He was called Sam the Skunkman when I first met him, which was in Amsterdam.
Craig Copetus was the first to write about Nevil’s Seed Bank operation in Holland. Nevil was a recovering heroin addict who had obtained a government grant to start a cannabis seed business as part of his recuperation. Prior to that Nevil had been making hash oil and barely survived an explosion. Nevil was a pioneer in altered states of consciousness who just happened to have a serious interest in breeding. Anyway, even though Nevil took out an ad in High Times, I didn’t pay attention to the Seed Bank until Craig’s story was published in a Washington DC magazine.
So I went off to Holland to meet Nevil, and was waylaid by Sam the Skunk man and Robert Connell Clarke immediately after that meeting happened. They wanted to give me their spin on Nevil’s operation, and the quality of Dutch homegrown versus Cali homegrown, which was vast. They also let me know they’d reaped a fortune selling seeds to Nevil.
Now certain disinfo agents spread the story Sam ordered me to start the Cannabis Cup so the DEA could survey growers. Truth is, Sam had no idea I’d be inventing the Cannabis Cup later that year, as I didn’t even get the idea until I was on the plane home.
Did Sam’s stories of the Santa Cruz harvest festivals of the 1970s influence me? Of course. But Sam never presented himself as a major player in those harvest festivals, or even the boss of Sacred Seeds, or the breeder of Skunk #1, which was his primary strain. The story I got was Skunk #1 popped up unexpectedly and everybody loved it, and it won some early harvest festivals. Which is pretty much the story you get about most of the famous strains.
When I returned to Holland for the first Cannabis Cup months later, Sam was there to greet me. He wasn’t sure he wanted Cultivator’s Choice, the name of his new Seed Company, to enter the first Cannabis Cup, which so far consisted of Nevil’s Seed Bank and Ben Dronkers’ Sensi Seeds. As I recall the Sensi Seed strains were all freshly harvested and we couldn’t smoke them without running the samples through a microwave. It would take another year for many to catch on to the importance of curing, and keep in mind some people in the industry weren’t even stoners. Nevil didn’t care whether he won, or whether Skunk #1 won, because he had both Skunk #1 and Northern Lights. The final decision was not Dave Watson’s, but something entirely decided by grow guru Bram Frank and I because we liked the taste. The only other judge was the photographer Jiffy Schnack, who preferred Northern Lights. Nevil at the time was into dry sift made from Haze, which he kept to himself, while Sam and Robert were smoking full-melt Skunk #1, and were giddy about the way it turned to liquid when they hit it with a flame. This was all new to me.
A few years later, Arjan of the Greenhouse showed me a report by Mario Lap indicating Sam was really Dave Watson, who’d been busted in Santa Cruz one month before arriving in Amsterdam. And he’d supposedly arrived in Amsterdam with hundreds of thousands of seeds for sale one month after his bust. After selling the seeds to Nevil, who was making a fortune at the time in cash sales, Watson got the only license to study medicinal cannabis in Holland. It sure looked like Watson was secretly working with some powerful forces, and those operations might include tracking the ID’s of all the strains of the world and documenting the growers and dealers distributing them.
I would not be surprised if Watson was a spook at one time, and I can guarantee the world of illegal drugs is filled with spooks in all possible nooks and crannies. He went on to co-found Hortapham, which made the deal with GW Pharma, which made the bigger, better deal with Bayer, the powerhouse in European medicine. Surely you realize big money is an Octopus that pulls strings everywhere it goes? Truth is, however, Watson lost his fortune when his shares were revoked. Or at least, that’s the story I was told.
But on the other hand, I notice some trolls twisting this tale and inventing details, like Watson “ordered” me to create the Cannabis Cup so he could use the event to gather intelligence. Under that theory, you can basically end all harvest festivals or gatherings of any sort because radical conferences are always milked for intel. I started the event to create a standard for cannabis seeds, and that’s exactly what happened. What Watson represented was the arrival of the West Coast hybrids into Europe.
Meanwhile all the paranoia about Watson tracking the DNA of every cannabis strain worldwide so growers everywhere would be busted is about to evaporate, isn’t it? Even if they have a list in the works for the last twenty years, it won’t be much good in two or three years when cannabis becomes legal everywhere.
I’d say we’re on the downside of the tipping point.