Once upon a time…
This story starts way back in the early ’90s, during the dark ages of our industry when getting caught growing could mean decades in prison.
Now, by the time our story starts, I’d been growing for the better part of a decade (I started in 1983) and had all sorts of grows going in northeastern Illinois.
I was hanging out on the living room sofa with three of my partners in a house we were growing in.
We were snapping bong rips, telling stories, and brainstorming ways to cultivate more cannabis. Good times.
From the stereo speakers, Scorpions’ Love at First Sting album was rocking us like a stage five hurricane (ironically, longtime bassist of The Scorpions, Ralph Rieckermann, now runs the Advanced Nutrients media department).
One of my partners—who I’ll call Scar—got up and disappeared into the kitchen.
Minutes later he returned shirtless, carrying his wadded up black t-shirt in his hand.
Dozens, if not hundreds, of long striated scars covered his upper arms and torso.
I was aware that he’d served as a Green Beret in Vietnam and, in the past, had wondered if, like the flashback scenes in First Blood—where John Rambo is being tortured in a POW camp by his sadistic captors—Scar had been a prisoner of war.
But he wasn’t. The reality was that Scar was a self-mutilator.
However, at that moment, it wasn’t the long thin laceration scars that caused my gut to twist into a knot and my heart to jackhammer at my sternum like Metallica’s Lars Ulrich on the double bass drums.
It was the blood running down his forearm and onto the carpet.
I sprang to my feet. “Agh!”
He held up his left hand, blood gushing from where his ring finger had been. I struggled to process what I was seeing.
“The fuck’d you do?” I said.
His other hand held a severed, blood-soaked finger. “I cut it off for you.”
HUH? “What are you—”
“I chopped it off for you, Mike, it’s for you.” His voice was calmer than I’d ever heard it.
“In the bathroom, with a Ginsu knife.”
“Dude, get that fucking thing away from me. Wait a minute…” I said, baffled by what he’d just told me—chopped it off for ME?—“why?”
“It’s a token of my loyalty.”
I pointed to the finger. “I don’t want that!”
He explained that he needed me to know he had nothing to do with $37,500 being ripped off from us recently.
“I know you didn’t!” I said. “You didn’t have to—oh, Christ. This is like some Yakuza shit.”
Every Bedroom in the House Was Wall-to-Wall
Cannabis and Scar’s Hacking Off Fingers!
One of my other partners, Donny, bounced around the living room, squirming and grunting and groaning and clutching his own left hand as if he, too, had just lost a finger.
Our other partner Tony ran to the bathroom to throw up. “AHHH! There’s blood everywhere!”
In the kitchen, Scar switched on the stove.
“What, you making mac and cheese?” I asked.
He Mashed his Open Wound Against the Scorching
Burner Grate, Causing it to Sizzle and Smoke
“You’re crazy!” I marched out the door, shaking my head. I got into my car and floored it.
Scar needed professional help.
And what about the finger? Could the doctors sew it back on?
I called the house (with my early ’90s cell phone).
“Put the finger in a bag of ice,” I said, “and rush Scar to the ER. Tell ’em he accidentally cut it off with a saw. They can probably reattach it. Hurry up.”
Donny wept into the phone. “I can’t.”
“You have to! You don’t even have to go inside. Just drop him off out front.”
“You don’t understand!” Donny wailed. “I already told him we should do that. He flushed the finger down the toilet! He’s outta his mind, man!”
Soon after, Scar got into heavy drugs—yes, that was him without heavy drugs—started flaking on our grows, and I had to cut ties.
Then he got himself busted for a 1,896-plant outdoor grow.
The drug cops convinced him he was facing forty years.
So—being the “loyal” person he was—Scar turned informant, and pinned his crop on me (I had a ton of crops going, but that one had nothing to do with me).
When Scar described the sophistication of my operations, the cops were blown away.
They’d never come up against a grower who used the kind of state-of-art techniques I did (in my gardens as well as my counter surveillance).
