BC Bud: From Guerrilla Gardens to Potent Strains

By Cam Maxwell
Published: November 6, 2019 | Last updated: June 16, 2021 11:22:49
Key Takeaways

Call it the Canadian cannabis equivalent of the Emerald Triangle. When it comes to marijuana growing in Canada, the province of British Columbia has always led the way in terms of research, quality, and production.

World renowned for its potency and consistency, B.C. Bud has a long and storied history in underground cannabis circles. Prior to federal marijuana legalization in Canada last year, B.C.’s illegal pot industry thrived as provincial and city authorities often turned mostly a blind eye to the grow ops and guerrilla gardens in Lower Mainland cities, the Kootenays, Vancouver Island, and the B.C Interior.


In Canada, cannabis was quietly added to the “Confidential Restricted List” in 1923 under the Narcotics Drug Act Amendment Bill.

Despite legal restrictions, British Columbians have been active users and supporters of the plant for its medicinal and recreational benefits since the 1960s. Prior to legalization, according to Statistics Canada, in 2017 B.C. accounted for 36.6 per cent of total Canadian production, and British Columbians consume the second highest per capita usage amount at 24.6 grams per year.


Early Cannabis History in B.C.

Marijuana had a presence in Canada during the 1920s, but it was 10 years later when B.C. Bud became a common term after it was trademarked and sold as a beer that was launched by Coast Breweries in 1931.

During that era, prohibition was in full swing in America, but that didn’t stop the black-market trade of booze from Canada into the US. Alcohol flowed into the US via liquor-smuggling routes that were still known after prohibition ended in 1933. Decades later, those routes became the pipeline for the new B.C. Bud — the non-alcohol bud — as it was illegally imported and sold into the US.

A key catalyst for B.C.’s cannabis culture came with the Vietnam War. Thousands of American draft dodgers (30,000 according to some estimates) from the west coast moved into B.C. to avoid becoming part of the US war machine. These people embraced the hippy fundamentals of peace and love, bringing marijuana seeds (many of which came from Asia’s Hindu Kush region) with them and found, to their surprise, the environment in B.C. was perfect for growing weed. The microclimates of the Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island, and the Okanagan proved ideal for cannabis growth with hot summers, plenty of rain, and not-too-cold autumns. Along with this stellar growing environment was a cultural mindset that helped B.C. Bud flourish.


Read also: Emerald Triangle: Where Outdoor Cannabis Grows & Grows

B.C. Culture and Marijuana Law Enforcement

British Columbians are probably some of the most laid-back folks in Canada, and it seems that mindset also applies to city police and the RCMP. While B.C. produces and consumes plenty of pot, it ranks fifth out of 10 provinces when it comes to people being charged with marijuana possession per 100,000 people.


Prior to legalization, examining B.C.’s three largest cities and comparing nationwide cannabis-related probes by the RCMP per 1,000 people, the numbers show Kelowna ranks 73rd with four per 1,000 people, Victoria at 131st with two per 1,000 people, and Vancouver at 142nd with 1.7 per 1,000 people. Moreover, police in Vancouver were encouraged to lay drug charges based on “a person’s behaviour or the context of the psychoactive substance abuse, rather than the actual unlawful possession of the substance.” That’s according to their drug policy.

When police intervene on cannabis possession, only one in five incidents results in a criminal charge, and rarely a conviction. It’s no wonder B.C.’s cannabis underground was strong and productive as growers were given the freedom to craft top-end strains that gained worldwide reputations.

Guerilla Gardens Led to Potent B.C. Bud

B.C.’s rural guerilla gardens in the 1980s laid the foundation for today’s elite strains. Outdoor growers started removing all males from their plantations after discovering how big the female buds got without fertilization. Growers figured if they could produce fairly high THC sensimilla (seedless) cannabis outdoors by cross-breeding the top female plants with potent Kush and Thai strains, what would happen in a controlled indoor grow? It didn’t take long to learn that they could grow pot 10 times as powerful as the 1970s Mexican ditch weed. In 2008, one RCMP inspector estimated the number of grow-ops in residential houses in B.C. to be 20,000.

The 1980s were the beginning of hybridization, cloning, controlled indoor lighting and watering systems, and skunky-smelling sensimilla buds. Before long, the word spread and B.C. Bud was the most potent pot on the North American continent. THC levels were, in some cases, at 25 per cent compared to the below 10-per-cent levels of the 1960s.

Read also: How to Grow Marijuana Outdoors in Raised Gardens

Notable B.C. Strains

Many strains have come out of the grow ops and greenhouses of B.C. over the years including Island Sweet Skunk (a cross of Sweet Pink Grapefruit and Big Skunk #1), UBC Chemo (Chemo Kush), Texada Timewarp, and God Bud. God Bud, a multi-award-winning hybrid that’s indica heavy, boasts THC levels around the 27-per-cent mark. UBC Chemo (said to be a pure indica strain) was developed at the University of British Columbia to help treat the ugly side effects of chemotherapy. The story goes that noted Canadian environmentalist Dr. David Suzuki helped develop the strain, which has reached a THC content of 29 per cent.

Now that cannabis is legal in Canada, it will be much easier for consumers to get their hands on the primo B.C. Bud strains. To get a sense of the province’s cannabis industry, prior to weed becoming legal, Statistics Canada pegged the B.C. cannabis industry as being worth $1.1 billion in 2017. That’s a testament to the history, popularity, and reputation of B.C. Bud.


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