Kings of Cannabis (Full Length Documentary)

[MUSIC PLAYING] KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: We’re on the side of a mountain. And there’s about thousands of marijuana plants around us. -This is like, two, three hectares– like 20, 30,000 plants. And then you know that you’re going to find a champion there if you look long enough. It’s a massive field, full of pot. KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: You might not know who Arjan Roskam is, but you’ve probably smoked his weed. Since 1985, Arjan’s been producing some of the most well-known strains of marijuana out of Amsterdam. We joined up with him and his crew in Colombia to look for three rare marijuana strains. So after about a few hours of sleep, we’re headed to Cali to check out the biggest weed operation in Colombia.

-Good. Let’s rock and roll. KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: First stop, the massive grow operation of local legend El Gato, Arjan’s key Colombian contact. He’d be our guide throughout the trip. EL GATO: [SPEAKING SPANISH] ARJAN ROSKAM: So here we go, guerrilla-style growing, guys, in the mountains of the FARC. Look here. KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: Colombia produces the most cocaine in the world. But it’s also one of the most fertile places on earth to grow cannabis. And while the country allows for recreational amounts of marijuana, growing weed on an industrial scale remains highly illegal. ARJAN ROSKAM: If you look at the plants, they’re all moving. You feel a little breeze going through. Not too much, but just enough to make them strong and make sure there’s no stale air around the buds. This is the biggest in Colombia. It’s probably maybe the biggest in South America. Or Paraguay also have really big ones. -Not like this. ARJAN ROSKAM: But not like this, and not this kind of quality. KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: In 1992, Arjan opened his first coffee shop in Amsterdam, and has since crafted marijuana-breeding skills into a market-savvy empire known as Green House Seed Company.

He’s won 38 Cannabis Cups. He’s even dubbed himself the King of Cannabis. -All hail the king. ARJAN ROSKAM: We thought maybe if we create a King of Cannabis, maybe all the rappers will come, maybe famous artists will come. They will spread the word for us. BUSTA RHYMES: Congratulate the King of the Cannabis. Salud. KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: These days, he’s often found in Amsterdam. And when he’s not there, he’s strain-hunting, scouring the entire world looking for rare, untouched marijuana strains that are known as landraces. ARJAN ROSKAM: We are the guys who travel all around the world. We see where the good stuff is. And we try to bring back the knowledge that we gain here.

We are the only guys who go really into the bush and really to the danger areas. KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: With authentic seeds in hand, he brings them back to the lab in Amsterdam to develop new varieties of marijuana. His companies bring in millions of dollars a year. ARJAN ROSKAM: Here you see a grow room that’s done with a minimal amount of money, but intuitive perfection. So this is the most healthy way of growing marijuana, preserving nature, and in the end, smoking the product. Because it’s so perfect. How many plants? 8,000. -8,000. ARJAN ROSKAM: How many kilos? ARJAN ROSKAM: Every crop or every year? ARJAN ROSKAM: 4,000 pounds. So that’s 2,000 kilos. So that’s 6,000 kilos– six tons a year. -Yeah. KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: All right. So the boys are sort of gathering around these plants to do a little shoot for their marketing initiatives.

They have fertilizer, apparently, that they try to sell to people. But this is sort of businessman Arjan at work again. ARJAN ROSKAM: The bags are in good height? Our faces are good visible? -Fuck yeah. Fuck yeah, man. KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: As marijuana becomes legal in more and more countries around the world, Arjan Roskam has set himself up to be the first billionaire of bud. FRANCO LOJA: They’re raising of them already. It’s three weeks away from being harvested. Incredible. KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: Arjan’s business partner and head breeder is Franco Loja, a paratrooper in the Italian military turned grower. FRANCO LOJA: I used to be perceived as a criminal when I was in Italy.

Now I’m a guy that has 50,000 friends on Facebook and people asking for autographs and want to take pictures with me. The beauty of cannabis, the power of cannabis– it’s its variety. It’s the fact that there are so many flavors, so many effects, medicinal and recreational. It’s a plant, but it’s not one plant. It’s thousands of plants. ARJAN ROSKAM: Now as we look, we are in a great plantation.

