Last time this critic checked, marijuana was still illegal - at the very least, in most states. Sure, there are cases of minor decriminalization and the whole "medical" bent, so the notion of a DVD describing, in exacting detail, the way to grow and cultivate herb makes little or no sense. Yes, there is an industry booming within those areas which allow for chronic as a cure, but for the most part, if you put any of the ideas found in High Times Magazine Presents: Nico Escondido's Grow Like a Pro into action, you will soon be snuggling up to your new jailhouse 'spouse'. Make no mistake about it - the publication's seasoned cultivation expert/editor offers a by-the-book, hands on, step-by-step breakdown of either grow room technology and set-up, greenhouse growing, or outdoor farming. Even with all the caveats and warnings, precautions and preemptions, this is still a way of showing anyone - anyone with substantial amounts of money, that is - how to thwart the law...or at the very least, prepare for the day when hemp becomes America's next great blunt bumper crop.
Broken up into three sections, High Times Editor Nico Escondido walks neophytes and pot pros through the various means of growing and cultivating your own marijuana. We're not talking about a couple of plants in basement or a random bush in your dorm closet. This is a full scale, thousands of square footage operation, requiring lots of advanced technology, equipment, training, cash, and overall know how. First up is the grow room, a space specifically designated for raising cannabis. We learn about set-up, cloning, topping, and the most important thing - light to moisture ratios. Then, we take things 'outdoors' with the entire greenhouse/farm route. Here, we begin to understand the value of natural light, the best way to increase your harvests and yield, and how to ensure that your valuable stock isn't infiltrated by insects or burrowing rodents. Toward the end, we see how drying and cross breeding increases amounts and potency, as well as the value.
Have you ever felt...odd while watching a DVD? Every had the sneaking suspicion that the FBI, DEA, and members of the local motorcycle gang are tapping into your home theater, wondering just what you are up to screening an instructional video on growing dope? Well, that's kind of what Grow Like a Pro feels like. No matter the weight of the information - and there's a lot of valuable data and hands-on demonstrations - it still feels like learning how to build a bomb, or understanding the ways you can hack a computer. Outside of those lenient places around the globe, there are many parts of the US that would slam you back onto a chain gang if they found you doing what Nico Escondido suggests. Is that necessarily right? That's up to the various agendas to argue. Does it make the video an intriguing yet uneasy experience. Absolutely. Let's face it - any presentation which begins with the following suggestion - "place your grow room on the other side of a river to keep authorities and competing bad guys away" - clearly gets what it's up to.
This doesn't mean that Escondido is bad at his job. Far from it. Aside from a tendency to repeat certain phrases (which he later lampoons in a bonus feature 'game'), he knows his sh*t...make that, pot. He is a marvel at various types and mutations. He understands the ins and outs of the grow concept implicitly. If pot were ever to become 100% legal in the US, he'd be the First Ambassador of Home Grown. His personality can be a bit slacker dude and he will overwhelm the novice with uber-tech, but for the most part, he's the perfect host for such an overview. As for the two hours of DIY, it's intense stuff. The upfront costs alone must be phenomenal. Escondido begins by showing us a new empty shed with well over a 1000 square feet of space. By the time he is done, dozens of lights, several fans, an entire HVAC system, wiring, breaker boxes, plants, and containers are filling the room. Everything is on a pulley system (to raise and lower the rig in conjunction with the canopy) and then the specifics of pruning and trimming come into play. Within minutes, a little illicit operation has turned into a titanic investment.
It only gets worse come outdoor growing. Of course, Escondido confines his concepts to the whole "medical" marijuana field, making it clear that people shouldn't run into their backyards and start lighting up. With the increase in scale comes an increase in issues, and this DVD targets each and every one. Of course, dope connoisseurs will simply drool over the massive buds (called by various other slang names here) and argued potency. In the end, however, it seems like Grow Like a Pro is nothing more than a shortcut to a stay in Sing-Sing. Granted, it's aimed at the professional...or at the very least, claims to be, but it will definitely draw the attention of those looking to cut out the criminal middle man. Heck, the packaging even comes with a booklet offering seed outlets, lighting companies, and ventilation systems. Again, it's like learning how to make napalm and then getting a guide as to where you can buy the various explosive elements. None of this criticism is meant to undermine the effectiveness or the value of this presentation. Grow Like a Pro will definitely teach you how to. Whether it's something you should do is up to you...and your lawyer.
With no information on the box, it looks as if Grow Like a Pro is presented in a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen image that it colorful, clean, and loaded with detail. There is a nice balance between the interior and exterior sequences and the entire presentation looks polished and professional. There is a still a bit of a DIY spirit to the filmmaking, but overall, this is a solid DVD.
Since this is mostly a 'talking' tour of pot cultivation, the Dolby Digital Stereo mix delivers the narration perfectly. We hear every word, even when Escondido is actively involved in the action. There are a few decent songs on the soundtrack and some recognizable differences between indoor and outdoor recording. Still, for what we are dealing with, this is a good aural presentation.
There are some interesting bonus features offered. There are outtakes and soundtrack info, website links and a direct Internet access to the High Times head shop. There's also a Q&A with the legendary Chem-Dog, the aforementioned "You'll Notice..." game, and a discussion of gardening and nutrient issues. Along with the previously mentioned pamphlet, it's a nice assortment of supplemental content.
Before the War on Drugs and the ridiculous youth rites of 'Just Say No,' something like Grow Like a Pro would seem like a solid, if still suspicious, idea. Back when this critic was a teen, marijuana laws were not outrageous death sentences and smoking dope was a communal, and sometimes concert, experience. Now, marijuana is a lightning rod to everything that's wrong and redolent about society and its participants. Still, for the demo it serves, this is an excellent DVD. Earning an easy Highly Recommended rating, Nico Escondido definitely deserves his expert moniker. Even if the end result makes you feel a bit uneasy, the information containing in Grow Like a Pro will allow you to do just that...buyer beware.