This article appears in Volume 4 – Issue 3 of SKUNK Magazine.
CANADA HAS A NEW FIRST COUPLE of guerilla marijuana growing. Their names are Tyler and Samantha; he’s a former Navy SEAL and she’s a university graduate. Together they head a group called the Sensi SEALS and produce medical grade marijuana for some of Ontario’s neediest med pot patients.
So tell me a little about yourself and your group.
Tyler: Well, I grew up in a military family; my father was a marine who saw action in Vietnam. When I turned 18, he came to me and asked what it was going to be… the military or college. Well, I didn’t have any money, so the military was an easy choice. I joined the Navy and applied to the SEALS. After training, I saw action in two theatres of combat, including Desert Storm.
So how did it come to pass that you end up growing marijuana?
Tyler: After my second combat tour I decided I had had enough, so I finished my term of enlistment and declined re-upping. I worked in the security field for a time, installing electronic surveillance systems and just went about my business. All was good until 2003 when word started going around that the Bush administration was forcefully re-activating Special Ops personnel for redeployment to Iraq, due to high burnout and mortality rates. Since I was against the war and felt that I had served my dues, I came to Canada.
At this time, I was officially an illegal immigrant and needed to maintain a low profile so that I wouldn’t be forced back to the US. I needed to earn an income, so I turned to growing pot. I bought some seeds from a store in downtown Toronto and a coupla books and set myself up. The first thing I needed to do was to acquire intelligence about what was required to grow a good crop of marijuana. You know: basic plant needs, what I could do to ensure success on a biological level.
Next, I needed to figure out where I was going to go about growing this crop. I had decided that I would try to grow inside the city, since this would mean that I had less distance to travel to tend the crop and I figured no one would be looking in the middle of a city of three million people for a pot plantation.
Of course, you need to know your enemy. In this case, the law enforcement in the AO (area of operations) capabilities and detection methods. And of course, thieves.
To learn the basics, I went to the local hemp store (I rapidly discovered that the internet is almost useless, since there are so many conflicting opinions about growing). I bought a book: Mel Frank’s Marijuana Grower’s Guide. I read it cover-to-cover and went back for more [like] Jorge Cervantes and Ed Rosenthal. If it dealt with guerilla growing, I read it.
Now, at this time they were almost legalizing pot in Canada, so I thought a couple of years and it would all be good. Anyway, when [Prime Minister Stephen] Harper came to power, I changed methods and went to guerilla growing so as to avoid the heavier penalties they were saying they were going to impose.
And how did you two meet?
Samantha: We met at a party. A friend of mine brought Tyler, who I didn’t know at the time. He stood out pretty badly in amongst all those college kids. Anyway, I asked who he was and someone told me he was a SEAL and had returned from Iraq. Well I am against the war and had had too much to drink that night, so I went over and started busting his chops about being an enforcer for the Bush war machine. He took it pretty well, but left the party.
I later learned he was there trying to talk my friend out of enlisting in the army. I felt so bad; I got my friend to tell me where to find him so I could apologize. The next day I tracked him down and apologized at length for my behavior. We had a long talk about the war and his experiences and I learned that he is actually a really nice guy. To make a long story short, we hooked up and have been together ever since.
How do your families feel about what you do?
Samantha: My parents are ex-hippies who think that weed should be legal anyway and support the medical side of marijuana, so they’re very supportive.
Tyler: My family doesn’t know what I do. They just know I came to Canada so that I didn’t have to go back to war. They’re happy I made that decision and didn’t use my skills to go back, or into one of the mercenary outfits like Blackwater.
So how did the Sensi SEALS come about?
Tyler: I had kept in touch with many of my friends from the Spec Ops community and as the rumor of reactivation spread, they were looking for a way to stay put. Many followed my example and fled the US. When they arrived in Canada, they needed a place to get set up and an income and we just started working together. There are now six full-fledged ex-SEALS operating with us and a number of dedicated civilians.
So can you tell me a little bit about how you operate within your group?
Tyler: We still operate according to a military-style protocol that has been heavily democratized. Because I was the first one here and set most of the things in motion for the group, I got elected the leader. Of course, this also means I get to be the one who is exposed most and takes the largest risk.
We operate a number of indoor grow rooms throughout our area, but they are kept small so as to avoid detection. They are strictly for support of our guerilla operations. In them, we do our breeding; test new strains; make clones and seeds. We also test new products such as nutrients and gear there, with the actual strains that we will use in the field and with the same soils that we use in the field.