But it’s still very illegal, what the people are doing here. And they’re all jeopardizing their life in prison and everything, you know. -[SPEAKING SPANISH] ARJAN ROSKAM: [SPEAKING SPANISH] -[SPEAKING SPANISH] ARJAN ROSKAM: You sprayed Zerotol? -Zerotol. ARJAN ROSKAM: The people who are running this operation lost their father, their brothers. So this gives you just an idea of how rough the past was. And now they’re marijuana growers. That’s the greatest thing on earth.

They go from the guerrilla to growing marijuana. What else do you want to have on this planet? [MUSIC PLAYING] KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: That’s not dirt he’s scooping up. You’re looking at dried resin, soon to be hash. -[INAUDIBLE] -[SPEAKING SPANISH] KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: On this particular expedition, the guys have come to Colombia to hunt for three legendary landraces– Limon Verde, Punta Roja, and Colombian Gold. Since it was too dangerous to stay at the grow op, we would start hunting for the Limon Verde the next morning. Then we got stuck. ARJAN ROSKAM: Our truck is stuck. We’re going to have to push it out.

KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: We had heard horror stories about what happens in the southern jungles of Colombia at night. And Gato told us that FARC guerrillas abducted a French journalist last year, and that this June an American was stabbed to death by bandits on the road. We knew we had to get the hell out of there. So we can’t fucking move the truck. We moved it about five meters or so, but then it’s stuck again. -[SPEAKING SPANISH] KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: We’ve been putting a bunch of vegetation and shit under the wheels. And it’s moved, but it’s not going to work. It’s fucking tough. It’s muddy out here. And I don’t think this truck’s going to move today.

-[SPEAKING SPANISH] [ENGINE REVVING] [YELLING] -Push, push! -Keep pushing. KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: Colombia’s landrace genetics have been on Arjan’s wish list for years. But up until now, it’s been far too dangerous to venture deep into the jungle. The last 50 years have seen a brutal internal conflict between a slew of armed factions allied with different political ideologies. It’s all kind of confusing, but when it comes down to it, it’s a war over who controls the drug trade. Though it’s gotten better, things are still really bad. After finally getting our truck out of the mud, we woke up the next morning to startling news. The guerrilla’s second-in-command was killed yesterday in a bloody shoot-out. ARJAN ROSKAM: Here’s the body bags. This is the area we are at right now. This is the guy. There’ll be some extra attention today, because one of the big leaders has passed away. KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: Our plan was to go back to Gato’s place and then head further into the mountains to find the Limon Verde. We were smoking weed the whole ride up.

-[SPEAKING SPANISH] KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: Every time we hit a military checkpoint, I was sure we were fucked. Unfazed, Gato disarmed each situation. EL GATO: Because my two brothers got killed in the last three years by some fuckers in [INAUDIBLE]. They killed my family and like control the business now here in Colombia, but just because they’re bandits. KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: Even still, he’s intensely passionate about weed and weed culture. EL GATO: We’re just doing our thing because it’s our fucking mission in life. And we’re happy to do it, you know. And it’s not a matter of why you do it or not. You just do it, because you don’t feel criminal for doing it. For you, it’s like having cows and milk them, you know. ARJAN ROSKAM: So we’re going to try to make a new attempt today to speak to the leaders because we need permission from them to go around here in these mountains.

Otherwise we’re going to go get kidnapped and have big problems. -[SPEAKING SPANISH] ARJAN ROSKAM: Oh you know, instead of us going up in the mountains there, they know where they’re hanging out. I think they just made a last moment to show– oh, they probably knew already yesterday to surprise us. FRANCO LOJA: Is it a good sign or a bad sign? ARJAN ROSKAM: Yeah, it’s very good. KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: With tensions so high, we couldn’t just blaze through guerrilla-controlled territory without getting permission first. But the leaders didn’t want to be on camera. -Go, guys. -[INAUDIBLE] KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: The leaders granted us permission. But before we could freely hunt in their territory, they would need four days to verify Arjan’s legitimacy and let everyone in the area know what we were doing.

