The following article was originally published on VancouverSun.com
From Denver to Amsterdam, BC Bud is a household name. Ask any well-travelled British Columbian what distinguishes their homeland, and our infamous marijuana consistently ranks high. Perhaps this stems from our tolerant enforcement of cannabis drug laws, diverse cultivation expertise, or dense concentration of habitual cannabis consumers; 7% of British Columbians acknowledge use in the last week alone. The strains in this province have a mythic reputation in the global cannabis community. Why is it that BC is home to some of the best cannabis in the world, and how did it get here?
The story of our potent pot arguably starts during the Vietnam War. Conscientious draft objectors found refugee status in Canada. Of the 30,000 that relocated, Californians, Oregonians, and Washingtonians flocked to BC. They found tolerant and peaceful homes in communities like the Fraser Valley and the Okanagan, and sowed the seeds of change that would come to found a new cannabis culture. With these wartime migrants, cannabis seeds traversed the border to take root across our province’s diverse microclimates.
From sandy loam in the Gulf Islands to cool mist in the Kootenays, these plants found ideal conditions in which to thrive. Cooler fall temperatures bred resilience, and long summer days encouraged tall growth. Fertile soil and ample rainfall augmented yields and potency. These ideal climates complemented an expanding cultivation community to beget super strains bearing brand-worthy monikers like Island Sweet Skunk and God Bud. These ascended through critical acclaim at international competitions, including The Cannabis Cup, and permeated the zeitgeist. Today, the association between BC and cannabis is as ubiquitous as Florida Oranges.
The rooting of cannabis in British Columbian culture has permeated the mainstream. A 2006 study by the University of Victoria suggested that use is higher here than in any other province, with 14% of British Columbians reporting cannabis use within the last 3 months. Predictably, the lion’s share of Canadian black market production is also BC-based; 2008 RCMP estimate tallied over 20,000 grow-ops. Perhaps that is one spur behind British Columbians’ advocacy for legal reform of this contentious genus. From Cannabis Culture to SensibleBC, the activism community in Canada is most robust in this province.
The legacy of BC’s storied cannabis heritage also influences our politics, as typified by our lax attitude to marijuana-related law enforcement. Cannabis retail locations number between 45 and 70 in Vancouver through varying reports, despite lacking business licenses and not paying taxes. Vancouver Councillor Kerry Jang is plainspoken about the city’s tolerance of these outlets, suggesting “We just don’t see these dispensaries as something we need to shut down, as long as they are only providing marijuana to people who medically need it.” Even when police intervene on marijuana possession, only one in five incidents results in a criminal charge, and rarely a conviction. Ask a Vancouverite where they stand on legalization, and you are more likely than anywhere else in Canada to hear an opus on its late coming. With 66% of the Canadian population now in support of legalization, BC’s pot politics have spread to the mainstream.
British Columbia’s rich history with this plant has positioned the province as Canada’s pot nexus. Location, climate, and political landscape intersect to create an environment primed for industry advancement. We grow and consume the most cannabis in the country, and are the most comfortable with its integration into our lifestyles and infrastructure. As cultural and political views evolve on this increasingly mainstream topic, BC is poised to model a thriving legal industry to Canada and the world.