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Pot Edward Island

Canada's most picturesque province is surprisingly also the fertile center of an underground marijuana explosion
By ALAN R. EARLS  |  August 19, 2008


In 2004, a newspaper report appeared in the Guardian — the biggest daily newspaper on Prince Edward Island (PEI) — that was at odds with the outside world’s image of the idyllic Canadian province. Two bullets had hit local resident Kenneth Rae MacFarlane while he was home alone in the midst of a blizzard. With the help of snow-plow operators, an ambulance and a police team eventually reached him. He survived the attack, but ended up in court with some explaining to do. It seems in the course of investigating the shooting — so rare on the island that emergency-room physicians are routinely sent for training to Baltimore, where such injuries are a dime a dozen — police made an unexpected discovery. MacFarlane’s home housed an elaborate indoor pot-growing operation, with two rooms dedicated to cannabis cultivation and a third undergoing conversion.

When you think of PEI, you probably come up with crisp, clean-cut tourist-brochure images: lush and rolling hills, tranquil ocean beaches, villages of whitewashed cottages and, inevitably, the smiling face of the island’s indefatigably cheery heroine, Anne of Green Gables. But while Lucy Maud Montgomery’s fictional Edwardian character maintained her Pollyanna disposition on the strength of nothing but her spunk and a cheerily romantic vision of how life should be, it seems modern-day islanders have discovered another way to smile through the summer and avoid the blues during the bleak local winters.

A recent issue of the Guardian, for instance, featured the headline POLICE SEEK HELP FINDING MARIJUANA GROWERS, followed by a lurid story about local pot cultivators and a warning to the populace to be on the lookout for suspicious activities along country lanes and farm fields.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) spokesperson Sergeant Denis Morin, located in the capital of Charlottetown, admits that there is a something of problem — and his statistics prove it. The number of plants seized through the end of May (250) in areas of RCMP jurisdiction — excluding the island’s four small cities, which have their own independent police departments — already exceeds the 200 plants seized in all of 2007.

To be sure, PEI — where Canada’s province-by-province alcohol prohibition started first and ended last, in 1948 — is still largely a bastion of clean-cut, yesteryear values. A number of island communities remain defiantly dry. But it is also home to a thriving cottage industry that includes both indoor hydroponic pot production — aided by the inexpensive electricity the island imports from Quebec — and a more daring coterie of growers who take advantage of the island’s perfect summer climate and endless fields of spuds, soybeans, and corn to pursue small-scale cultivation en plein air.

Live and let smoke
Getting an authoritative picture of the province’s pot industry is difficult. The island is largely rural with a relative lack of crime that translates into a thinness of policing. In fact, outside of the cities and a few larger towns, police are almost invisible. Perhaps, too, there’s an Anne of Green Gables–like refusal to admit to inconvenient truths.

This past year, a study on the island conducted by the PEI Health and Education department revealed that almost half of the 3000 island high-school and middle-school students surveyed are drug users, and almost 40 percent of graduating seniors had smoked marijuana. Those results were backed up by additional RCMP figures, which show that, outside of growing operations, the RCMP and other island police forces together seized 1443 grams of marijuana in 2007 and 2608 grams so far in 2008.

Needless to say, the survey was greeted with horror by authorities. But not everybody was alarmed: those same figures and survey results also suggested a greater acceptance of drug use among the population at large — something that may be deep-rooted in the largely libertarian attitudes of PEI and the Maritimes in general.

While lacking the bombast of similarly persuaded Americans, islanders — largely descendents of a prickly mixture of French-Catholic Acadians, Scots-Irish Protestants, and migratory New Englanders — are an independent lot, and “Live and let live” is an unspoken credo.

Indeed, more than three quarters of the reader responses to the pot article in the Guardian (which boasts that it “covers PEI like the dew”) were strongly against enforcing pot laws. “This war on pot is a total national disgrace!!!!,” wrote a commenter with the handle Downeaster at home. “My heart goes out to the young folk that [are] regularly criminalized for this activity.” Frank W chorused: “I’m personally encouraging all citizens of PEI to turn a blind eye to marijuana cultivation.”

Officialdom is not immune to such sentiments either. In July 2003, when Marc Emery, a Vancouver activist on a crusade to make pot legal in Canada, performed his trademark stunt of getting high in public, Charlottetown police looked the other way and refused his invitation to arrest and prosecute.
Even more significant, Ralph C. Thompson, a Provincial judge in Summerside, PEI’s second largest city, gained national notoriety — and helped spawn a flurry of enforcement action in Ottawa — by tossing out a routine marijuana case in March 2003.