All of our production growing is done guerilla-style. For the last couple of years, we’ve concentrated on growing in urban areas that were close to our base of operations, so that we could grow a maximum number of plants with as little travel time as possible. Our basic grow strategy is to grow as many small plants as possible, in as many areas as possible, so as to decrease losses in the event of a crop being found. Also, smaller plants are a lot harder to spot, unless you’re right on top of them. We use a lot of late-start plants in a system that we call “piggy backing”.
What exactly is this “piggy backing” method?
Samantha: Early on, we discovered that carrying large numbers of clones into the field was a major pain, as they were bulky and we were often operating in very public areas; so large packs were noticeable.
What we started to do was to plant a single clone in our pre-prepared site, as early in the season as possible. Later, as the season progressed, we would then clone that plant right in the field. Basically, we cut the lower branches that would get cut off or broken into clones. The lower branches are the easiest to clone anyway, so it was a win-win situation. We clone as many as we can, as close to June 22nd as possible, since this is the summer equinox and the days start getting shorter then. This helps to keep the plants small and allows almost immediate budding. This way, we’re harvesting mainly bud and not lumber.
You clone right in the field?
Samantha: Yes, we cut the clones right in the field and dip them in rooting gel. We then put them in a very moist soil mix containing a lot of perlite, peat moss and vermiculite. They are then placed in a five-gallon pail covered with plastic wrap, leaving a small air space. We then stash them nearby in light shade for two weeks until they root. We then transplant them into our areas.
What strains are you growing?
Tyler: We developed our own strain that we call, Thumper. It’s an indica-dominant plant that’s fast to flower, clones easily and yields-out large. The stone is much like a Jack Herer and she produces ample crystals. The finished plant is often a single stalk, topped with a large, beer can of a bud.
This coming season, we’re going to try growing a few more strains, including some sativas that the med patients have requested. We’re also expanding our breeding program this year with a few crosses that we have been in mid-process of developing for a while now.
So you have a video coming out? Tell me about it.
Tyler: Well, in the video, we show people exactly how we went about growing huge amounts of marijuana inside city limits. We show how to scout a location; how to set up grow sites; camouflaging your plants; avoiding security systems, or defeating them altogether; how to blind security cameras; and getting your harvest out.
We show you what type of advanced equipment and tactics that we employ and get you thinking outside of the normal routines.
This video assumes that you have a basic knowledge of growing, so you won’t find us telling you how often to water or fertilize. We will, however, show you how to hide huge amounts of supplies for your gardens such as water, where there is none available. We also show how to water your plants without going near them and leaving trails. There are also a lot of laborsaving tips.
What types of advanced equipment do you use, that an ordinary guerilla grower wouldn’t use?
Samantha: The boys have really taken their military training and adapted it to cannabis farming. For example, they developed wireless, remote camera systems that they can deploy around themselves, while they are working. If they hear a sound, they can look on the little receiver that they carry and see who, or what, is coming. The cameras also have microphones in them, so they can listen in on what any intruder is saying. In the city, there’s always noise going on and it can either make you paranoid, or you can ignore it at your own peril. The cameras make it possible to be alert, without being paranoid.
Another thing that the boys developed is an alarm system that they deploy across trails. In combat, they would wire a hand grenade or mine across their back trail, to avoid being snuck up on. Obviously, this isn’t appropriate for gardening, so they developed alarms that run a tripwire across the trail. When the wire is touched, the alarm sounds and gives a warning. They can then use the cameras to check what the threat is and then take appropriate counter measures; either lay low, or get out.
They’ve also developed systems for blinding security cameras and defeating other security measures.
So it sounds like there are pretty advanced techniques in the video. When is it coming out and how do people get a hold of it?
Tyler: Well, it should be available through most hemp stores, as well as online. Our website is coming up soon (www.TheSensiSEALS.com). On it, you’ll find guerilla growing tips and techniques, equipment sales, breed reviews and links to pertinent grow info.
So what does the future hold for the SEALS?
Tyler: Well, we are doing more videos, including: swamp growing; more advanced techniques for defeating security; stealth growing; and defeating detection by authorities. Another video is also being made that shows how to secure your grow against theft and prosecution.
Samantha: We will also continue to grow for the med-pot patients and are working on a breeding program with their input as to what strains work well for them and what they require. These strains will then be stabilized and made available to the public. Another thought is a series of how-to articles, to help teach growers how to avoid becoming casualties.