Former NASA scientist helping Fort Collins residents grow better marijuana

1:15 PM, Feb 8, 2013   |    comments
Former NASA scientist Dale Chamberlain of the High Altitude School of Hydroponics
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FORT COLLINS - Former NASA scientist Dale Chamberlain won't promise to get you sky-high, but he can teach you how to grow better marijuana.

Chamberlain, of Loveland, is launching the High Altitude School of Hydroponics - HASH - to help Colorado residents learn to grow better pot. Chamberlain says complying with the state's new marijuana-legalizing Amendment 64 today requires that someone either give you pot or that you grow your own. And any marijuana people grow has to be grown inside a locked room, not outdoors.

While most anyone can grow marijuana, Chamberlain says the skills he can teach people will allow them to grow better pot. He likens hydroponically grown marijuana to small-batch distilling or a fine wine. "We want to help put Chablis in your glass," he says.

Chamberlain got his bachelor's degree from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, and went on to work for NASA designing experiments for the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station.

Chamberlain says there are a variety of seemingly small things home growers do that can affect the quality of their crop, which can take months to bring to harvest. Some growers, for instance, install infrared security cameras to monitor their crops, not realizing that plants can "see" and will respond to infrared light.

Giving the plants extra light allows them to grow faster, but it must be given at the right time in their growing cycle. Chamberlain says there's long been an underground growing community, and it's time for home growers to learn how to grow legally from experts.

"We can't encourage the breaking of any laws, and we don't," Chamberlain says.

That's been a sticking point for CSU's Cooperative Extension Service. Because CSU receives so much federal funding, university lawyers have repeatedly told extension experts they cannot help Coloradans grow marijuana. Amendment 64 allows adults to grow up to six plants at a time. But marijuana growing and possession remains illegal under federal law, and so the state's usual agricultural experts have been sidelined.

That's where Chamberlain thinks he can help. His first four-hour class this weekend will be held at Front Range Community College in Longmont, and costs $200. By growing indoors under strictly controlled conditions, Chamberlain says yields are higher and more consistent. Several shops in the Fort Collins area sell hydroponic growing supplies, but workers there are careful to avoid giving any advice about growing marijuana.

"The stigma is so strong that no one is even talking about it," Chamberlain says.

(Copyright © 2013 Fort Collins Coloradoan, All Rights Reserved)

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