the strain.” The story of this adventure was first reported in Regardies Magazine and written by former
HIGH TIMES reporter A. Craig Copetas. “After being smuggled into a refugee camp near Peshwar while lying on the floor of a car, Nevil made contact with a 30?year?old Muslim fanatic who had a throbbing vein that ran from between his eyes straight up his forehead,” wrote Copetas. “The man took a lump of black hash out of his pocket and told Nevil that it had been processed by his uncle, a man known as Mr. Hashish. Surrounded by four men who were pointing machine?guns at him, Nevil set about negotiating with Mr. Hashish, a Mujahedin commander, and finally persuaded him to send a squad of his men 280 miles into Soviet?occupied territory and come back with two kilos of healthy Mazari seeds.” “He thought I was ridiculous because I didn’t want to buy hash or opium,” recalls Nevil. “Nobody had ever come there before to buy seeds, and at first he had no idea what I was talking about. I stood there trying to explain genetics to this tribal hash leader in sign language. When he finally figured out what I wanted, he asked for too much money. I took a zero off his price and gave him ten percent up front. He called me a bandit, but I had the seeds four days later.”
Nevil also went to great lengths to obtain ruderalis seeds, a little?known cannabis strain that grows primarily in Russia. Although some American growers have sold so?called ruderalis strains in the past, Nevil undertook the necessary trip to Russian?Hungarian border to authenticate the plant. Ruderalis is not known for spectacular resin content, but it flowers automatically???regardless of photoperiod, which makes it an extremely useful hybrid, especially for outdoor growers. Nevil plans to cross ruderalis?indica hybrids with his Mexican dwarfs. The result? The ultimate cannabis strain: a potent indoor/outdoor bonsai marijuana tree that matures within two months and never reaches a height over two feet. The plant would be nearly impossible to detect from the air and it could take years before the DEA even figured out what it was. Nevil is so close to perfecting this strain that seeds could be available by the time this article is published. This and other miracles can be expected soon from Cannabis Castle.
“Since becoming a seed merchant, I’ve directed all my energies and money into finding people superior strains of cannabis and getting seeds out of them,” says Nevil. “And I can honestly say, I’ve never heard of a strain I wanted that I wasn’t able to get???one way or another. Theoretically, there is someone out there growing better stuff than I am using my seeds. Why? Because tens of thousands of plants are being grown with my stock. Selection from tens of thousands gets phenomenal results, while I can only select from a few hundred. I’m not holding back anything. Any grower in America can experiment with the same stock I do.”