BC is famous for its cannabis (aka BC Bud) but it’s also grown across the country in greenhouses and other indoor facilities--with some outdoor growing operations planned for the future. While we are not quite at the point where cannabis is recognized for its terroir in the same way that wine and coffee are, there are certain regions across Canada that are more well-known for their cannabis production. Since legalization, other regions are earning a reputation within the country as quality producers growing the concept of BC Bud, to Canadian Cannabis.
Canadian cannabis has had a long journey from its roots to the world-renowned strains that we have today. One of the first obstacles was getting here via the US border when the first seeds to contribute to modern era BC bud were brought here during the Vietnam War. As conscientious draft objectors came to Canada seeking refuge settled in smaller communities where they could live in a self-sufficient peace, they discovered microclimates ideal for cannabis growth. BC’s warm summers and mild falls meant that cannabis could grow tall and strong in the mountains and forests of the area. Since then BC cannabis has survived a move to indoor growing, often in less than ideal conditions due to the legality of the operations, and now it has its time in the sun again post-legalization.
Cannabis Cultivation in the Fraser Valley
Close to home, the Fraser Valley is a hotspot for cannabis growth with around ten legal growers in the area. Located between the Pacific coast and the Cascade Mountains, it has a long agricultural history thanks to the rich fertile soil of the Fraser River delta, which was diked and drained in the 1800s. Now known as Canada’s ‘berry capital’, it’s also home to dairy farms, apiaries, vineyards, and hop growers.
The area’s microclimate has an ideal amount of humidity, wind patterns, and mild seasonal temperature changes with 285 days of sun a year and 1536 mm of precipitation, which is ideal for agricultural growth, especially cannabis. While some cultivators have chosen to convert existing warehouses or greenhouses into spaces to grow cannabis, our custom-built SunLab¹ is specially designed to make the most of the local environment and provide optimum conditions for medical-grade cannabis.
Cannabis Cultivation in the Kootenays
Nelson and the surrounding area has a long history of cannabis cultivation since the 1970s when the wet springs, dry summers, mountains and abandoned logging roads provided ideal places to grow in secret. Many small producers are still in the black market as costs can be prohibitive for the ‘mom and pop’ operators, but the industry there is thought to be worth billions of dollars, with 40% of ‘BC Bud’ coming from the area. Up to 30% of the local economy is estimated to come from growing cannabis.
Cannabis Cultivation on Vancouver Island
Vancouver Island also has a long history with growing cannabis and now around seven growers are based there as well as a thriving black market of growers hidden across the island. The Island has originated classic BC strains such as Sweet Island Skunk, Island Honey, Mountain Jam, and Texada Timewarp.
Southern Ontario is one of the country’s richest farm belts and is now a popular place for cultivators to grow cannabis in converted factories and large greenhouses. Relatively close to Toronto and the east coast, there are currently around 12 growers in the area. This region has been used for corn cultivation for thousands of years and now corn, wheat, tobacco, and barley all grow well there thanks to the more moderate, humid climate.
Legal cannabis began to be cultivated in the area around the time that Health Canada implemented the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations, which permitted private businesses to apply for licences to produce and sell cannabis. Health Canada now permits outside cannabis growing and some licensed producers plan on doing so in this area, especially once the legal non-medical cannabis edible market opens up, as that requires more flower to be produced and outside growing is generally cheaper for large scale cultivation.
Ontario's retail model restricts growers to operating a single retail store at their production facility only. A push for more farm gate sales could see the area becoming even more well-known for its cannabis, such as the Humboldt/Emerald Triangle in California. Close to the Niagara wine region, Southern Ontario’s vocal group of cultivators could create a similar destination for cannabis connoisseurs.
Rest of Canada
Fragmented indoor growing takes place across the country, with some growers fighting against unwelcoming climates with high-tech greenhouses that enable optimum conditions inside.
St John’s, Newfoundland is home to the only cannabis farm gate seller in Canada, at the production facility of one of the larger growers. New Brunswick is home to three legal cultivators, two are based in PEI, and eight can be found in Nova Scotia, which may seem like a lot but it puts cannabis on a parallel with the area emerging as an unexpected wine-producing region on the world stage. In terms of sales and consumption, the Maritimes have been some of the most active provinces post-legalization, largely due to the illicit market not having as robust a presence like the other provinces such as BC.
The advent of outdoor growing could have a huge impact for the ‘breadbasket of Canada’ as the area’s long growing season (130-140 days a year) and agreeable climate for similar crops such as wheat and grain. While current cannabis growing is concentrated around Saskatoon and Winnipeg, the possibility of outdoor growing could see the Prairies become a major new region for cannabis cultivation.
What the Future May Hold
As Canada carves out its place in the global cannabis community, each microclimate provides unique opportunities to produce flower specific to their region. With an ever-changing legal landscape morphing to meet the needs of our industry, it’s not hard to imagine a future where each province earns its own reputation similar to that of BC Bud. Additionally, as the language shifts to be more inclusive of farming rights of cannabis cultivators, we may see a future where farm gate cannabis extends across the province’s East to West, aligning with the concepts of terroir that support our thriving wine industry.