Journalist Hunter S. Thompson, who so memorably wrote about drifting through Las Vegas with a “car full of marijuana and head full of acid,” is destined for immortality of the cannabis variety. Marijuana strains, of the same stuff he enjoyed while he was alive, will be officially labeled with his Gonzo brand. The plants will be cloned or hybridized from six strains that he smoked before his suicide in 2005, according to his widow Anita Thompson.
In June, Anita Thompson obtained the rights to Thompson’s likeness, ownership of the author’s Owl Farm home and control of the “Gonzo” logo, the Aspen Times reported. And the first official Gonzo merchandise under her stewardship? Gonzo-branded marijuana sold in Colorado, where it is legal to purchase retail cannabis from recreational dispensaries.
“I’m looking forward to being a drug lord,” she joked to the Times, which she further clarified on Facebook was a “silly” turn of phrase that “doesn’t match my personality.” Thompson said that profits from the sales will support renovating Owl Farm into a museum. The compound will also house a retreat for writers and musicians.
“I have found a legal method to extract the DNA from Hunter’s personal marijuana and hashish,” Thompson wrote in her Facebook post. She said she saved the plant material for 12 to 15 years. “I am in the process of making the strains available to those who would like to enjoy the authentic Gonzo strains in legal states.”
A bit easier than cloning a sheep, to create a plant clone can be as simple as delicately repotting a sliced branch. The cutting, once it takes root, will grow into a genetically identical organism. Added hormones speed the process along, but as Ars Technica noted in 2013, it is possible to clone common garden plants with only household supplies. Tomatoes can be cloned, as can eggplants and roses (with the caveat that certain flower varieties are protected by patent, Ars Technica pointed out, which prohibits unauthorized cloning).
Cloning a plant from tissue, or using DNA extracted from a dead plant, takes more technical proficiency — but is not impossible. Plant matter that has been dead for a decade, too, is within the bounds of modern plant biotechnology. In 2012, in fact, Russian biologists announced they revived an Arctic flower that had perished 32,000 years ago, brought back thanks to seed tissue preserved for millennia beneath the Siberian tundra.
A cloned marijuana strain would be fitting for a man who once described the drug as “a source of joy and comfort to me for many years. And I still think of it as a basic staple of life, along with beer and ice and grapefruits — and millions of Americans agree with me.”
And, to marijuana sellers, celebrity names like Thompson’s are prized labels.
“Since it became legal I get approached probably once a month by cannabis growers, dispensaries,” Anita Thompson told the Aspen Times. “I’ve had probably 10 meetings in the last three years and I always ended up saying ‘No’ because it’s the same story every time: somebody wants to slap Hunter’s name on their strain.”
She said the Gonzo brand would be part of her way to protect his legacy. “If I put Hunter’s name on somebody else’s strain I can never go back and say, ‘No, this is the authentic one.’”
Other star marijuana strains include the Marley Natural, created by a Silicon Valley-backed weed start-up that licensed Bob Marley’s likeness. In April 2015, Willie Nelson announced Willie’s Reserve, which he claimed was “the best on the market.”
Snoop Dogg has his own marijuana strain, as does rapper Riff Raff. (LA Weekly reported that Riff Raff was perusing a California dispensary’s wares and, struck by how purple one plant appeared, declared he wanted the strain to be his.) In January, actor and noted marijuana enthusiast Tommy Chong said his strain was for sale in 23 locations across the state of Washington. And musician Melissa Etheridge markets a “Private Reserve Cannabis Infused Wine Tincture” on her website.
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