They became convinced I was a criminal mastermind that had to be stopped (before, ya know, my “evil” weed hit the streets).
A warrant was issued for my arrest and…
I Went on the Lam…
… under one of many false identities I’d built.
First I went to California. But by 1996, the feds were one step behind me.
So I switched to a new alias (Tom Newman—get it, New Man?).
And with an official government-issued US passport, (which I’d developed a system for procuring), I relocated to British Columbia.
I grew my ass off, built a successful hydro store, and launched Advanced Nutrients.
I also built a thriving cannabis empire.
By the year 2000, I had—between managers, middle-managers, builders, electricians, air conditioning technicians, plumbers, planters, growers, harvesters, trimmers, packagers, drivers, purchasers, security guards, and spotters—over two hundred people on my payroll.
I soon ran into more legal issues and the Canadian government wanted me gone.
After receiving the official boot (and being kidnapped—a story for another day), United States federal authorities locked me up for a brief stint in SeaTac Federal Detention Center on passport violation charges.
I Was Assigned the Parole Officer From Hell
This was a man who took immense pleasure in lording over me with the constant threat of re-incarceration.
I’ll call him “Hadley Jarvis”…
Once I was running a series of soil tests. Small bags of soil samples were strewn across my kitchen table.
Jarvis beat on my front door. No one else knocked with that sort of violent, intense urgency. Only Hadley Jarvis and SWAT teams. The guy got his jollies startling the shit out of me.
At his side was a mid-30s PO with a head shaped like a peanut.
Jarvis jabbed a stiff forefinger at the couch. “Sit.” His eyes locked on to my kitchen table. “Well, well, well, what do we have here?” He sighed with sweet victory. “Ya know, I just KNEW when I woke up this morning that today I was gonna violate you.”
I wanted to say, You violate me every time you hunker down and eyeball me peeing from two feet away.
But I kept my mouth shut.
He approached the soil samples. “Caught red-handed.”
“It’s dirt,” I said.
“It’s dirt.” Technically it was soil, but I didn’t feel like explaining the difference. Jarvis was the kind of guy who was easy to confuse if you weren’t careful.
He snickered. “Dirt my ass.” He studied a bag of soil, sniffing it. “This is dope.”
Peanut Head also examined a bag. “Smells a little like dirt. Probably hash, though.”
“Dirt,” I said. “I’m analyzing it for my business.”
Jarvis held a bag up to a ray of sun shining in the window. “Definitely hash.”
Jarvis cut me off. “So you’re selling hash now, huh?”
“Test it. It’ll come back as plain ol’ dirt.”
“Oh, we’re gonna test it, all right.”
Peanut Head stepped out, returned with a paper bag, and “seized” my soil samples.
Jarvis retrieved a urine specimen cup from his jacket pocket. “Let’s go.”
He must’ve tested me 8 or 10 times a month. And every time, the results came back negative.
I worried that he was so bent on jamming me up, he’d swap out a cup of my clean pee for a dirty cup of someone else’s, or maybe pepper some hash or leaf shake into my soil samples before they reached the lab.
The Guy was BRUTAL
To him, cannabis growers were in the same category as rapists and killers.
I HAD to get another parole officer…
I was obeying all laws, but one way or another, Jarvis was going to see to it that I returned to jail.
It was his mission.
I applied for a transfer to Palm Springs, Southern California. My mother and brother lived there and the parole board likes to place people near their family.
I relocated to Palm Springs and was assigned a SUPER cool parole officer who treated me with respect.
He was impressed by how dedicated I was to my business. Said he’d never had anyone like me in caseload, that I was the least of his worries.
In Palm Springs…
I Focused Morning, Noon, and Night
on Building Advanced Nutrients
I knew what I wanted the company to look like.
I had concrete goals I committed to achieving deep down in my gut.