So Arjan decided that we would suspend our search for the Limon Verde and head north to the city of Santa Marta to look for the other two landraces we were after– Punta Roja and Colombian Gold. Santa Marta is a city literally built on weed. In the ’60s and ’70s, tons and tons of Colombian Gold were exported north through the Caribbean to the US.

Hundreds of peasant farmers became drug lords overnight. -[SPEAKING SPANISH] FRANCO LOJA: We are after two of the most famous landraces in cannabis history– Colombian Santa Marta Gold, and then there’s a high-altitude strain called Punta Roja. It means red dot. ARJAN ROSKAM: Every day is a great day. EL GATO: Soon we’ll be fucking politicians, man. ARJAN ROSKAM: We’re going to scout landraces up from the air. And then later we can go with the cars. We can go into the areas and to find the fields back with the coordinates we have on our GPS. ARJAN ROSKAM: Then everybody says to us, yeah I know there’s not so much marijuana anymore. But yeah, everywhere you go, it grows. It’s like a green avalanche. It’s unstoppable. -It’s a complex mix between laboratory science and real fieldwork. And that’s why when the big corporations get interested in marijuana, they can’t do it alone. KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: With the info obtained from the chopper ride, we headed into the Sierra Nevada mountains. Gato’s connections would take it from there. FRANCO LOJA: This is the area of Colombia where the whole marijuana trade started back in the 1970s.

The people produced an enormous amount of money by exporting large quantities of landrace. They basically built the city Santa Marta out of cannabis money. -[SPEAKING SPANISH] KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: The field was full of Colombian Gold. Punta Roja, however, was much more difficult to find. FRANCO LOJA: This looks really like the original. You see the red, the red in the hairs– original Punta Roja marking. KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: And it’s a little more mature. FRANCO LOJA: And you see it’s more mature. There are seeds inside. You see how sativa the leaf is. No overlapping whatsoever. Extremely long leaflets. Spaced in between the leaflets, you can read a newspaper through this leaf. It’s like, you know– I think we can dig. KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: Can you find the seeds? FRANCO LOJA: I think we can dig right this second. We can dig for some beans here. Let’s dig for some beans. I feel it. I feel it. But it’s young. This is not mature.

Let’s look lower in the plant, because usually when it gets pollen, it gets earlier in the stage. Here we go. Here we go. Please be brown. Please be brown. Yes. It’s brown enough. KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: Nice. FRANCO LOJA: It’s not really mature. It could be a couple weeks older to be considered a very good seed. But it’s mature enough to germinate. This is the original landrace material that I can breed, that I can store in my library, that I can use to create new genetics that are going to win Cannabis Cups, that are going to make people rich, that are going to put people in jail, that are going to change destinies and lives. And this is why I wake up with a smile every fucking day of my life. Right here. I love this. -We got seeds, man. ARJAN ROSKAM: Here, this is a really good plant.

Let’s collect all the stuff here. FRANCO LOJA: Man, we keep this seed organized, and it fucking– KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: You think you’re organized? What kind of pussy bag is that, dude? KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: Is that a pussy bag? ARJAN ROSKAM: This is a bag. We seal them. KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: Then what do you with them? Put them in your balls? ARJAN ROSKAM: They go with my balls. That’s how prestige they are, you know. We’re going keep them here. Let’s go to the next one. We have a big factory. We have a factory with 800 lights. This is where we bring our seeds back from different countries. FRANCO LOJA: We plant a large number of seeds– 10, maybe 20,000 seeds. And then we select maybe five, maybe 10, really good individuals. KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: How do you get the seeds back? FRANCO LOJA: By sending them in the mail, if it’s possible. Because they’re small, they don’t contain any THC. If you clean them properly from the green materials, they don’t smell. Dogs don’t even smell them. KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: And it’s legal. It’s technically legal. FRANCO LOJA: In Holland, yes. KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: In Holland.

