Thursday, November 17, 2011

CannaBiz: The Secret Economy of Marijuana


Canada’s $20 billion-dollar marijuana industry is now at a violent crossroads between crime and commerce. Impossible to police, yet steadily gaining public acceptance, the cannabis industry is now so vast and vital to Canada’s national economy that it can no longer be ignored.

CannaBiz unfolds in Grand Forks, BC, a small border town nestled in the Kootenay Mountains, where draft dodgers planted the first BC Bud in the 1960s. After the pine beetle chewed through what was left of the forest industry, marijuana became the backbone of the local economy.

In secret forest plots, basements, barns and high-tech underground bunkers, growers nurture some of the world’s most potent bud. Most of the marijuana here, and in the rest of Canada, is destined for the US market, where a pound of premium weed sells for a street price of $4,500.

Across the country, formerly laid-back marijuana growers now live in fear of armed thieves, and smugglers take huge risks to cross the beefed up American border. Conflicted police and RCMP officers like Harland Venema continue to fight a seemingly futile battle.

In Grand Forks, Brian Taylor, once nicknamed the marijuana mayor, is campaigning for medical marijuana as a prescription for economic prosperity. Ex con Sam Mellace dreams of supplying medical marijuana nationally through Shoppers Drug Mart outlets.

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