On October 17th I joined BC’s first cannabis tour, driving from Vancouver to Kamloops to buy my first gram of legal weed. In fact, it was the first time I’ve purchased any marijuana, legal or otherwise: I’m a complete cannabis newbie.
So how did an uninitiated outsider like myself end up on a tour to experience and celebrate Legalization Day in Canada at British Columbia’s first – and currently only – legal recreational pot shop? One part curiosity, one part a desire to witness history in the making, and the final part a simple inability to say no to adventures.
The Journey To Legal Cannabis
In the early morning light our group – an eclectic mix of cannabis industry insiders, passionate pro-marijuana activists, tourism professionals, and curious adventurers – assembles at Canada Place in downtown Vancouver to join the tour and meet our guide, Tristan Slade of High Definition Tours.
It is blue skies all the way to Kamloops, but as we crest the hill, an abrupt weather change gives us all a good laugh: as if symbolically, a cloudy haze had settled over the Kamloops horizon.
After a pit-stop at a lookout point to admire the view from up high, we roll into the parking lot of the government-run BC Cannabis Store, causing a bit of a stir as we pour out of the tour van into the midst of the media cameras and crowd.
In line, people are wearing everything from sweatpants and Bob Marley t-shirts to striped suits and pencil skirts. We wait well over 1.5 hours, as eager customers take their time exploring the inside of the store that we all agree looks like a cross between the Apple Store and David’s Tea.
While waiting we witness a scene between a satisfied customer enthusiastically sampling their purchase, and a parking lot security guard eager to enforce the newly arrived and not-yet-quite-understood rules:
“You can’t smoke that here,” he says emphatically as he snatches the joint from her and stomps it out.
“Yes I can, it’s legal!” she counters confidently.
They go on arguing for awhile about the legalities of smoking in a public place, and whether the parking lot was public or private, all the while several people smoking cigarettes walk by un-assailed (smoking cannabis is prohibited anywhere smoking cigarettes is prohibited, according to the BC government website).
Finally, it is our turn to show our IDs and step foot into the shop.
Inside BC’s First Legal Cannabis Shop
Upon entering I am greeted by energetic staff and a full wall of informational panels on cannabis production, safety, terminology, and varieties. Cannabis, I learn, consists of varying percentages of THC, the psychoactive element that gets you “high,” and/or CBD, the element that is growing in popularity because of an assortment of other positive effects and benefits, such as reducing stress and anxiety.
Beyond THC and CBD, there are a wide variety of cannabis strains, which fall under two main categories: sativa-dominant strains, which are more energizing, and indica-dominant strains, which are more relaxing. A colourful pie chart explains the various scents and effects of specific strains, or “terpenes,” from the citrusy and uplifting Limonene, to the peppery and balancing Caryophyllene, to the earthy and mellowing Myrcene.
Moving away from the information panels to the middle of the store, I approach the counters of transparent plastic cannabis-containing sniff-testers. Each variety has a sign noting the percentage of THC vs. CBD, the type of strain (sativa-dominant vs. indica-dominant), and the helpfully colour-coded terpenes.
I identify myself to a nearby staff person as a complete beginner, and she is eager to share her experience. She is quick to recommend starting with a high CBD strain, citing CBD’s ability to “bring you back down” if you get too high. After exploring the shop and sniff-testing the different varieties, I select three from across the spectrum (for research of course):
With my carefully selected strains scribbled on my IKEA-esque shopping notepad, I proudly present my list at the checkout, and make my first legal – and first ever – cannabis purchase.
The Taste Of Freedom
Our tour group reconvenes outside the shop for celebratory high fives and a bit of show-and-tell. After a quick lunch stop, we begin the journey back to Vancouver.
There is one more stop we have to make, however: although we are high on the excitement of the day, almost everyone is still completely sober, and it is almost that time. So at about 15 minutes past 4 o’clock, our guide Tristan pulls over at a scenic rest stop and we prepare ourselves to participate in Canada’s first legal 4:20.
It is at this point that I realize exactly how much of a rookie I am. I have managed to buy cannabis, yes, but completely neglected to buy anything else required for the endeavour: no rolling papers and not even a lighter to my name.
Thankfully, one of my fellow tour passengers – Bethany of Flower & Freedom – comes to my rescue:
“I would be honoured to share this with you,” she says ceremoniously, passing me a freshly and legally purchased joint. Sharing is caring, right? So it is in this way that I have my first taste of legal cannabis.
And, after all that, how does it taste? Despite all our different choices of varieties, everyone has the same answer:
“It tastes… like freedom.”