A lot is being said about what it’s like to grow your own cannabis plants at home after the government recently proposed the right to cultivate four plants per household in Malta.
However, with cannabis having always been illegal for most people, there is very little real-life experience on the island – at least publicly – about the finer details about what it takes to actually grow healthy cannabis plants.
In his memoir, Daniel Holmes, the award-winning poet who was sentenced to over a decade in Malta’s Corradino Correctional Facility after his personal grow room was discovered in Gozo, details his equipment and set up as police raid his home.
In the excerpt, Holmes recounts the fateful morning police surrounded him and tore apart his home, grow room and a decade of his life.
Read the excerpt from Daniel Holmes: A Memoir From Malta’s Prison below:
June 19, 2006. Morning.
Barry’s car was parked outside my flat. On this rare occasion it was there without him. I’d borrowed the car for a run-around day. The minute I sat behind the wheel I was quickly surrounded by scary men screaming in Maltese. In the chaos and din, all I could see were an array of rather old and dilapidated firearms that were being pointed at me.
I can still see it clearly to this day, one of them lunging at me from the car window, his hand holding a revolver held together with Sellotape.
I had flashes of my life ending abruptly. I was not a stranger to street crime, the cities of Cardiff, Newport and Bristol, where I was raised, are unforgiving like every other large modern city.
When no one fired a shot and I was still sitting there with a joint in my mouth and keys in the ignition, I heard something deadlier than a bullet: “Pulizija! Pulizija!” What happened next is almost a blur to me. It was, after all, over 13 years ago and as I sit here a semi-free man, it seems like someone else’s life.
I recall being manhandled out of the car by plainclothes policemen blurting out broken English. I was searched and so was the car. Apart from the lit joint in my mouth, I also had a sheet of Yellow Pages containing an Embassy Number 1 cigarette and a small amount of cannabis bud – about one gram – enough for one joint.
The keys were taken from my possession by one of the many policemen, whose faces blurred into one and in a mix of Maltese and broken English they half pushed, half led me, through my front door along a corridor and upstairs to my apartment.
Then they invaded my life.
I was not shown any search warrant, although they claimed they gave me a copy. I still haven’t seen one to date.
In one of the bedrooms growing under four, 600 watt high-pressure sodium (HPS) bulbs, they found five, one-metre high cannabis plants. A cross strain of Purple Haze and Northern Lights cannabis plants.
Inside a cupboard, in the hallway, they found two parcels of bud wrapped in newspaper: one just less than 100 grams and one just under 30 grams, of snipped and prepared bud from five plants that had been harvested a few days before and were drying.
The prosecution stated that was proof of preparation for sale and wouldn’t even hear the truth, that the two weights written on the newspaper were just a personal note to show the yield from the plant’s performance and my own interest.
On the kitchen table they found 26 not-yet-rooted clones of a different strain growing under a 24-hour Metal Halide (MHD) tube bulb.
A lot has been made about the equipment and plants in my possession, stating how professional it was. The prosecution adamantly saw my flat as a drug factory, and they saw me as a cultivator and trafficker for profit.
That could not have been farther from the truth.
The two grow books in my possession showed everything one had to do to set up and maintain the plants. It is after all only growing a weed, my input was that of love, caring only for the plants as best I could.
The number of cuttings or not-yet-rooted clones was 26.
That number a few days before was higher, I did take over 100 cuttings, all but the remaining had died. There was a small pest infestation in the Rockwool, and in my opinion, in my care none of those 26 plants would have grown, and in truth I didn’t want to grow them, the crop felt jinxed. I was slowly convincing Barry to cut our losses, but I was a little too slow.
Like every gardener, I was taking more cuttings than necessary, it enabled me to choose the strongest plants from a stock of choice. Common sense.
In the back bedroom, which I had been using as a drying area, they found a cardboard box with a few desiccated stems and discarded outer leaves, larger than a hand, called fan leaves, and some other scraps all only containing trace levels of THC at best. I have never been able to receive a proper complete transcript of my case or seen any of the photos that were taken at my flat as “evidence”.
Over the years, and through the seven lawyers I amassed, I tried to obtain copies of this “evidence” but they always failed me.
“Leave it alone, don’t make a fuss,” they all told me. “You can get the file when you leave prison,” they used to tell me.
But now sitting in Wales banned from Malta for five years, the chances of that happening look incredibly slim.
Want to read the rest of it? Pick up your very own copy of the book by following the link below or clicking this link to get it as an ebook.
Lovin Malta joined Holmes on his first day out of prison when he was bundled out of the country in the middle of the night. Watch it below:
Cover photo: plantlady223 via Wikimedia