There once was a marijuana-loving guy whose public name was Subcool, but he covertly told me his real first name was “Montgomery.” I met him at a cannabis grower event where he was selling his premium cannabis seeds and his beautiful cannabis photography and strain diary books: Dank, and Dank 2.0. His books back then cost $20 each. Today, if you can find them, they cost $700 or more—they’re collector’s items.
Subcool told of his epic transition from being a heating and air conditioning engineer and outlaw cannabis grower to being a worldwide marijuana icon who won a High Times Cannabis Cup Lifetime Achievement Award, and had an army of thousands of subscribers to his YouTube Weed Nerd channel.
Subcool’s fascinating biography is worth a long book, but the short version is he loved growing and breeding cannabis since he was a kid, kept doing it despite getting busted, went to prison for it, moved to West Coast states where cannabis was recently legalized, and created or supervised creation of dozens of novel cannabis strains and strain families and sold tons of marijuana seeds that grew into hundreds of thousands of cannabis plants.
He’d created and popularized a homemade blended soil recipe called supersoil. If you made it properly, started your seeds in starter soil and then transferred them to supersoil 2-3 weeks into grow phase, the supersoil by itself would feed your plants all the way to harvest without you having to add any base nutrients, bloom boosters or other feed products.
If you lived for getting high and growing incredible photoperiod cannabis nobody else was growing, Subcool loved you. I well remember when he shared with me tester seeds from a strain he called Jack’s Cleaner. “Watch for the sharp lemon-vanilla taste, and the sledgehammer Sativa high that borders on hallucinatory,” he intoned. “Nobody has ever smelled or tasted a strain like this.”
I knew Subcool didn’t exaggerate about his seed strains. I’d already grown some of them–they were spectacular and exactly like the strain description and photos on his website. Anyone could see from his Weed Nerd videos that he knew how to run massive outdoor and indoor grows as well as professional boutique and craft grows with fat, gooey, dank buds the size of baseball bats. But I was totally unprepared for the insanely unique taste and smell of Jack’s Cleaner, and the centrifugal rocket blast-off force of the initial phases of the high.
The cannabis seeds industry has many good people in it, but it also has too many seedy people—pollen chuckers, thieves, liars, fraudsters, narks, egomaniacs, and worse—so I retained my journalistic skepticism until I got to know Subcool well enough to verify he was an honest, bright, outspoken person whose main passion was growing, breeding, and using premium cannabis, and helping others grow it.
He was generous with tester seeds and completely honest and accurate about strain phenotypes, bloom phase duration, and cultivation particulars. He sent out thousands of tester seeds to thousands of growers for free so he could get detailed feedback on the evolving success of strain breeding programs.
Subcool was the only seed breeder and seller I ever encountered who publicly disclosed third-party cannabinoid and terpenoid test results for every strain he sold. He refused to make autoflowering or feminized marijuana seeds, saying those types of cannabis are a ripoff for growers who want male and female plants so they can do their own breeding experiments.
As the years went by, he spoke more and more about costly, distressing struggles he had in the seed industry and in his personal life. We’d talk for hours on the phone (I have a degree in counseling) as he shared the harsh challenges of running an illegal worldwide marijuana seeds empire. I knew other seed breeders, including legendary Dutch breeders, who similarly described the marijuana seeds industry as a minefield of defective people, black market paranoia, and rippers, so what Subcool told me wasn’t a total surprise.
In fact, of the major commercial cannabis seeds companies that I and the other members of this magazine’s team know well, we can say that along with Subcool, only Tony from Sagarmatha, Karel from Super Sativa Seed Club, Simon from Serious Seeds, Henk from Dutch Passion, Nat from Humboldt Seed Company, and Paul from New420Guy Seeds are good people who work hard to ensure their seeds are always 100% viable, genetically-superior, and worth the money.
Subcool described supervising cannabis seeds breeders who were subcontractors for him, how hard it was to get them to use the advanced breeding techniques and quality control necessary to create thousands of seeds that were true to strain identity.
He talked of sending thousands of seeds to seed retailers who sold them but kept all the money, instead of paying Subcool what they owed him. He said that people from rival seed companies went on marijuana cultivation online forums to slag his seeds, even though they’d never grown them. He spoke of “pollen chuckers” who bought his non-feminized photoperiod seeds, did simple, amateurish crosses, and sold them as their own strains or falsely claimed they were authentic, original Subcool seeds. He described close friends, business partners and lovers who robbed him, attempted to extort him, slagged him using fake names and social media accounts.
Despite the harshness of the marijuana seeds industry, Subcool was a generous philanthropist. He gave substantial sums of money to impoverished people, especially wounded military veterans and other disabled folks. He bailed people out of jail, paid legal fees and rental deposits for homeless people, helped people feed their families, even donated toys to children!