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Re: Pot Edward Island
 I'm sure lots of people will weigh in on this, but it seemsMr Earls did all his research based on newspaper articles. Indeed, he may never have been to PEI. Of course there's pot here. But cheap electricity? Please. It's 2x the price in Boston. And it doesn't come from Quebec. We generate it here (oil fired and wind) and buy it from New Brunswick. Boston buys electricity from Quebec. Maybe the Phoenix doesn't have budget to send its reports to BC or Ontario, where there really are large grow ops. He could have found that out through internet search as well.
By FromBoston on 08/15/2008 at 10:00:38
Re: Pot Edward Island
Wow the only person I can think of using POT is the author of this article!  Four cities in PEI?  I only count two, the largest being Charlottetown with a population of 32000.  Cheap electiricty from Quebec?  Hardly cheap.  One of the most expensive in Canada.  And what isnt generated on PEI comes from New Brunswick.  The cheap Quebec electricity gets sold to the US instead of staying in Canada.  Emergency staff getting trained in Baltimore?  That's just crap.  Just like the article.  Pot in PEI?  Yeah, I know there is.  Does it need to be controlled better?  I can think of better places to put the public funds.
By Halifax_Guy on 08/15/2008 at 10:11:15
Re: Pot Edward Island
To the Editor, Alan R Earls should check his sources, he is full of it.  If you want to be taken more seriously than the Enquirer then you should really check your facts.  PEI being a large tourist Province does not need to be tarnished by complete lies.  You will be lucky not to get sued for slander. PEI does not have the climate to grow marijuana.  The growing season is too short for good bud and the weather is not hot and humid enough.  It is a very good place to grow potatoes.  This is what they actually grow there for money.  Small rural areas=hard working christian farmers, right wingers  There are surely people on the Island who grow pot here and there for personal use as the majority of North American adults have tried or still smoke it but any bud grown would be inferior due to the climate and not good for export. 200 plants is nothing compared to what is coming out of Southern States.  Not what I would call an epidemic or enough to deface the Canadian flag.  This article is shameful and should be retracted with an apology.  What a load of BS.
By Hammerthumb on 08/15/2008 at 10:17:15
Re: Pot Edward Island
Oh I forgot a point!  Please Mr. Earls when you come to visit Canada, and PEI in particular, to do your next 'fact filled' article, please leave your guns at the border?  We are a socially liberal country but not that liberal! 
By Halifax_Guy on 08/15/2008 at 10:27:07
Re: Pot Edward Island
The ignorance shown by the writer of this article continues a long tradition in the US of not paying attention to anything going on beyond the border.  There must be some actual reporting talent at The Phoenix - people who do actual research.  This story is just crap.
By smashorange on 08/15/2008 at 11:30:11
Re: Pot Edward Island
Obviously this guy has never been to PEI! Once again another American who doesn't have a clue about Canada. Worry about your own gun-ridden crack infested country and having a complete moron for a president.
By WeepyD on 08/15/2008 at 11:49:29
Re: Pot Edward Island
It's a shame people can write anything at all without ever having to do any in depth research.  Obviously anyone can do that.  I can read this article and assume that this guy hasn't been to PEI.  I can assume that he's read a copy of the Guardian (why, I'll never know.....must have been a slow news day in Boston to warrant reading a paper from a province with a population that is only one quarter the circulation of his own paper).  I can assume he knows how to Google.....  Shy of that, he hasn't shown any journalistic skills at all.  I'm sure I could come up with the same quality of journalism from the comfort of my own home as well and slander Boston or whatever city I want.  Now, I've just got to find a rag to print it.  As far as this guy's little piece of fiction, it hardly ranks up there with the current Jughead Digest........  In the end, those who want to listen to his regurgitated nonsense will do so, but those with an iota of intelligence will hopefully know better.
By bigguy39 on 08/15/2008 at 1:46:16
Re: Pot Edward Island
You seem to think its OK to disgrace our National Flag. It is not OK. You should apologize for this rude careless act. We dont change your flag and make fun of it.Show some respect. How would you like all the stars to be changed to bullets on your countries Flag??
By levelhead on 08/15/2008 at 2:50:13
Re: Pot Edward Island
