With cannabis legalization on the near horizon and a relatively recent proliferation of marijuana dispensaries in the lower mainland, there has never been more opportunity for generally law-abiding adults to openly experiment with marijuana. While I am not so naïve as to believe that legalization will substantially change the behaviors of the many individuals who already consume cannabis, with legitimacy comes the opportunity for those once inhibited by the specter of criminal prosecution to ascend from the proverbial dark basement, into the light of day.
In this environment of legitimacy, one can expect to see social media influencers and entrepreneurs alike, openly selling or promoting experiences that mesh with the psychoactive effects of marijuana. Within the constraints of provincial regulation and local bylaws, there is no doubt that this could be a lucrative opportunity. While running a business that pairs marijuana with other commercial activities (like painting, pottery, meditation, floating, etc.) may still earn the owner a knock on the door by the police or, once legalized, a bylaws officer, the reality is that there is now a space for the normalization of consumption and experimentation with cannabis in the public realm.
In fact, on July 18, the Georgia Straight ran an article titled The roots and reinvention of cannabis-enhanced yoga, written by Piper Courtenay, which primarily speaks to the benefits of cannabis when paired with meditation. When done safely and responsibly in a private residence, a beach, or otherwise within the confines of civilization, this may be a terrific enhancement.
Clearly, NSR takes no position on consumption or experimentation with cannabis as it relates to peoples private lives, so long as it is done responsibly and safely.
That being said, we do take a position on consumption and experimentation with cannabis, and other drugs, including alcohol, when it is done in the mountains. Thus comes, my point. This is a quote from that same article:
For those who are uncomfortable with experimentation, Flower and Freedom, a Vancouver-based cannabis lifestyle brand, offers consumption-free consumer education through yoga and fitness.
Cannabis-curious attendees participate in classes and outdoor excursions, like hiking and snowshoeing, led by health ambassadors who discuss their personal experience with pot. Although they don’t facilitate or provide cannabis, attendees are welcome to explore personal use.
A quick look at the Flower and Freedom website finds an article with the following, face-palm worthy, headline: “Outdoor Adventure Cannabis Tours Are Coming to Vancouver”.
There is no safe way to experiment with drugs in the mountains while “hiking and snowshoeing”, guided or not. Putting aside the legalities of potentially commercial guided hikes in provincial and regional parks, the combination of mind-altering drugs and being in the wilderness is a terrible and dangerous idea.
North Shore Rescue, and other SAR teams in this province has enough trouble with unprepared hikers flocking to the North Shore Mountains. We regularly respond to calls for those who are well prepared, do everything right, are completely sober, and still get into trouble. Being in the mountains is worthwhile, but it comes with significant risks, which can be reduced through fitness (including being clear-headed) and preparation.
When you’re high in the mountains, and I don’t mean elevation wise, you shift your position on the continuum between “Prepared Hiker” and “Candidate for Rescue” significantly towards the latter position.
Some may think that our concerns are abstract and without basis; the reality is that we have significant experience with rescues caused by all forms of intoxication, including marijuana. Below is a quick summary of the most recent rescues/recoveries, which I can recall off the top of my head, that were caused by intoxication:
- On Cypress, a young hiker decided to take Acid while hiking with friends, had a bad trip, and required medical assistance and evacuation. Unfortunately, weather prevented helicopter access, so this was a primarily ground-based operation, and delayed the response by hours.
- Two individuals went snowshoe camping on Mount Seymour and at some point in the night, they consumed marijuana and ecstasy. One of the campers had a psychotic episode and stabbed his friend with a bowie knife, while his friend returned the favour. The RCMP emergency response team responded with our members and both snowshoers were arrested and taken to the hospital.
- On Cypress, a snowshoer consumed edible marijuana, had a seizure, and required intubation and ventilation while being evacuated. No other drugs were found in their system.
- Near Lions Bay, a hiker had consumed mushrooms and marijuana, and while going to urinate, fell 60 meters into a ravine. He sustained a serious head injury and had to be evacuated by helicopter long line.
- Two young people left a bar on Burnaby Mountain and were heavily intoxicated with alcohol. They decided to take a shortcut down the mountain through the woods. They both fell to their deaths.
The mountains are not the place to lose yourself in a drug-induced stupor, nor are they a place to experiment and learn your tolerance. The reality we face is that the wilderness is unforgiving and it can take a long time for rescue crews to reach you, even if you are only a couple kilometers up the trail.
This is our plea to everyone to be responsible in the mountains, and leave the weed at home, even if it is eventually legal.
Disclaimer: North Shore Rescue does not have, nor will we have a position on the legality or use of cannabis. This is for our elected officials to determine, and we will only take a position with respect to safety concerns, which may relate to the use of cannabis. For clarity, Cannabis remains illegal, and will not be legal until the projected date of October 17, 2018. Please visit the Government of Canada website which outlines the federal timelines and rules for cannabis legalization.