FRANCO LOJA: So when we land in Holland with the seeds, nobody cares. It’s only about leaving the country where you are with the seeds, it can be an issue. Our life is one foot legal, one foot illegal. We juggle on this fucking razor blade all our life, bro. That’s what we do. -[SPEAKING SPANISH] ARJAN ROSKAM: I don’t understand why governments repress this product so much. It’s completely ridiculous. There’s absolutely no way that you can say this is a normal way of doing things. If this plant will be legal, many guerrillas and other people would not have money to finance war against local farmers or other farmers or other people. And the tobacco industry wouldn’t have such big feet in the world. -[SPEAKING SPANISH] KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: Business and marijuana can be like a big fuck you to big corporations if done right. ARJAN ROSKAM: This is exactly the problem of why it’s illegal. -[SPEAKING SPANISH] KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: They found the seeds. Everyone seems to be pretty fucking excited. It was amazing to hear what Franco had to say.

He clearly knows what he’s talking about. And this is what they come here for. And if they’re innovating business from this kind of R&D, it sounds like a kind of win-win situation. Or at least I’m having a good time. Oh look, I got spotted ones. FRANCO LOJA: Ay yi yi. My man, my man. The signature is here. We have a Punta Roja in the house, my man. KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: Beautiful. FRANCO LOJA: Fuck. The library gets richer and richer, Arjan. Our competitors dream of what we have– dream. It’s going to be embarrassing soon.

KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: After five days without a break, and with two of the three landraces in the bag, Arjan decided to take a day off. ARJAN ROSKAM: We work really, really hard. But we also like to have a really, really good time. [MUSIC PLAYING] KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: Arjan is a polarizing figure in the weed-growing community. While he has millions of followers on social media and his businesses thrive, weed-growing forums around the web attack the quality of his seeds– -Yeah, I can’t believe Green House won. As far as their weed, not even close to being the best, at all. Well, you don’t get my popularity vote. KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: –while others just find his bravado off-putting. -Dude, you’re tripping. Look at this. I think he might be in a little bit of denial.

KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: But the biggest issue centers around the White Widow strain and a man named Shantibaba. The two split in 1998 and have since argued over who, in fact, created the strain. With a lack of legal structure to settle a dispute, it’s now purely a clash of inflated personalities. ARJAN ROSKAM: It’s a group of people who don’t like us. It’s all kinds of people who fight us. KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: Arjan’s an easy target, but it doesn’t seem to slow him down. In Holland we say as long as the people speak about you, everything is good. You should worry when they don’t think speak about you anymore. Then you have the really big problem. EL GATO: See? You see, Jackson? Fresher are impossible, man.

This as fresh as you can get. ARJAN ROSKAM: If we can live our dream, if you can live your hobby, if you can make from your hobby your work, that’s the best satisfaction you can have in life. -[SINGING] This is how we do na na na. KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: So we have permission now from the local leaders to go back to Cali to check out the Limon Verde. We’re going to go back to the airport, fly to Bogota, then from Bogota to Cali, then a three-hour drive up into the mountains, and a hike to finally find the Limon Verde. EL GATO: [SINGING] I’m going, going back, back to Cali, Cali. California. [COUGHING] -[SPEAKING SPANISH] ARJAN ROSKAM: The moment that we approached the field, you heard the gunshots on the other side of the mountain. So it just wakes you up, you know. We are a bunch of smokers, but at the same time, we know we’re doing something technically very stupid.

I have never failed, I have to say, finding something. And I said to everyone, we are the guys who are going to conquer these mountains. KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: As soon as we got there, Franco spotted a newly harvested pile of the Limon Verde, which we learned is also known as a Mango Biche. -[SPEAKING SPANISH] ARJAN ROSKAM: This is an emergency way of cleaning seeds really quickly. -Arjan! -Mango Biche. ARJAN ROSKAM: No, no. We can’t mix this. KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: So you just found these at someone’s house on the side of the road, right? ARJAN ROSKAM: Yeah. It’s really like organic roadkill. In some countries, also in Colombia but especially in Thailand, there’s so much inbreeding now. There’s a lot of hermaphrodism. That’s the thing we don’t want in our plants. But it would be very helpful if in the lab already we can determine if these genes are appearing in these plants before we start working with them.

