Prince Edward Island is about the nicest place I’ve ever visited. There, I’ve said it.
Unfortunately, when I’ve traveled there (in 2006 and 2008), I have also discovered that, despite the fact that it looks like paradise, it has problems just like other places. In particular, the provincial newspapers have had quite a few stories about local pot growers. So, I got interested and wrote an article for the Phoenix about this aspect of PEI that is not well known to outsiders and which, in fact, probably should worry islanders. The article was not meant to suggest that PEI has become a giant exporter of pot or a major narcotics haven north of the border. Rather, the point was to contrast an ongoing and seemingly worsening situation vis-a-vis drug consumption and, in particular, illegal marijuana production, with PEI's well honed (and well deserved) image as a clean, peaceful, and serene destination. And though I was writing for “home folks” here in New England, the World Wide Web ensured that my article had just as many readers in PEI almost as soon as it was posted.
My article paid homage to the beauty of the island, but gave visibility to one of PEI’s problems — and that provoked a flurry of angry mail, news reports on the CBC (including a retort from PEI's tourism minister), and articles in newspapers across Canada. In general, these pieced boiled down to anger that a dumb American would have the audacity to find fault with anything Canadian (it is tough, I’ll admit), let alone anything having to do with Canada’s garden spot, PEI.
Folks up north also nailed me on a couple of reporting errors — like my statement that PEI imports “cheap” electricity from Quebec (it actually comes from New Brunswick). I was also told repeatedly by Canadian critics that I had named the wrong person as director of the PEI Federation of Agriculture. After rechecking my facts, however, I found that I was indeed right and my friends in Canada were wrong: the holder of the title is in fact Mike Nabuur (though I did miss the last consonant on his name in my piece — sorry Mike!).
And I’ll repeat one salient fact: police seized 250 pot plants through May of 2008, which is 50 more than they nabbed in all of 2007. In a nutshell, PEI is a swell place — to visit or to live — but if the island can’t figure out what to do about pot, it may find it shares far more with those of us south of the border than it would wish.