This was the “best year ever” for outdoor marijuana crops on Vancouver Island, with both growers and Mounties hauling tens of thousands of plants out of the forests.
Although the west coast doesn’t always provide the sunny, dry growing conditions that pot plants crave, the Island has historically been home to more outdoor marijuana farmers than other parts of the province.
This season both police and growers are crediting a warmer, drier summer for their respective bounties of bush bud.
The RCMP says their seizure of about 29,000 pot plants this year — up from 23,000 the previous year — is also due to officers getting better at spotting them. Meanwhile, one marijuana advocate says stronger pot plant genetics and a few more people growing the drug outdoors could have also boosted the total amount of pot harvested.
“This is one of the most successful, if not the most successful, (harvests) we’ve seen in the industry,” said Ted Smith, who also teaches a free Hempology 101 course and is the founder of the Cannabis Buyer’s Club of Victoria, which provides pot to sick people.
Smith said that the combination of heat and lack of rain at the right time helped create conditions for marijuana to flourish. In past years, rainy weather leading to mold has ruined people’s carefully hidden gardens of marijuana.
Also, the kind of plants put into the soil are heartier than in the past, he added.
“People have some pretty good strains these days, have produced some pretty high quality medicine in some pretty good yields.”
Smith also suspects that the faltering economy has motivated some people, such as laid off forestry workers who have a strong knowledge of the backcountry, to grow plant to supplement their income.
Nanaimo marijuana advocate Richard Payne, who ran as a candidate for the B.C. Marijuana Party, agrees it has been a “primo” year for outdoor marijuana. He said there has been so much quality pot harvested, the price of marijuana has dropped by about one-third compared to last year.
“The market is filled with beautiful bud,” he said.
Corp. Darren Lagan, with the Vancouver Island District RCMP, said that police have been finding more pot plants every year while conducting their aerial surveys for the plants.
“I think we get better every year at finding these locations.
“We go back to where we were before and then we add on more sites,” he said.
Lagan said that north of the Comox Valley is the most likely area where plants are found due to the lack of population and good growing conditions.
Just 16% of police cases involving marijuana production in B.C. came from outdoor grow-ops between 1997 and 2003, according to a 2005 report from the criminology department of the University College of the Fraser Valley.
However, on Vancouver Island 33% of pot production cases in this period involved outdoor grow-ops, with only the Kootenay region — at 39% — showing a higher proportion. For 2003, the last year information was collected for the study, Vancouver Island had the highest proportion of outdoor marijuana cases in the province at 45%.
By Dustin Walker