3 years after legalization, Okanagan weed tour operator hopes for post-pandemic activity reset

Nicholas Wilson, a wine tour operator from Kelowna, says he remembers his parents being stunned when he told them five years ago that he wanted to run cannabis tours in the Okanagan, once Canada had legalized the use of weed for recreational purposes.

“The baby boomer generation, you know, they’ve been fed these brainwashed documentaries like Chill Madness“, Wilson said of the 1936 American propaganda film filled with alarmist views on marijuana addiction.

“My mother was terrified if she smoked a joint, she would immediately go to heroin and prostitution.”

The lingering social stigma around cannabis — even following the federal government’s legalization of its recreational use in October 2018 — is one of the topics Wilson and others working in the industry will discuss in the first annual report. BC Cannabis Summit which begins on Wednesday, April 20, also known as 4/20 or World Weed Day.

The three-day event, co-hosted by the BC Craft Farmers Co-Op and the Association of Canadian Cannabis Retailers at a downtown Kelowna hotel, brings together politicians and business leaders to discuss the changes federal law that would allow for greater promotion. and the growth of the weed industry.

As he promised before legalization, Wilson hosted dozens of cannabis tours in 2018 and 2019 in the Okanagan based on American modelswith visit to a hemp farm, two dispensaries and a brewery.

However, he argues that cannabis-related tourism has failed to take off in Canada due to federal government rules regulating and restricting promotion of the product.

Truck used by Nicholas Wilson to take tourists to a hemp farm and cannabis dispensaries in the Okanagan. Wilson says weed tour operators must be discreet in promoting their services under the Cannabis Act. (Submitted by Wicked Wine Tours)

Greg Christie, who runs the Terroir Craft hemp farm in South Kelowna that was part of Wilson’s tour, admits marijuana use is still a sensitive issue in the area.

“There’s definitely still a stigma around that, and we’re hoping to break that down here,” he said.

Cannabis grower Greg Christie admits the stigma around cannabis use still exists in the Okanagan region. (Joseph Otoo/CBC)

Wilson will resume cannabis tours in June after a two-year pandemic hiatus. He says he hopes his tours will help break the stigma around cannabis use.

“A lot of people have smoked a joint…and bought it illegally over the years, but now they can go out and enjoy it and educate themselves and raise awareness.”