Marijuana Growing Book Author “Mr. Big” Went to Prison for Growing Cannabis

With marijuana semi-legalized in Washington and Colorado, and medical marijuana legalized in many states, it’s hard to believe there are still places where marijuana growers and entrepreneurs are treated as major, dangerous criminals.

In some places, especially a few years ago before the world began to wake up to medical marijuana legalization, government agencies went after marijuana businesspeople as if they were mass murderers.

In North America, the U.S. government came down hard on cannabis seed seller Marc Emery, who is now in federal prison. Two of the other most insane cases of law enforcement marijuana overkill occurred in the United Kingdom.

One of those now-famous persecuted guys was Mr. Nice, aka Howard Marks, who was brought down for being a major marijuana and hashish purveyor. We’re talking tons!

The other most-famous U.K. marijuana prisoner was Mr. Big, aka Mel Thomas. Mr. Nice has bounced back from prison to start a cannabis seed company, while Mel Thomas (aka Mr. Big) is now out of prison and has written one of the top marijuana grow books you can buy: Cannabis Cultivation: A Complete Grower’s Guide, published in its latest, updated edition by legendary marijuana book publisher Green Candy Press.

Thomas is also the author of Shiva’s Broken Dream: Cannabis…The Tale of a Sacred Plant. This is a cool book for all marijuana lovers, as Thomas gives us a fascinating history lesson on marijuana’s many benefits, and the evil conspirators who’ve worked against marijuana for centuries.

This book is like a super-deep version of Jack Herer’s The Emperor Wears No Clothes…it takes the cannabis story back a lot further, and puts it into international context.

As grow books go, Thomas’s Cannabis Cultivation book is way better than most. As usual with marijuana books from Green Candy Press, it’s a class act, with beautiful photos, sturdy binding, and intelligent language.

Reading it, you can quickly tell that Mr. Big knows big cannabis growing; this book is a well-illustrated, precisely-written guide to growing your own marijuana using hydroponics or outdoors for commercial or personal use. As an added bonus, the book’s section on breeding marijuana was co-written with Mr. Nice’s cannabis breeding expert.

The sad truth is that the United Kingdom is still a drug war country, lacking the medical marijuana laws, marijuana dispensaries, and marijuana legalization measure we’re seeing in America.

The information Mel Thomas shares with us in his books, and in this article, is certain to assist any marijuana grower who cares about safety, security, and THC.

We recently had the pleasure of talking to Mel about the fascinating story of how the British government wasted a lot of manpower and money trying to bring him down, about trends in the marijuana industry, and his favorite marijuana strains.

Here’s what Mel told us…

I was arrested along with four others in 1996, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years for conspiracy to produce cannabis.

We had been under police and Customs surveillance. The judge called me a “career criminal” and “horticultural expert involved in a resolute and successful attempt to grow cannabis on a commercial scale”.

But they didn’t find any cannabis plants when they raided us. They just found a warehouse, growing equipment, property, money and forensic evidence that allegedly showed cannabis production had taken place at the warehouse I purchased.

The worst problem we had as defendants were statements they had from a former grow lighting supplier called Sunlight Systems in the UK who gave officers dates and details of every purchase we had ever made from them.

We had paid cash every time and collected in person, however, we didn’t take the identifying marks off the light ballasts and the police were able to trace the supplier. The statements and records provided by the supplier showed what we had purchased, how much we had spent and, crucially, when we started. UK officers also travelled to Holland to speak to POOT light suppliers, as we had several lamps of theirs at the warehouse too.

The prosecution case was based on forensic evidence that cannabis cultivation had taken place, along with the evidence from the grow shop supplier detailing all the equipment we had purchased; that same equipment was  seized at the warehouse and other addresses.

The forensic scientists who examined the warehouse calculated that with the amount of equipment and lighting, in the time we had been shown to be cultivating, we would have produced a maximum of UK £2.8 million [approximately $4.3 million in U.S. dollars] worth of cannabis.

We were also charged with bypassing the electric supply to steal £26,000 of electricity.

I contested these amounts, as they had no physical evidence of what was produced. His Honor Judge Julian Hall [a controversial U.K. judge who has allowed convicted pedophiles and rapists to avoid prison and is generally described as a “friend to pedophiles.”] took a personal interest in my case, despite me telling him that none of the crops were successful.

He replied, “I’m not having it. If the court is to believe what you are saying it would appear that you have actually lost £10,000 since you began cultivating cannabis.”

In big cases in the UK, the judge is presented with a file called PII, which means Public Interest Immunity.

This file contains all the police intelligence about you and what they suspect you of, despite them having no hard evidence that would support a conviction. The file contains what they think you have done in the past and ensures the judge sentences more harshly. It really is Orwellian.

During the build-up to our trial one of our lawyers read through the “Unused Material” section, which is basically evidence the prosecution won’t use in the trial. He was mistakenly given a file marked: NOT TO BE DISCLOSED TO THE DEFENSE.

The file apparently listed several police operations on us, one of which was mounted by Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise who believed that we were also involved in the importation of cannabis from The Netherlands. I was never charged with importation offenses and none of this was ever proven, despite being in the PII file that was presented to the judge before he sentenced me.

If they wish to say I was involved in smuggling cannabis, who am I to argue with them?

I pleaded guilty at trial and was given 5 years imprisonment and the government took away my house, warehouse, shop and other property. I was also fined £75.000.

I was held as a Category A prisoner in Woodhill maximum security prison. It’s unusual to say the least to be held as a Category A for cannabis cultivation. The government said this sever category was because we had “money, international connections, property in Spain and posed an escape risk.”