In October 2017, Subcool lost everything when massive California wildfires burned his beautiful Northern California home, ranch, and outdoor and indoor cannabis gardens. His motherplants, photos, computers, clones, and most of his seed inventory was incinerated as he escaped through the flames just before he too would have been burnt to a crisp.
Thus began an odyssey that ended when he chose Arizona as his new home. He told me California’s so-called marijuana legalization regulations were “costly and stupid, designed to work against small growers and in favor of venture capitalist greedy assholes.”
He’d spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on “compliance attorneys” and grow op infrastructure costs in a futile effort to qualify as a legal California cannabis grower and seed producer. “The state and cities tax weed way too much, the compliance attorneys and the regulators all profit off of California’s fake legalization. They’re all in bed together. The more I spent to make my 100% safe and perfect grow op meet their regs, the more they said I had to spend,” he complained.
Eventually, he came to believe Arizona’s marijuana legalization regulations would be easier to work with, and moved to a home in the Arizona desert. In his Weed Nerd videos from the Arizona era, you see him talking excitedly about new strains, and converting a drained swimming pool into a large grow op. He and business partners also converted a closed bowling alley into a huge, high-tech indoor grow op.
All this time, Subcool was struggling just to stay alive. In 2014, he disclosed to me his ongoing battle with cardiopulmonary obstructive disorder, sometimes known as COPD or emphysema. He believed the potentially fatal disease was caused by a rare genetic disorder rather than his constant inhalation of combusted and vaporized whole cannabis and cannabis concentrates.
He had no health insurance, and had to pay a ton of money for expensive COPD treatments and medicines. He attempted to cut back on how much cannabis he inhaled by switching to tinctures and edibles. But he loved inhaling cannabis. “I turned to burning pure dry sift and other organic resins, thinking that would save my lungs,” Subcool explained.
The dry desert air was good for his lungs, and he also experienced what he hoped was a renaissance in his personal life. His long-time romantic partnership with a woman in California had ended in brutal acrimony and bitterness, and he was hesitant to ever trust and fall in love with a woman again. Then he met a young woman who was a fan of his Weed Nerd shows and outlandish persona. He “adopted” the woman and her young baby, and they moved in with him in Arizona.
When I saw Subcool, his young lover and the baby together, they looked like an extremely happy, stable American family. He was more energized, optimistic and centered than I’d ever seen him. As he moved to expand his cannabis empire by selling high-quality cannabis concentrates, I was happy to believe he’d finally found a good home and had good people around him. But those sweet, happy days were soon to end. On October 25, 2019, Subcool shocked me with this news:
“We just got robbed at gunpoint by nearly 30 Maricopa County sheriff officers. They stole everything, including all my money, seeds, plants, medicine, vehicles and my bank accounts. Apparently someone narked on me. I thought I was totally legal and compliant. This is devastating,” he said.
At first, he wanted Growing Marijuana Perfectly to have all the insider details of the raid and to do a big article about it, but his attorney told him that could harm his chances of beating the charges or escaping a prison sentence.
So Subcool hardly told anybody about being busted, and told me not to write about the raid. Thus, nobody reported the raid, leaving growers all around the world wondering what happened to Subcool’s new Arizona-based cannabis seeds and concentrates website, and why wasn’t he making new Weed Nerd videos.
I could tell Subcool was spiraling downwards into depression, despair and suicidality. He realized he’d made a big error moving to Maricopa County, Arizona. If you’ve heard of Maricopa County before, it’s probably because its former long-time sheriff Joe Arpaio was known as a racist bully and dangerous intimidator who thought it funny to house prisoners in crude tents in the desert where temperatures often reach 120°F.
Arpaio fancied himself a celebrity sheriff, and was constantly in the news because of lawsuits, and reports of his department’s racial profiling, embezzlement, abused and dead prisoners, entrapment, and his right-wing comments expressing hatred of Latinos and other immigrants.
During Arpaio’s 15 years in office, there were big-money lawsuits won by inmates abused in his jails, a $100 million misallocation of county funds, failed prosecutions of politicians and judges, and disgusting mishandling of 400 sex crime cases—many involving children. Litigation defending Arpaio’s bad actions cost taxpayers nearly $150 million.
Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt in a case related to racial profiling in 2017 and faced up to six months in jail, where prisoners would likely have gotten justified revenge on him. Instead of going to jail, Arpaio was saved by President Donald Trump who along with pardoning war criminals and financial crimes fraudsters, issued Arpaio a presidential pardon that blocked the punishment he deserved. And even though Arpaio is a convicted criminal he’s still trying to run for sheriff again in 2020, even after being ousted by voters in 2016 and failing in a bid to get elected as a U.S. senator in 2018.
