Jul 25, 2018 05:48PM
● By Dan McCarthy
|IN 1975, RICK NAYA WAS A YOUNG SPRAT ENJOYING A CAMPING TRIP IN A THICKET OF WOODS HE AND A PAL SETTLED ON IN THE PALM BEACH COUNTY AREA OF SOUTHERN FLORIDA. WHILE THERE, HE AND HIS FRIENDS OBSERVED A DROP PLANE FLYING OVER. CURIOUS, THEY KEPT AN EYE ON IT UNTIL NOTICING BALES OF WRAPPED PACKAGES STREAMING OUT OF THE PLANE; SEEN FROM UNDERNEATH, JUST A SILHOUETTED STEEL BIRD DEPOSITING A RIBBON OF PRECIOUS (MOST LIKELY) ILLEGAL CARGO ACROSS A FLORIDA FIELD THAT WOULD COME TO DEFINE AND ULTIMATELY CHANGE YOUNG NAYA’S LIFE.|
|Anyone who has seen even one drug smuggling related film in the past 30 years can probably tell you what unfolded from there. First, a startled realization that they had been in the right place at the right time, if what was in those bales were as valuable as one would expect after darkened trucks and teams of men toting an ill will toward anyone getting in their way would suggest. The machine guns strung around their shoulders was something of a giveaway, too.|
|Naya recalls the night it happened. “We had to put our fire out to make sure we weren’t seen, as we could see about eight of them, with their machine guns sticking out. It was scary. But they had dropped so much of it, we saw they left some behind. So we just figured we’d score it.”|
The parcel wound up being packaged bundles of Colombian Gold, the now classic landrace sativa hailing from the Santa Marta region of Colombia. Weed historians will already know this strain was the grandfather of Skunk #1, long regarded as one of the first hybrid cannabis strains to emerge in the halcyon days of 70s weed culture. But what to do with all that green?
|“I nickel and dimed it,” Naya says with a laugh.|
A short time later as one of Naya’s pals was embarking on a trip to Hawaii, Naya handed his pal money made from the sales and suggested his friend pick up as much island grass as he could pack in his suitcase while visiting the tropical oasis. “Back then they didn’t check your luggage or anything, there weren’t dogs in airports.”
His pal came back with the Hawaiian booty, and when he and Naya broke into the ounces and started sampling the wares, it was clear there was a whole weed world out there to be discovered. But moreover, there was another world on the growing side that suddenly revealed itself to Naya, as one of the ounces had two small seeds in it. That led to his first grow, which included using some of the found seeds from the Colombian weed as well as seeds from the new Hawaii cannabis, which turned out to be the fabled Maui Wowie, a stress-killing powerful sativa found flourishing in the volcanic island.
“We knew the Colombian plants grew very tall and lanky, and the Hawaiian was tiny and a little lanky, but we didn’t know one of the Hawaiians was a male,” says Naya. “We harvested from those grows, and wound up with about 330 seeds, grew maybe half, got rid of the males, kept the females and harvested from those.”
The result was something brand new. A very powerful and delightful cannabis anyone in those days had ever seen or had, in the states or otherwise. But what next? Where to go from here as an upstart in the underground cannabis movement of the mid-late 1970s?
Naya says he remembered he had a friend whose father was involved in a biker club down in South Florida. He told him about the new weed on the scene—and that they had enough of it to hand off, if he wanted to sell it around town and move it through his network on the street.
|Naya drove it down to Gainesville in Central Florida to make the drop off. As he tells it, his biker dad pal opened the bag and smelled the contents. “He just said, ‘What the hell is this?...Jesus Christ look at these golf ball sized buds! Colorful red hairs!’” says Naya. “It was unlike anything in the world at that time, but we were just kids so we didn’t know. He goes, ‘You got a name for it?’ and we said no, so he said he’d call it the Gainesville Green. And that was that.”|
A Life in Flux
|Naya’s life didn’t jump directly into the green game from there. He went into the logistics industry, following in what he says is his family footsteps.|
“My family were the magnates of the shipping industry of Cuba,” he says, “We owned all the ports and the shipping industry and oil refineries there.”
After college and an early career in engineering, the downturn in the construction market in the 80s led to a new career in another kind of plant-derived drug product: agriculture and distribution for coffee, moving beans and product all around the country.
By the mid-90s he had met a girl and decided to “stop being a playboy and settle down.” After many years of marriage and some kids, they divorced and Naya moved on, single for the first time in many years.
