420 is upon us, and whether you’re getting those wicked Dutch Passion OG Kush seeds or hunting for a space bucket, the internet will get you all you need. There’s just one issue, of course – The Man, always looking over your shoulder, trying to make sure you don’t grow or inhale that premo chronic. Well, in the words of the great B-Real:
If you’re afraid of those pesky pork choppers in the sky
No worries, we’ll fix them too
How, you ask? Let’s take it one step at a time.
All the King’s horses and all the King’s men
Where on this beautiful green-blue sphere have you made your home? Is it a place of freedom or prudish rules based on tired arguments: “it’s a gateway drug,” perhaps? Or: “it drives you insane,” or the more exotic, “it’s a conspiracy to zombify the nation”? The fact of the matter is, there aren’t many places where using this wonderful plant is completely fine. Even in generally-progressive parts of the world, such as the US and the European Union, weed is still mostly illegal (yes, Canada, Colorado, California, Holland – we see you and we envy you).
Caution is advisable, regardless of whether you’re growing or buying what’s grown. And let’s be paranoid about this – for all its benefits, not even Lee Perry will argue the paranoia-inducing capabilities of weed.
Both smoking and growing phat nugs are rewarding activities, but let’s focus on the latter because every step is wrought in peril:
- Googling for information or shops can get you on some Orwellian list of people to take a closer look at. It could also serve as evidence if you get caught later on.
- Your ISP sees the sites you’re visiting, including the seedbank website or the bong shop website. Many countries have data retention laws forcing ISPs to keep that data. You don’t want the cops seeing that.
- Paying on the net leaves a financial record, especially if you’re using your credit card, but also if you’re relying on something like PayPal.
- Communicating with vendors is usually something you do via email, which can give you away if you’re going about it carelessly.
- The packaging of marijuana-related products can be quite flamboyant and obvious, which is a risk at the post office.
- The shipping address for a weed-related order can be a good target for a search warrant.
- Growing itself can give you away through sight, sound, smell, and the cops have even weirder means to find you out – heat sensing, for example, or looking at your electricity consumption.
There are ways you can mitigate these risks and we’ll tell you how. However, the disclaimer here is you’re never out of danger regardless of how smart your operation is, particularly if you like to chat about it.
Your IP is a snitch
Your IP address is your visage on the internet. It’s a basic identifier you can’t do without. Whenever you go to some website, for example, you’re sending requests from your IP address to a server somewhere and receiving data back. Thus, this combination of numbers (or numbers and letters) connects the dots between you and your online activity.
The IP address is unique to the network device, but if you’re connected through wifi that would be your router – not your PC or phone
Of course, it’s somewhat more complicated. The IP address is unique to the network device, but if you’re connected through wifi that would be your router – not your PC or phone. So, for example, if there are more people using the same wifi connection, you can’t tell which person is looking through that selection of high-THC Sativa strains. Regardless, it’s probably too close for comfort.
What you want to do is obscure your real IP address. There are three simple ways you can do this:
Each of these sends your traffic through a server somewhere. The effect is that your ISP sees you connecting to the IP of a VPN server (for example) rather than the real destination.
For theas safest, fastest, and most versatile option VPNs are the best of these three solutions. However, that comes with a caveat – you have to get a good one. Don’t worry, we’ll help you out below.
There are other ways to track what you’re up to on the web. These are less of a concern because law enforcement will typically have less control over big data companies than your ISP. However, we’re aiming for “the government is out to get me” levels of paranoid, so let’s get tweaking.
It’s not wrong to look at the contemporary World Wide Web as a network of websites connected through data funnels operated by various third-parties. The most prevalent of these are big data operators like Google and Facebook (whose trackers can be found on most websites) but there are thousands of smaller entities performing the same functions and sharing information on users through things like cookie synchronization, browser fingerprinting, and other nefarious tactics.
Currently, it’s no longer a secret that intelligence agencies like the NSA in the US have access to much of the data in Google’s or Facebook’s possession. Granted, that’s an expensive and unreasonable way to hunt lowly stoners, but better safe than sorry, right?
To protect yourself against browser tracking, we recommend:
- Using an anti-tracking browser like Tor
- Making sure you install anti-tracking extensions (Ghostery, uBlock Origin, DuckDuckGo, etc.) on any of the more conventional browsers.
Paying for your psychedelic wares
As previously mentioned, charging cannabis-related products on your credit card or PayPal is not the best decision. Fortunately, many Mary Jane websites are kind enough to provide anonymous payment methods as well.
One such method is cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. This entirely digital, decentralized currency has made secret online payments very simple and secure. However, Bitcoin is not entirely anonymous either, unless you‘re smart about how you use it.
- Make sure you‘re using an anonymity-centric Bitcoin wallet, such as Samourai Wallet. The Bitcoin ledger is open for anyone to see, so there‘s no use if the authorities can put your name to a wallet. Thankfully, the industry has been quick to realize this and offer good solutions.
- Combine Bitcoin with a VPN or Tor. That makes it a whole lot more difficult to find your wallet and pinpoint transactions from that wallet.
- It‘s probably best to buy the currency directly from people, paying in cash. There are plenty of Peer 2 Peer exchanges facilitating such purchases.
People tend to use email accounts across a number of services, making them less secure with each new sign-up
Email has tons of privacy issues related to it. For a start, people tend to use email accounts across a number of services, making them less secure with each new sign-up. As if that’s not enough, mainstream email services such as the much-maligned Gmail have been known to expose you to third-parties in addition to serving as big data collectors themselves.
It’s also important to note that unless your mail service offers end-to-end encryption, you stand the risk of your messages being intercepted and exposed – something you’d rather avoid if you’re engaging in activities that aren’t strictly legal.
