That sweet scent in the air during next month’s Olympic Games might be the smell of success. Then again, it could just be the weed.
It will be far from business as usual for much of Vancouver during the Olympics, but marijuana advocates and police say the city’s laissez faire attitude towards the infamous B.C. bud won’t change.
“Our officers show an exceptional amount of discretion with respect to people smoking marijuana and that will continue,” said Const. Lindsey Houghton, a spokesperson for the Vancouver Police Department.
That’s not to say police will completely turn a blind eye.
“There are people who are coming to visit that live in countries where it may certainly not be against the law so I don’t expect people will come here seeking to openly contravene our drug laws but you know, I’m sure there will be people who do it and I’m sure our officers will do their best to remind them that that’s against the law,” Houghton said.
While marijuana remains illegal in Canada, with the exception of those with special permits to smoke medical marijuana, Vancouverites are known for their relaxed attitude toward the herb.
It’s almost more common to catch a whiff of weed on the streets of this West Coast city than it is to smell the smoke of an actual cigarette.
“Even though the Games are drawing the people here, people aren’t going to be at the event 24 hours a day so I think they’re going to be looking for stuff to do in their spare time as well,” said Salvador Daswani, co-owner of Vansterdam clothing.
“Definitely our marijuana culture could be a huge part of that.”
His shop sells a “Vansterdam 2010” T-shirt featuring a man running with a lit marijuana cigarette, blowing smoke in the shape of five rings.
So far, about 70 shirts have been sold online and at Cannabis Culture, a shop in downtown Vancouver at the heart of the city’s “pot block,” a strip of stores that includes a cafe where people can bring their own marijuana for personal consumption.
Vancouver is well-known in Canada for its permissive approach to drug use, including the country’s only supervised injection site for intravenous drug users. And it’s purported that B.C. bud – the high-potency marijuana grown in the province – is British Columbia’s most profitable export crop.
Every year, activists gather at a massive pro-marijuana rally at the Vancouver art gallery in April, and a cloud of smoke goes up in honour of abolishing the prohibition of pot.
This year, activist Neil Magnuson is planning to host the “Cannalympics” at the art gallery during the Games.
“If it works out, and there’s a few hundred people to a few thousand people on a daily basis, then I’m sure we’ll have all sorts of fun stuff going on,” he said.
In addition to singing the anthem “O’Cannabis,” and the “high-jumping” and smoke-ring blowing competitions, organizers would like to have their own torch relay – a nod to jokes that the official 2010 Olympic torch resembles a giant joint.
“It’s flattery in both ways,” said long-time cannabis advocate Marc Emery.
“The torch is really elegant and it does look like a rolled joint, especially when it’s lit.”
While there’s an official T-shirt, there actually doesn’t appear to be an official 2010 brand of B.C. bud being sold for the Games.
There have been Olympic-themed strains sold before, including one called Ben after disgraced sprinter Ben Johnson because it had a fast and short-lived high.
And there was also Nagano Gold, named in honour of snowboarder Ross Rebagliati, who briefly had his medal stripped after testing positive for marijuana after his win at the 1998 Nagano Games. It was reinstated after officials realized that marijuana wasn’t on the banned substances list during competition.
It’s since been added.
While pot-friendly businesses say they’d love it if Rebagliati stopped by, they are a bit wary of tourists.
The influx isn’t likely to drive up prices, said Emery, just the supply of bad weed.
“It is a pot-friendly city but access to pot is not that readily available to out-of-towners,” said Emery.
“If you’re here for the Olympics you’ll certainly find it in no time at all but it’s not available like you think in places like Los Angeles, San Francisco or Amsterdam.”
At the Vancouver Seed Bank, which sells marijuana seeds, employee Rebecca Ambrose figures she’ll be spending a great deal of the Games educating tourists about the actual drug laws in B.C.
“We don’t sell or anything like that, if anything we’re probably going to get more tourists who need to know the rules of Vancouver, who might be misled into thinking that it’s legal here and stuff like that,” she said.
“That happens a lot.”
– Article from Winnipeg Free Press.