It was around that time that Naya’s move into cannabis activism began, with a drive to Concord, New Hampshire. Flanked by about fifty people, lots of bullhorns blasting about cannabis legalization, he says that day the clouds parted and he saw what he said was the path for the rest of his life. And this year marks 13 years in the local game up there. Besides working on the political side, the “most interesting man in New Hampshire” (a title friends and associates have laid on Naya’s head due to his proximity to the eponymous Dos Equis brand mascot) also owned and operated the NH Cannabis Freedom Festival for years, and he is still involved in various ways to this day. But it’s the activism and the push for change that has really put fuel back in Naya’s immigrant Cubano bloodfire, and he’s got the energy, ethos, and drive to see it through even when others have been small bursts of change in the game of long-distance policy change.
|“For years, I loved cannabis. It wasn’t hurting me in ways people were talking about all the time. So I began educating myself on the plant, but it was my father at one point who said I should get involved. So I learned to use computers, accessing information, and learning more about cannabis and law and patents and what they’re for and science and genetics and how they work with us. Then the endocannabinoid studies came out, I became educated on how THC and cannabinoids work.”|
Naya says his mother had instilled a sense of citizen diplomacy in his life at an early age, so the sudden electricity of the cannabis movement surging through him mixed with a familial sense of duty and abilities lead him to continue his activism through the present day.
“New Hampshire may not have millions, but many in the state understood that cannabis was cool and not a big deal,” says Naya. “But [state decision making] was controlled with bad information and education, and things were manipulated time and time again. So when I got involved 13 years ago, I began to give them data and education and facts to help combat that. Things started changing little by little.”
Along the way, Naya says he has helped educate the New Hampshire legislature on the medical use of cannabis, providing data and research. As one of the first medical marijuana card-holding patients he was uniquely poised to help write patient bills as well as those concerning farmers rights as it related to the growing of industrial cannabis. And in spite of setbacks from some of the elected officials in Massachusetts’ neighbor to the north (NH Gov. Chris Sununu is against marijuana legalization much like MA Gov. Charlie Baker was), Naya says he feels the movement up there is increasingly feeling the the wind at their back.
“I’m in the process now developing most comprehensive cannabis bill to date,” Naya says, “And I hope this year is the year it will be pushed through to be heard in 2019.”
Speaking on what the maintained prohibitionist attitude of New Hampshire means for ordinary citizens of the Granite State, Naya recently told NHPR in an interview: “I think it means our citizens are spending money [on cannabis] in other states, Massachusetts specifically.” He also opined that what’s going on in MA is a matter of an industry that’s going to evolve, but remains impressed with the Cannabis Control Commission here handling large amounts of data and information and says while their written policies are “quite broad” and difficult to balance, he gives ample credit to the CCC for what they’ve done in a short amount of time.
Respecting Historical Truth
|For years, there have been various oral histories about how hybrids came into being. Skunk #1 was an original claim to hybrid glory, but Naya maintains it was a sister plant to his original hybrid.|
“Go to lineage of cannabis and at bottom is Gainesville Green,” he says. Moreover, go on any deep dive cannabis chat forum or online discussion board and you’ll read all manner of rumors and game-of-telephone renditions of the genealogy of hybrid creationism. But it was on one of those very boards where Naya began realizing his place in the canon of cannabis history in the US.
“What happened was there was a thread on one of the cannabis forums online discussing Gainesville Green and where it came from,” says Naya. “Someone contacted me about a year ago telling me they were talking about it, and I read all the commentary that people posted and said, ‘Hey these are great stories but let me tell you the truth,’ so I laid it out there.”
Soon after, Naya said he learned that an outfit in Florida was attempting to co-opt and trademark Gainesville Green for themselves, so the story of the real great-grandfather of Gainesville Green and hybrid weed started to have new life. By then a documentary on this history was being produced independently, and the team behind that reached out to Naya to see what the real inside scoop was. After some detective work and interviews, as well as some pointed questions that only the real OG of GG would be able to answer, Naya says he proved his mettle and was established as the real originator.
“Others knew some of the story,” says Naya with a bit of bravado, “but they couldn’t name the bikers from way back then. I could.”
As to what his next steps are in the new modern cannabis world—either as the great-grandfather of hybrid weed, or as an unelected figurehead of the New Hampshire cannabis reform movement—Naya says he’s spent his whole life building up to take on this role as the dawn of legalization marches (if ever so slowly) to the Granite State.
“I can honestly say I’m prepared to become and take that role as I have for citizens of New Hampshire, and it’s taken years to understand the power of the community, and sharing is caring is giving, and what love and compassion for others can do. I’ve walked this walk and talked this talk all these years, so where it’s all at now is the biggest reward anyone could give me, and anyone in our industry can have in my opinion. I’m going to carry this crown with great honor and reverence for those who have come before us and keep fighting around nation for a positive legacy we can leave behind.”