So before asking why it’s taking your feminized Bubblegummer seeds so long to arrive (your guerilla grow is time-sensitive!), be sure to get an account with one of the truly secure email providers like Tutanota or Protonmail. Even if you’re not Public Enemy No.1, spliffs taste better when you’re calm.
Here are some more reviews of secure email services
What’s the best VPN for stoners?
The importance of choosing the right VPN service for such a sensitive activity can’t be overstated. This isn’t like unlocking a Netflix stream or even breaking copyright law. Your freedom is at stake!
We want only VPN services with perfect security/privacy credentials and preferably located far away from the country you’re based in. We’ve taken the liberty to compile a short list of such tools for your convenience.
- Pros: massive server list, lots of features
- Cons: not the fastest VPN
- Price: starts at $3.49/month
- VPNpro rating: 9.5
Although the North isn’t known as a stoner’s paradise (Northern Lights notwithstanding), NordVPN is one of the most solid choices for your hazy needs. It’s cheap, it’s secure, it doesn’t want to know what you’re up to. Plus, it’s a great choice for entertainment – unlocking geo-restricted streaming services, securing torrents, and offering a huge selection of server locations. Let’s face the facts, and the fact is you don’t want to search for something to watch as the pizza grows colder. With NordVPN, that issue is reduced to a minimum.
Check out our review of NordVPN
- Pros: super-fast, lots of servers in Asia
- Cons: expensive
- Price: starts at $8.33/month
- VPNpro rating: 9.3
With Astrill, you can practice THC-induced astral projection without the fear of German Shepherds. This is a smaller VPN network, but almost as strong in the security department – not to mention fast, fast, fast! Astrill is based in the sunny Seychelles, which is a location your local cops have never even heard of. You can even buy this service with a VPN-ready router, so you can hide your entire LAN under a veil of secrecy. The only issue with Astrill is the price, which starts at $8.33/month and grows from there.
Check out our review of Astrill VPN
- Pros: versatile, can be very cheap
- Cons: some scandals in the past
- Price: starts at $1.00/month
- VPNpro rating: 8.4
Listen up, buddy, because this one may strike a chord somewhere. Firstly, Windscribe is a Canadian VPN service provider, which would normally suck on account of the obscene levels of surveillance. Yet if there’s one thing this particular Big Brother apparatus doesn’t care about is you having a puff of that endo stuff. Windscribe is super-secure and versatile, plus you can get it real cheap if you go for the Build A Plan option ($1.00/month per server location).
Check out our review of Windscribe
- Pros: fast and very secure
- Cons: doesn’t like users torrenting
- Price: starts at $5.00/month
- VPNpro rating: 8.3
VyprVPN was created by a Switzerland-based, American-owned company called Golden Frog. It was founded by a Texan couple – Ron and Carolyn Yokubaitis. Google those names and tell us the pictures don’t evoke just the sort of jovial vibe you want when taking a toke. But there’s way more to it than that. Most importantly, VyprVPN has been built purely for anonymity in these sorts of situations. It’s loved by political activists, journalists, and hackers around the world. Stoners will enjoy it as well!
Check out our review of VyprVPN
- Pros: highest level of anonymity
- Cons: not versatile
- Price: $5.71/month
- VPNpro rating: 8.2
If you’re really feeling conspiratorial, Mullvad is just the tool for you. It’s got a mole mascot, it offers complete anonymity at every step (no trackers on the site, anonymous sign-up and payment, etc.), it even has an Onion site! True, this isn’t the most versatile VPN service – for a start, it only has a custom app for Windows – but no one’s better if you’d like to just disappear into thin air. Like smoke.
Check out our review of Mullvad VPN
A word of advice for the novice grower
Choosing your supplier
Aside from the prices and payment options, be sure to look at a few other factors:
- You don’t want your stuff arriving in a bag with pictures of marijuana leaves and detached Snoop Dog faces. That may cause issues at the post office, at home, and anywhere in between. However, many suppliers will ask if you want the goods sent in discrete packaging. You do.
- People think in stereotypes and who’s to say institutions don’t do the same? For that reason, try not to buy your seeds from a Dutch vendor (etc.). Perhaps that’s stupid advice, but to quote one of Zizek’s favorite jokes, “I’m told it works even if you don’t believe in it.”
We get that friends are important, but they don’t need to know everything, do they? When you’re growing trees in your house, keep it under wraps. And there are more steps to keeping it under wraps:
- Sound. The sound of ever-whirring fans can raise people’s attention, especially if you’re frequently having guests. And they may be whirring strong because of the…
- Smell. Most strains of cannabis have a strong smell during the flowering phase. Depending on your living situation, this can be a huge problem or not quite as much. Some strains, particularly those with Skunk genetics, downright stink. For these, you’ll want to have carbon air filters and fans strong enough to blow through them.
- Sight. This one can be easy or hard, depending on the size of your grow. Whatever the case may be, leaving a weird whirring box with ventilation pipes sticking out of it in your living room is probably not the way to go.
I’d rather buy weed on the deep web
We don’t encourage it, but we hear you. Not everyone is cut out for the work of careful (and secretive) gardener. Some are, yet don’t have space or resources for it. That’s where deep web markets make their entrance. Now, we don’t know much about that at all, other than:
- If you encounter issues, there’s not much recourse
- Finding out who’s trustworthy is difficult
- It’s much more dangerous from the legal perspective
If, against our better judgment, you decide to pursue this path, at least get a good VPN service to throw would-be snoopers off your case.
It’s 420 – relax
As long as you’re aware of the ways you can get into trouble, you should be able to stay out of it. But let’s not leave it at that. We all know it’s absurd this stuff isn’t legal, so let’s help make it legal. Spread the word!