 It is easy to see that the "gentleman" in question, and I use the term very loosely, has never been to PEI and knows very little about it. What is even more interesting is that he did not reply to a request from CBC news for an interview...makes one wonder if he really has the balls to answer questions on his mis-information. Let's do some math here, 250 plants seized since May would make 600 plants per year. A google search (yes, I can do that too!) tells me that given the growing season in this area one could expect to yield about 1/4 to 1/2 a pound of usable (read smokable here) marijauna. So that means our "fertile center of an underground marijuana explosion" would be anywhere from 150 to 300 pounds. If one sells it for $15 per ounce then you could be making $2250 to $4500. We've really hit the big time here folks.Think I had better run right out and invest!It's really easy to create a story using old news stories of an isolated incident and statistics. One can spin statistics to support whatever "view" one wants.I wonder what percentage of the Boston population used marijauna or other illicit drugs. Bet it's higher than you think!  
By pei_moe on 08/15/2008 at 8:51:56
Re: Pot Edward Island
 OK obviously this "reporter" is an idiot and the editor is just putting out another sensationalistic American rag. The Phoenix owes the people of Prince Edward Island an apology and retraction. The author of this fiction can't even spell the name of the director of PEIF of Agriculture correctly, and just out of curiosity where are these 4 cities, and dry communities? The whole article should never been allowed to go to print. If New England is having a serious issue with marijauna they should look elsewhere for the source because it isn't being sent from here. 
By mjsimm on 08/16/2008 at 10:42:58
Re: Pot Edward Island
Now I knew that the journalism standards in the states were low, but this is too much. Thinking of Prince Edward Island as a major Marijuana growing province is absolutely FOOLISH! Sure there are some people on the Island growing pot, but to say that the Island is becoming a major player in the pot exporting business is just wrong. It would actually be the opposite about 75% of all the pot here is imported and 90% of the high thc level Hydroponic pot is brought in from other provinces. One grow op from the suburbs in Ontario or BC in a year, produce more and better quality pot than then PEI as a whole. Mr. Evans get you head out of the sand.   
By proudislander on 08/16/2008 at 2:57:16
Is this guy a first-year journalism student?
If Mr Earls is a student freelancer (the only explanation for this poor quality of reporting) I'd suggest he either choose another profession or sit down and talk with his editors for some tips on how to check facts before going to print. This is one of the shoddiest cases of journalism I've ever read. I've lived right across Canada and presently call Prince Edward Island home, and this is the most crime-free, pleasant place to live anywhere... if anything, after the odd dealer is busted, there's no pot to be found here for months at a time! Editors, I sincerely hope you take this off your website and offer a full retraction and apology. 
By Oceanlover on 08/19/2008 at 1:05:35
Re: Pot Edward Island
who the heck wrote this oh i got an idea some guy who is a mean cruel and and a word my mom wont let me say. i am just 13 years old but i am stiil one of the many and by many i mean every islander who now hates alan r, earls for damaging our provinces good name there is not one islander who knows about this that does not hate you. also look what you did to our contrys flag and i assure you there is 1000x more pot in half of boston right now then there ever was in the island throughout history thats every single leaf of it in island history put together also i agree with oceanlover and i hope you take this off your website and offer a full retraction and apology. and this is bad karma for boston and the entier us as it makes realize how things are done south of canada slopy meidia who hate us
By s1748m on 08/20/2008 at 6:05:01
Re: Pot Edward Island
This guy has obviously been sucking on his mom's tits to long, or was it his dad's cock? Worry about your own coutry you yankee fuck.  You come from a land of uneducated wannabe bullies, come to pei and when you do announce it to the guardian and will give you a warm welcome.  4 towns on pei, that shows that you've been here and done your research, i don't know how this type of crap can be published.  On a lighter note, how's it going buddy, where do you live?
By thisguys anidiot on 08/21/2008 at 3:08:57
Re: Pot Edward Island
first of all there is only 2 cities on pei so what the hell. so u should probably get u priorities straight before you get your ass sewed for doing this shit and not to mention you were probably baked when you wrote this gay article about us peace out faggot
By pei_ben on 09/05/2008 at 10:42:05
Re: Pot Edward Island
you are a fucking idiot!!!!
By youdumbass on 09/05/2008 at 10:48:21
Re: Pot Edward Island
your a fucking dumb ass
By youdumbass on 09/05/2008 at 10:49:22

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