It would save a lot of time and effort. This is a once in 100 years that you drive in an area, and you see a bunch of plants, and you pick one out, you know. You must be really lucky. FRANCO LOJA: Wow, man– the first flowering stages. Wow. This is exciting, dude. -Whoa, Arjan. FRANCO LOJA: This is excite– wow, colors. -Look at this. This is the real Punta Roja over here. FRANCO LOJA: Colors, colors, colors. And the size of the field here, you can see it’s at least 3,000 plants, 4,000 plants in total. ARJAN ROSKAM: Oh, this is more. FRANCO LOJA: More? ARJAN ROSKAM: This is more than a hectare, huh? FRANCO LOJA: It’s 6, 7,000 plants for sure.

This work is priceless. It’s where it constitutes what is called cannabis culture. That is the real treasure, I think. ARJAN ROSKAM: All these buds, you can see this is one line here. KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: It’s already, yeah, coming out already. It’s articulated itself. ARJAN ROSKAM: It’s really important to just have a look at all the plants that are in the field. You keep pushing, you keep pushing. And sometimes you push too hard. And then everything turns. We fly to the north of the country. We come back, and then it all turns out to be completely perfect. KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: So we’ve definitely found the Limon Verde. It seems like we found a whole bunch of other stuff.

And we’re on the side of a mountain. And there’s about thousands of marijuana plants around us. I guess we’re going to keep searching for something better. EL GATO: You don’t know how to climb. Man, you can’t imagine this shit. FRANCO LOJA: Landrace, dude. EL GATO: This is landrace. FRANCO LOJA: Fuck. EL GATO: You can tell. FRANCO LOJA: –massive field. There is like hectares, full of pot. -Wow. FRANCO LOJA: Unbelievable. This is like two, three, hectares, like 20, 30,000 plants. And then you know that you’re going to find a champion there if you look long enough.

EL GATO: Holla if you hear me. I got the hook-up. FRANCO LOJA: I want to hug you bro. Fuck. EL GATO: I fucking tell you, man. We’ve got the hook-up. ARJAN ROSKAM: And you see all these buds growing of Limon Verde. The penultimate moment of our mission. FRANCO LOJA: Verde Limon, here we come– original, in Colombia. ARJAN ROSKAM: This is the pinnacle [INAUDIBLE]. FRANCO LOJA: 2,058 meters in the Sierras, full of pot. We added three ingredients to the mix here in this mission– three very important ingredients, three real pure landraces.

KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: There were moments where I suspected that strain hunting was some elaborate marketing scheme, devised by Arjan to literally spread his seed and show the world how daring he is. But by the end of our trip, I had a guarded respect for him and his lofty ambitions. FRANCO LOJA: When it becomes an industry, it’s because there are serious business people like Arjan that can make an impact.

Before that, it’s just a bunch of hippies getting high. ARJAN ROSKAM: We have a list. We want to do 15 more countries in the next 10 years. FRANCO LOJA: At least. ARJAN ROSKAM: At least. Maybe we’ll do 20. KRISHNA ANDAVOLU: Legalization is changing the weed industry. New laws and more permissive laws are creating a new kind of capitalism. And Arjan, love him or hate him, is the face of it. ARJAN ROSKAM: We all know that in 10 to 20 years, everything will be legal. So we are just finding all the keys for the future. And one of the keys is all the different landraces I think we are exactly on the right moment in the right business. -[SPEAKING SPANISH] EL GATO: Their energy was cut. So they’re protesting because they don’t have energy service. And they were blocking the road. But now, because we offered them the possibility to show this to the world, they’re going to let us pass. [YELLING].

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