My barrister told me he had only ever represented two Category A prisoners…one was a terrorist, and the other was me!

Other maximum security inmates asked me, “What are you in for Mel, murder?”

I replied, “No, I grew weed, and my weed was so good I got an A for it.”

Prison is a very unpleasant experience. Apart from mind-numbing boredom, long periods of prolonged isolation, followed by intense noise and activity, there’s an atmosphere of paranoia and violence, although surprisingly the maximum security units are not as bad as you’d think; most everyone is very respectful to each other because the consequences of any trouble are too serious.

We don’t have a gang culture in UK prisons, certainly not like in the US, and whilst you do get conflict here, it is not generally racially motivated. There is actually interracial solidarity amongst UK prisoners and we get on fine, no problem with the white guy/black guy thing. I know this, as I was the only white guy in our section; my fellow prisoners were all black guys.

There are a lot of drugs available in UK prisons, but they now do random urine testing here in the UK. You are given 28 days grace period when you’re first imprisoned, as that’s how long cannabis traces stay in the system. After that you are up for random testing.

What you’re finding now is this has created a massive heroin addiction problem within the UK prison system because heroin is easier to smuggle in than cannabis, and heroin leaves your system in a couple of days.

In 1996, I became only the second prisoner at that time ever to be charged with possession of crack cocaine. I hate cocaine, and particularly crack. Here’s how crazy the government people are…

I had a 5-inch square plastic mirror that they gave me and I stuck it to the wall with toothpaste. I heard it fall off the wall during the night and cleaned it up in the morning. I was strip-searched and my cell was searched the next day and they discovered two dried lumps of toothpaste on the floor behind the metal sink. They thought it was crack cocaine!

I spent two days in solitary confinement; after being asked to plead guilty to possession of crack cocaine, I laughed in the Governor’s face. I had to wait seven weeks for their forensic analysis of the dried toothpaste to come back. Then I was presented before the Governor who informed me, “The results don’t indicate possession of a prohibited substance.”

A huge percentage of violence in prison is drug-related; if you owe someone money for heroin and you have no money you’re going to be attacked. There is, however, no culture of predatory homosexual behavior in UK jails; homosexual rape rarely happens.

If you have been disrespectful to another inmate or your offense is considered undesirable you will generally be attacked by a group of guys who have disguised their faces and are armed with homemade weapons.

There are a lot of hard drugs in jails and there is some violence. I saw two inmates fighting almost to the death in the shower block, where you can’t be easily observed. Why were they fighting? There had been one sausage left on the food tray at breakfast and they had got into an altercation over it, that’s why.

The resultant fight was prearranged; other prisoners kept watch. The two guys were stripped to the waist fighting with no weapons, just fists. One guy was seriously injured. Prison is a powder-keg; an argument over a trivial matter can quickly escalate.

I was released before 2000, and wrote the book “European Cannabis Cultivation.” I had already written it in my head before I was released. I self-published it around the end of 2000, because it had been a nightmare trying to get it published. I had found a printer in Birmingham, but the police got involved, and then the printers union advised members not to work on it. European Cannabis Cultivation is on its third edition now.

Things have changed a lot when it comes to indoor marijuana cultivation technology. I have seen some encouraging hydroponics cannabis lighting technology lately. LEDs are improving and if the technology becomes less expensive it could be the answer to growers’ problems, with less electricity consumed and heat emissions drastically reduced.

We are not there yet though. At present HID lamps produce better crops, but LED lights do not require ballasts and produce a fraction of the heat.

Early LED grow lamps were not very effective, having only a single band of blue and red light. Newer LED grow lamps use automotive-grade 6-watt LEDs and have shown “similar” results as given by smaller HID lamps, so are worth considering for closet grows. The technology is improving and advancements will hopefully produce lamps equal to, if not better than HID lighting.

Grow lights based on sulfur plasma technology are currently very expensive, but they should be on the market around 2013. Tests show that young cucumber plants grew faster than those grown under HPS with a marked increase in branching and larger leaves. The first results also showed that the young cucumber plants were 64% heavier than those grown under HPS (SON-T) light, at equal light strength. The lamps also produced less than half the infrared heat per watt when compared to HPS or Metal Halide.

I don’t like using hydroponic chemicals; I now prefer organic based nutrients, cannabis is uniquely smoked and I worry about any chemical residue. I have never used C02 supplementation; it does increase yield, however it is unnecessary for good results and can compromise larger setups.

Smaller-scale cannabis growers can get great results using homemade C02 generators; if you have a small cabinet grow you can use yeast and brown sugar in a 2-liter soda bottle.

I don’t see all that many differences between the US and European growers. It’s worth remembering that one of the early pioneers of European cannabis cultivation was Holland’s Wernard Bruining, founder of Positronics, who travelled to America in 1978, and having seen how the growers there were cultivating high quality seedless cannabis he persuaded an American cannabis expert known as Old Ed (1916-2007) to come to Europe and teach us the California marijuana techniques.

Over the next five years Old Ed lived with Wernard in Amsterdam where they developed classic hybrids such as Purple Haze, which is said to have been produced from Mexican, Colombian and Thai sativa varieties crossed with an early Dutch Skunk.

Kali Mist is one of the top Sativa-dominant strains available today. It is 90% cannabis sativa; the 10% Indica genetics just give it the edge over pure Sativas and it retains the classic, tall sativa shape with very few leaves. AK-47 is also another dependable, mostly sativa, high yielding variety that I like along with classics such as Haze, and Northern Lights.

When cannabis growers have my book, they get useful facts and marijuana cultivation explanations, as well as photos, so they can grow cannabis in a professional way. And you won’t have to worry about the hardships I went through, hopefully!

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