Pubdate: Mon,  13 Mar 2000
Source: Time Magazine (US)
Copyright: 2000 Time Inc.
Page: 66
Contact:  Time Magazine Letters, Time & Life Bldg., Rockefeller Center, NY, 
NY 10020
Fax: (212) 522-8949
Author: Elaine Shannon, Vancouver
Note: Mark Emery is the publisher of Canabis Culture magazine


MARC EMERY expects to earn about $1 million this year selling seed for high 
octane marijuana and books on how to grow it. Most of his customers live in 
Vancouver, not far from his illegal mail-order business, which is largely 
ignored by Canadian authorities. It's not a place widely regarded as a 
hotbed of pot cultivation, but that's changing fast, and Emery, 42, steps 
to his office window to demonstrate why.

He holds up a fat sprig of marijuana buds and points out the crystals of 
dried resin that sparkle like tiny diamonds in the flat winter sunlight. 
These crystals make the local pot, which has been perfected through indoor 
growing under virtual laboratory conditions, twice as potent as competing 
varieties from Northern California and Oregon and six times as strong as 
most common Colombian and Mexican products. "This," Emery says, smiling at 
the minty-smelling weed, "is the top of the market." Across town, Dave 
Williams, an investigator for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, agrees-but 
he's not smiling. "British Columbia," he says ruefully, "now produces the 
best marijuana in the world."

Known as "B.C. Bud," this pot is finding a lucrative market among U.S. 
users of recreational drugs.

A pound of dried B.C. Bud-whose active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol, or 
THC, accounts for up to 30% of its weight-sells for about $8,000 in New 
York City. The more common marijuana from Mexico, with a THC content of 
about 5% sells for as little as $300 per lb.

Many B.C. growers tend a few plants in a basement or attic under bare 1,000 
watt metal halide or high pressure sodium light bulbs.

The authorities give lower priority to busting cultivators, who, even if 
caught with hundreds of plants, usually get off without jail time. They 
face fines and seizure of equipment but are typically back in business 
within weeks.

Canada doesn't have U.S.-style mandatory sentencing laws for drug offenses.

Law-enforcement officials say most Canadian judges don't view pot 
cultivation as a serious crime.

Says Corporal John Dykstra of the Mounties: "People in the 
marijuana-growing business want to do business on our side of tho border 
because the risk is so low."

The Mounties have focused instead on breaking up the organized-crime groups 
that have broken into the business.

Gangs ranging from outlaw bikers to Latin American and Asian gangs are 
moving into B.C. pot cultivation-and also into lucrative cross-border 
smuggling and distribution. The Mounties have been busting more and more 
large-scale operations, often located in warehouse-size buildings, with 
strings of light bulbs as bright as stadium lights and computer controlled 
hydroponic systems for fertilizing and watering several hundred plants.

The smugglers move the stuff on every conceivable conveyance over back 
roads in four wheel-drive vehicles, through the woods on snowmobiles and 
dog sleds, and over water by boat, sea kayak or jet ski. Seizures of B.C. 
Bud by U.S. law-enforcement agencies have doubled and redoubled over the 
past 2 1/2 years. "They're killing us," says Mike Flego, head of the U.S. 
Drug Enforcement Administration's office in Blaine, Wash. Seattle customs 
enforcement chief Rodney Tureaud Jr. agrees, "We could double our numbers 
at the border and still be understaffed."
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