I learned everything I could about business, leadership, sales, marketing, and mindset. And put one foot in front of the other, determined that nothing would stop me.
And that’s how I’ve operated ever since.
Over the years I’ve owned grow shops, seed banks, hydroponics equipment manufacturing and distribution businesses, both cannabis and hemp fertilizer companies, a consumer cannabis brand, laboratories, you name it. I’ve done it all.
I’ve Experienced Every Kind of
Crop Problem You Can Imagine
I’ve been hunted, arrested, and incarcerated.
I’ve had a grow partner—who was also one of my closest friends, maybe my best at the time—crash my ultralight (which we used to fly around scouting potential outdoor grow spots and monitoring our crops).
He died in my arms.
I’ve been kidnapped, cheated, and ripped off—by crew members, partners, patch pirates, and professional thieves.
Hell, I even died on the operating table.
Advanced Nutrients Has Never
Once Hidden Behind a Tomato…
… our nutrients were blackballed by hypocritical distributors who sent out an opinion letter written by lawyers to store owners, warning If you buy from Advanced Nutrients, you could be arrested by the federal government.
I know what it’s like to fall down.
I also know what it’s like to get back up.
Again. And again.
Now, I’m a big believer that…
Money Goes Where Energy Flows
That anyone can make a lot of money—or accomplish just about anything—as long as you have clear goals and take action toward them.
If, in spite of your self-doubt, you are your own champion.
If you focus on providing value.
On helping enough other people get what they want.
Don’t just focus on the money, focus on helping people.
In my experience…
To Succeed BIG in Life, Business, and
Cannabis Requires Big Picture Thinking
The goal isn’t to win the battles.
It’s to win the WAR.
And other than giving up, there’s no such thing as failure…
…only feedback—lessons—to make you stronger, wiser, and better.
To enjoy financial success and a thriving, passionate, meaningful life, we must expand our comfort zone.
We Must Become Comfortable
with Being Uncomfortable
We must evolve into the wise, resilient people we need to become to live the lives we see in our dreams.
For all change on the outside starts within.
To change our businesses, our relationships, the quality of our journey, we must change ourselves.
For many of us, this means healing old wounds, shedding ourselves of self-sabotage, and refining our view of reality.
It means replacing fear with action.
Ignorance with wisdom.
I used to think money would make me happy.
But I learned that what really makes me happy is…
- Pursuing goals that excite me—like bringing cannabis to its full genetic potential, and making the plant an acceptable and everyday part of healing humanity.
- Helping others—especially lifting up those in need.
We are capable of creating the life and business we want most if we:
- See our goal in our mind and get excited about it
- Take massive action
- Frame challenges and setbacks in ways that serve our mission
- Learn from our mistakes
- Adjust our course based on data
- Remain dogged in our pursuit
Now, with that in mind…
Take a Moment and…
Imagine how awesome it’ll be to hit your goals…
Really SEE it in your mind.
And FEEL it in your body (this is key).
Almost every multimillionaire, billionaire, professional athlete, high-impact entrepreneur, and top performer I know does some version of this.
They SEE things happening the way they want them to happen.
And FEEL what it will feel like to accomplish them.
Really put yourself in the state.
Five or ten minutes a day is all it takes.
Decide in your gut that NOTHING will stop you.
And get busy. Because action is key.
I’ve been setting goals and imagining the life and business I want for many, many years now.
And these habits have paid off in spades.
Here’s to kicking some mighty ass and making 2021 your most successful, fulfilling, exciting year yet!
P.S. See more stories from my wild adventure in the cannabis industry HERE.
It’s a story that involves millions of pot plants, hundreds of millions of dollars, counter-surveillance techniques, a shakedown by a violent biker gang, a plane crash, a crazy and vengeful ex-girlfriend, giant busts, a manhunt by the DEA and U.S. Marshals, a kidnapping, life on the lam under seven different identities, 53 firsts in the world of cannabis growing, and even a bizarre near-death experience.