Arpaio wasn’t sheriff in 2019 when Subcool was busted, but his legacy of hating marijuana and creating a gangsterish police agency lived on. And as Subcool and his attorneys examined his case file, they discovered his arrest had been enabled in part by a secret regulation the city of Mesa had instituted, stating that anyone growing marijuana had to file a garden registration with the city government.
“But they never told anybody about this requirement,” Subcool lamented. “My very experienced attorney and my business associates who have been compliant with Arizona’s marijuana growing laws for nearly a decade didn’t know about it. That’s how the local government made my entire grow op illegal without me knowing it, and got the search warrant.”
As soon as he was raided, the happy days ended for Subcool. He told me he felt cursed and jinxed. I urged him to get more medical care and seek counseling after he told me the following depressing news and feelings:
“They’re trying to seize this home I live in even though it’s just a rent-to-own deal; my name isn’t even on the lease. So now within a few days I’ll be homeless. My credit score is destroyed by the raid because they seized all my bank accounts and cash. I have two dogs, so finding a place to rent isn’t easy. I’ve thought about camping in a tent or living in an RV, and I’ve tried it a little, but I’m so sick and broke, I don’t know if I can continue to manage it. Plus, I have to have a permanent address where doctors can send my COPD meds. I can’t just live on the road like a wandering gypsy. The lawyer says maybe I won’t get any jail time; I could end up in a diversion probation program, but that sucks too.”
As I spoke with Subcool, I wished I knew of a crisis support center near him. It seemed he was giving up on life and withdrawing from the few people he still trusted. He tried to start a legal business selling supersoil, but the proceeds weren’t enough to fund a decent home for him. In mid-January 2020, I received a cryptic message from him which I’ve edited to anonymize the names of individuals Subcool mentioned. Here’s what he said:
“I’m wasting my talent and life now. I never planned to have to move somewhere while I’m sick and solo and worried about going to prison. I hate life but I get up each day and work on. I found out that the cops were watching me on Facebook and Instagram. I discovered that [name redacted] stole all the cash I had hidden that the police didn’t get, and she’s out having a great time with my $30,000. I already knew that [name redacted] has been slagging me online, falsely claiming I’m a pedophile and saying other stupid shit. I cry a lot, and am drinking alcohol, because I don’t have any cannabis. I have only a few days to find a home for me and the dogs, and my lung function is at 27%. I feel like I’m drowning in my own lungs. You go ahead and write my story after I’m gone. I miss the good days of being Subcool. Maricopa was a massive mistake. All I can say is ‘one love, brother,’ and thank you for being one of few good people I met in the marijuana industry.”
Subcool said this to me in mid-January. After that, he never responded to my numerous emails or phone calls. When I heard about coronavirus and COVID-19, and how it’s especially lethal for people with lung problems, I feared the worst. Then came the terrible but not completely unexpected news—one of Subcool’s business associates told me he died destitute, abandoned, despairing and unable to breathe, at the end of January 2020.
I consider myself fortunate to have a cache of rare Subcool seeds including strains lost forever to most people due to the 2017 fire, including Cuvee, Locomotion, Jack’s Cleaner, Jack the Ripper, Jesus OG Kush, Pina Rita, Dr. Cookies, Chernobyl, Timewreck, Agent Orange, and others.
I held a personal remembrance ceremony for Subcool. I gathered together photos I’d taken of him and that others had taken, arranging them on my computer as an automated slide show. I chose some of my favorite Weed Nerd episodes, put together an assortment of Subcool buds, got out the Mendo Dope album that’s a collection of cool songs about growing Subcool marijuana strains, and had a video and musical memorial session while vaping his strains, remembering our friendship and all he did to bring unique, proprietary genetics and cannabis cultivation expertise to tens of thousands of growers worldwide.
The only time I didn’t have tears in my eyes is when I laughed as Subcool did one of his favorite Weed Nerd video tricks: going into his grow rooms during lights off, with a flashlight, and talking in a fake Australian accent about his grow ops.
Other cannabis media mistakenly report that Subcool died because he finally succumbed to COPD. Just like many of those media reports get his “real name” wrong and plagiarize articles written about and photos taken of Subcool by other journalists, those articles also got wrong the real reasons for his death.
The simple fact is Subcool didn’t die only because of COPD. He died because his home, funds and career were stolen from him by law enforcement and traitorous associates, because his heart had repeatedly been broken by nefarious lovers and others he mistakenly thought were friends.
Rest in peace, Subcool. Every time I grow and use your cannabis, I say a prayer that your soul is in a better place now, your suffering has ended, you’re breathing easy, high in the sky with whatever cannagods might exist.