In a fascinating and disturbing article about the international “war on drugs” being waged by the U.S. and other western nations, I learned that the production, distribution and export of “B.C. Bud”, a dangerously strong strain of marijuana, accounts for 6 percent of the gross domestic product of Canada’s province of British Columbia. It employs more Canadians than the province’s traditional industries of mining and logging combined. My impression of British Columbia from a few decades ago is of a quiet, conservative people who would have gasped in disbelief if such a future had been suggested. They seemed the kind of folks who, instead of agitating for the legalization of marijuana as many now do, would instead have been demanding more public funds for successful drug rehab programs.
Most of the B.C. Bud, or “Beezer” as it’s sometimes known, originates in indoor hydroponic “farms” along the province’s border with the U. S., with significant amounts added by outdoor growers elsewhere in the province. Tons of the drug make their way into the U.S. across the notoriously porous borders, north into Alaska, and south into the states of Washington, Oregon, and California. It is increasingly found in other states as well, and wherever it surfaces, the incidence of people being brought into hospital emergency rooms, or winding up in drug rehab for treatment, continue to make the news. The drug is dangerously too strong for many people.
While the majority of the province’s B.C. Bud criminals are passive hippie types for whom marijuana is a “lifestyle choice”, the Hells Angels and other crime syndicates are moving into the business and are getting stronger throughout the area. According to the drug enforcement branch of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Canada’s version of the FBI, the crime syndicates are gaining control of distribution and export, and U.S. and Canadian border authorities are increasingly hard-pressed to deal with it. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the syndicates have introduced a new level of violence into the admittedly illegal, but formerly mostly peaceful B.C. pot-growing industry.
More than half the population of the huge, largely rural and forested province lives in Greater Vancouver, the third-largest city in Canada. Drug rehab authorities there are fighting a rear-guard action against the growing drug culture, trying new ideas and treatment modalities and expanding the number of drug rehab centers. There now are 1,038 treatment centers in the province to serve a population of just over 4 million. About 160 centers are for young people, but only for detox and short-term treatment. A recent innovation slated for early 2008 is a long-term drug rehab center specifically for youths. For British Columbia’s young people – among the hardest-hit by the infamous B.C. Bud epidemic, which leads many kids into cocaine and heroin addictions – the longer-term treatment means a far greater chance for a full life through a successful drug rehab program.