Happy Marijuana Freedom Day in the commonwealth of Virginia! For the first time in generations, it’s legal for adults to possess small amounts of weed and to grow up to four marijuana plants. It’s also legal for them to (privately) consume the devil’s lettuce, but not to buy or sell the plant.
Whether you realize it or not, this marks a sea change in Virginia politics. Surely you recall less than a decade ago, when Virginia’s attorney general tried to redraw the 1776 state seal because (gasp!) it depicts a bare boobie. We’ve come a long way from such paroxysms of prudery.
Unfortunately, Virginia’s legal-weed law has significant shortcomings. As it now stands, retail sales of recreational pot won’t begin until 2024. In the meantime we can grow and use our own. But that presents a cannabis conundrum. Where can we find seeds?
In the 1970s when I was at the University of Maryland, that question was laughable. Back then, every $30 ounce of black-market Mexican ditch weed sported enough seeds to sow a quarter-acre patch. But most pot smokers didn’t bother.
Instead, we “cleaned” weed using the cardboard cover from any double vinyl-record album. Believe it or not, that was one of the era’s down-low social skills.
But 21st century weed is different in myriad ways. For one thing, it’s far more potent than in the old days. It also costs a lot more — like upward of $250 per ounce, which makes homegrows an attractive option. Problem is, weed these days has zero seeds. In fact, it’s painstakingly grown that way to raise the potency.
So where can we get them? That’s the question I posed Tuesday and Wednesday to some state lawmakers. After all, they’re the ones who enacted this mess.
My first call was to Del. Chris Head, R-Botetourt. He was no help whatsoever. Head told me he voted against the new law, which he considers “colossally unwise.” He also said he’s never tried marijuana.
Speaking with him for just a few minutes persuaded me that claim was true. Head probably couldn’t distinguish a blunt full of Purple Kush from a blintz stuffed with blueberries.
“I have jokingly said that once [retail weed] becomes legal, I may have to break down and have a gummy bear or a brownie,” Head told me. In other words, he had no idea where I could find seeds.
Next I tried Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, who also told me he had never smoked weed. Unlike Head, Rasoul voted to make recreational pot legal in 2024, when retail sales begin. Rasoul also voted for Gov. Ralph Northam’s amendment that made possession and growing small amounts legal this year.
Together, we gamed out the new law and the effects of Northam’s amendment on the issue of seeds.
It’s possible, Rasoul theorized, for Virginians to visit another state where weed is legal and purchase seeds there. Once they got them back to the Old Dominion, possession would kosher provided the seeds weighed less than an ounce. For a minute I thought we might be getting somewhere.
Then Rasoul delivered a crusher: Carrying seeds across state lines most likely violates federal law, he noted. Because federally, marijuana remains outlawed for any purpose.
Under current state law, “What is clear is there is no way to buy [marijuana] legally in Virginia,” Rasoul said. He doubts the law distinguishes the seed from the plant, and reminded me distribution remains not yet legal. “To me, in Virginia, there’s no legal way to procure seeds, period,” Rasoul said.
My next call was to state Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke. Unlike Head and Rasoul, he’s had a long and illustrious legal career, including a stint as U.S. attorney for Western Virginia. Like them, he claims he’s never smoked dope either. When I got him on the phone I didn’t beat around the bush.
“John, where can I get some marijuana seeds?” I asked. He repeated the question back to me, kind of like an echo. And as luck would have it, one of his legislative assistants was within earshot and overheard.
“My aide says he knows,” Edwards replied.
“Put that guy on the phone,” I said. He did.
That’s how I wound up talking to Patrick Giallorenzo, who proved to be a fountain of pot-seed information. Within minutes, Giallorenzo texted my phone with a contact card for “John the Seed Guy.”
His full name is Jonathan Zinski, 27, and he was a fun interview. Zinski still works a day job as a customer-service rep for a major corporation. He also owns a small farm about 20 miles south of Lynchburg, in the area of Campbell County known as Gladys.
On the side, Zinski grows legal hemp. And he has a company called Rezin Botanicals. Soon, he may gain a reputation as Virginia’s Johnny Appleseed of weed. That’s because Zinski has anticipated, planned and prepared for this day.
He’s sought and accepted seed donations from major marijuana producers. We’re talking about some of the biggest names in the legal-weed industry, like Humboldt Seed Co; the Hoku Seed Co.; Nutty North Genetics; Hill Family Genetics; and Mount Zion Seed Cooperative.
Collectively, they’ve sent Zinski thousands of seeds in a variety of different strains. Just from Hoku Seed alone, Zinski wrangled 7,500. He said beginning Thursday, he’s distributing them at selected retailers in the Lynchburg and Roanoke markets.
When I pressed, he declined to name any of the stores. That’s to guard against seed gluttons gobbling all of them up suddenly, Zinski added. He wants a few seeds into as many different hands as possible. If people knew where they could find them, they’d be all gone too soon.
Thursday night, Zinski’s holding an event marking Marijuana Freedom Day. It’s at Apocalypse Ale Works in Forest. There, he’s going to give away seeds, he said. That’s legal, he added. He doesn’t see the same gray areas in the law as Rasoul does.
“The way we’ve marketed it hasn’t been as a seed giveaway,” said Austin John, the microbrewery’s owner. “[Zinski will] be taking questions and giving answers and handing out seeds. It’s more of an educational event.”
So now you know where you can get marijuana seeds, to grow your own wacky tobacky. And so do I.
All thanks to Sen. John Edwards, who both prosecuted and represented marijuana defendants during his legal career.
I don’t know about you, but that’s what I call constituent service.