My First Grow sells grow kits complete with cartoon mascot ("Leafy") and child-friendly stickers. We talked to founder Greg Lonsdale to find out why he wants your four-year-old nephew to start tilling the fields with green.
Illustration by Raphael Achache
You can smoke weed out of a copy of Infinite Jest, dab with your grandma, or beer bong weed-infused beer. Truly, the cannabis industry and culture has moved on from the days of having to meet some dealer in a 7-Eleven parking lot just to get a half. Why should kids be left out of the fun?
This is the thinking behind My First Grow, which—let's be clear—does not advocate rolling a fat one for your 11-year-old cousin. Instead, the company, based in Nottingham, UK, wants to teach children that cannabis is also just green of the garden-variety plant kind. The cannabis sativa that your neighborhood weed guy is more familiar with is the one grown for its mind-altering THC levels; this Grow Kit contains cannabis sativa seeds that produce hemp, which shares the same genus as your regular kush but contains less than one percent THC content.
Unfortunately, in countries like the UK where weed remains illegal, the growing of hemp is still banned unless you have a licence because most governments are run by morons who can't distinguish the two. This is why, as My First Grow puts it: "We believe cannabis should be legalized and that children and adults alike should begin educating themselves about the myriad of uses and benefits it can provide." We spoke to founder Greg Lonsdale about why he started one of the world's first kid-friendly cultivation kits.
BROADLY: What do you do at My First Grow, and how did you come up with the idea for the kit?
Greg Lonsdale: My typical daily routine would consist of making and distributing the grow kits, researching and sharing information in regards to the plant, and looking for as many like-minded projects to collaborate with in order to bring about change. The idea came from my four-year-old nephew: He was playing with his grow your own tomato kit and I jokingly said to my sister that she should get him a cannabis/hemp one so he learns about hemp as a resourceful plant as opposed to a dangerous drug—and she loved it, so I made it.
Photo courtesy of My First Grow, logo by Nina Smith
How many grow kits have you launched since you started out?
The cannabis grow kit is the only kit I've launched to date and it's likely to be the only one. It's been shared around 10,000 times and I've shipped kits all over the world (New York, Sydney, California, Israel—even Brazil). I did toy with the idea of doing a My First Poppy Grow Kit, [which is] my grandma's idea. She grows the common red poppy, Papaver rhoeas. It does contain opium but only in trace amounts, similar to hemp and the trace amounts of THC.
What kind of feedback have you gotten from people? Have you gotten any feedback from kids?
My 80-year-old grandma has one [grow kit] in her conservatory and she loves it. I told her she needed a license to grow hemp to which she replied, "Don't be silly, I don't need a license to grow my poppies." She has a point! The feedback has been fascinating, it highlighted society's cognitive dissonance when it comes to cannabis and that people are still talking about this plant with outdated language, language that the people who've persecuted it for decades use. The biggest stamp of approval came from Erin [the mother of Brave Mykayla, who campaigns for cannabis therapy for children] on Facebook, when she said she'd let her daughter have one. To have someone whose child medicates with cannabis supporting My First Grow was a real moment for me.
Also, I did receive a couple of passionate emails from people believing it was a government sanctioned psy-ops intent on derailing the pro-cannabis movement.
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You describe the kits as the "perfect first stepping stone in a journey of cannabis discovery." In an ideal world, what would the rest of the journey look like?
People need to start asking more questions about cannabis and open their minds to the possibility that this plant could actually be one of the greatest under-utilized resources we have on our planet.
You could have done a grow kit aimed at adults, so what are you hoping to achieve by making My First Grow Kit child-friendly?
In the UK, the majority of people are fearful of children coming into contact with cannabis, whereas, in the US, families pick up and move across state lines to be able to gain access to medical cannabis. In the first episode of the new Viceland documentary series Weediquette, Krishna Andavolu visits Brave Mykayla and her family and we see her tending to her cannabis medicine plants they grow at home in their garage; the children have a healthy knowledge and respect for the plant. Some people will see that and be shocked and angry, but they wouldn't think twice about giving their child paracetamol, or sugar.
The cannabis seeds. Photo courtesy of My First Grow
Do you have kids yourself? (And if you did have kids, would you let them grow their own kit?)
No, I don't have any children myself. My four-year-old nephew had a 'Leafy' plant last summer, he kept it next to his tomato and pepper grow kits. My family teaches him about the importance of being able to grow your own food and he really enjoys the whole process from planting the seeds to nurturing the plant through to it producing food. We sat in the garden and ate tomatoes straight from his plant and we did the same with his peppers, adding them to our salads.
He has hemp seeds in his smoothies and on his cereal most days, so explaining that the little seeds come from his Leafy plant was quite easy; explaining that the T-shirt Uncle Greg was wearing was made from the same plant was a little harder, but we got there. So at age four, what he knows about cannabis and hemp is that it provides food for him and T-shirts for Uncle Greg. At no point will it come into his consciousness to cut it up, dry it out, roll it up in his coloring books and nip round the back of his Paw Patrol Play House to spark it up—he wouldn't do that with his peppers!
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I noticed that you have fine print on the Grow Kit pamphlet that says that germinating the seeds is illegal in the UK and other countries. Do you expect people to not grow the seeds?
My hope for anyone who purchases a My First Grow kit is that they use it as a starting point to further their education of cannabis and hemp. The choice to germinate the seeds has to be that of the individual who purchased the kit; essentially, germinating it is an act of political protest.
My Grow Kit has its own mascot, Leafy. How would you describe Leafy as a character? I assume he or she's a very, very chill guy...
When choosing a representative for the brand, I wanted to find someone who would truly understand what I was trying to do and having Leafy on board, just... made sense. Leafy is an exceptional little guy, I have never met anyone that has so much to offer the world that has been through such hardship yet is still so grounded. Leafy's family business stretched back over the generations and in the early 1900s he was passed the torch to lead them into a new age.
Budded the "next billion dollar crop" by Popular Mechanics magazine, Leafy was set to take them into new territory by challenging the big timber and paper industry. However, rival businessmen feared the rise of Leafy and his superior product and set out to smear his reputation, thus rendering him unable to do any further business. Sadly, Leafy was powerless against the paper and timber industry giants and he lost everything. It has been a difficult battle for Leafy over the years as he's tried to rebuild; I feel his time has come and I predict big things for his future.
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