Fragrant Possibilities: Craft Cannabis in Canada’s Legal Market
At the dawn of a new era for legalized, corporate weed in Canada, one craft grower aims to bring the beauty of the bud back to the foreground.
Canada may have recently become the first G-7 nation to fully legalize adult-use cannabis, but the country has deep roots when it comes to cultivating. So-called “BC bud,” born in the temperate climates of British Columbia on the country’s west coast, has been well-known to canna-sseurs throughout the world for decades. Today, the longtime cultivators of this BC bud find themselves on the edge of the industry, as they look to transform the way the world views Canadian cannabis.
Since Canada’s legal cannabis market opened for business on Oct. 17, 2018, much of the mainstream focus has been on mega-companies such as Aurora and Canopy Growth, both of whom are publicly traded and are licensed to produce tens of thousands of kilos of cannabis annually. In the Canadian system, the federal government grants approval to all companies operating in the cannabis industry, which they have termed “Licensed Producers.” Because there are less than 150 Licensed Producers in the entire country as of the end of 2018, the companies can get quite large.
But Canada’s craft cultivators are still patiently waiting for their piece of the pie. Tending their gardens, experimenting with genetics, carefully harvesting their creations and trimming by hand, these growers are keeping the true art of growing marijuana alive.
LadyBud is one of those cultivators. A Canadian medical marijuana patient licensed to cultivate for herself and two other patients, LadyBud has been making waves across social media, where she shares gorgeous photos of cannabis flowers, bursting with frosty trichomes, bright orange hairs and flecks of green, gold and purple. Her work is breathtaking and inspiring, and offers a glimpse inside the mind of a true artiste as she works tirelessly to develop the perfect plant, unwilling to settle for anything less than la belle fille.
“When I think about not [growing]… I mean, sometimes I’ve taken a break for whatever reason, and it almost feels a bit like one of my arms is cut off,” she says. “I have to do it.”
From Illegally Healed to Cannabis Elite
LadyBud, who asked we not use her real name, began exploring cannabis as medicine 30 years ago after suffering chronic pain as an endurance athlete.
“An old friend passed along a [cannabis] cookie, and I remember [that night] I slept well for the first time in a very long time,” LadyBud says. “It was the first thing that really worked for me.”
Despite cannabis being illegal in Canada at that point, LadyBud began experimenting with growing her own and found she had a unique knack for cultivating exquisite flowers. Once medical marijuana was approved in the country in 2001, she was able to obtain a license and began officially cultivating for herself and two other patients, four plants per adult.
“I finally felt like I was doing what I was supposed to do,” she says. “There’s a magic around it. After doing this for so many years, I’m just as excited about starting a seed as I was the very first time I did it. From seed to plant, right to harvest day, I just don’t get bored.”
Completely self-taught, she enjoys growing many different cultivars, but has a certain penchant for Gorilla Glue and Cookies strains, saying she loves their “process.”
Recently, LadyBud began photographing her plants as a way to celebrate her talent, but she never expected her art to go viral. After posting some pictures on Instagram under the name @fragrant_possibilities, LadyBud found herself thrown into the world of canna-fame, with over 17,000 followers and counting.
“It’s been a little bit surprising just to discover that others like my photos,” she says. “It’s a bit humbling, actually.”
The Great White North’s Cannabis Challenges
Marijuana legalization in Canada has been hailed as a triumph for drug policy reform, yet it is far from a perfect system. While large-scale cultivation licenses are awarded to deep-pocketed Licensed Producers, “micro-cultivator” licenses remain stuck in legal limbo, often because of pushback from local governments.
Due to what she claims are discriminatory practices against small craft growers, LadyBud says she is not ready to enter the legal cannabis market.
“The problem is [many] municipalities have put out a blanket prohibition against issuing these micro-licenses,” she says. “For someone like myself who does live in a smaller community, the last thing you want to do is go to City Hall and out yourself without even knowing if you’ve got a chance of them approving you.”
A lack of cultivation micro-licenses may also be part of the reason why many dispensaries across Canada are already experiencing product shortages. Dr. Rebecca Haines-Saah, a health sociologist and public health researcher from the University of Calgary, is concerned about the burden medical patients may already be experiencing due to the shortages, as well as an overall shift in the legal cannabis market which appears to favor the recreational market in general.
“This is of grave concern to people accessing their supply from licensed producers, because products are selling out and there’s been less availability,” said Haines-Saah, who has been active in helping developing regulations in her home province of Alberta. She has also noticed many healthcare providers shy away from endorsing medical marijuana.
“The people who are using this for health conditions want the advice and the treatment of a regulative physician,” she says. “They don’t just want to go to a recreational market — they also need to submit and have this reimbursed by their insurance providers.”
Back in her garden, LadyBud says she’s in no rush to get a recreational license. The simple pleasure of bringing a plant from seed to harvest is more than enough to keep her satisfied, something that she finds more rewarding than “likes” and “shares.” In the meantime, LadyBud has begun experimenting with macro photography, getting up close and personal with trichomes magnified to hundreds of times their size.
“That’s a little bit like a seed each time; it’s exciting. I was talking earlier about the magic that I feel growing cannabis: It’s the same when you start doing some macro work, because you’re not sure what you’re going to get,” she says. “You zoom in and you get in there and you’re like, ‘Oh, wow.’”
This emphasis on the small scale also applies to her growing philosophy.
“I’m much more interested in doing the smaller, craft stuff,” she says. “I find it very hard to believe that on the large scale, [the Licensed Producers] can really maintain control of quality and really put the love into the plant that I think is needed.”
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Originally published in Issue 35 of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE